In an era where DC movies were still trying to figure out what direction they wanted to go, the 2019 Shazam in many ways took the best elements of their rivals at Marvel. It was a comedic yet heartfelt story about a young runaway finding a foster family. The sequel Shazam Fury of The Gods maintains the fun tone of the original movie, alongside good acting and some great ideas but I can’t help but feel it takes from some of the less desirable aspects of Marvel movies.
Shazam Fury of the Gods ultimately falls into the trappings of a lot of recent superhero movies like an overreliance on humor that disrupts emotional moments and many fight scenes developing into a brainless CGI slugfest. There’s still a lot to love but it’s buried deep underneath.
The Life of Billy Batson
After obtaining the power of the gods, Billy Batson and his fellow foster kids are still learning how to juggle their teenage life with having adult Super Hero alter-egos. Now the Daughters of Atlas, a vengeful trio of ancient gods, have arrived on Earth to take back the power that they believe was stolen from them eons ago. Billy and his family are thrust into a battle for their superpowers, their lives, and the fate of their world.
The beginning of the plot is rather slow paced but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some of the best parts of the film are with Asher Angel as the young Billy Batson, even if he doesn’t get a lot of screen time. While our hero found a place in the world with his new family, he now risks losing that once again. Billy will soon be turning 18, meaning he’ll have to leave the foster system. If that’s not enough his sibling Mary wants to go to college and Freddie is also seeking to be more independent. They may be a superhero team but it’s clear the cracks are showing. Asher is able to put a lot of sympathy and relatability into Billy’s struggles as he wants to maintain the life he has but knows it can’t last.
The other kids don’t have as much to do but they still deliver all-around good acting. The highlight of the team would have to be Freddie Freeman played by Jack Dylan Grazer who wants to support Billy but it also facing bullying at school. The brotherly love between these two is the emotional core of the movie. It’s too bad then that we don’t see a lot of it when Billy becomes Shazam.
As with the first movie, Zachary Levi is still great as the big red bruiser that is Shazam. He has a number of witty lines, shows a lot of energy, and all around still embodies the idea of a child in a grown man’s body.
I’ll also say the rest of the Shazam family do a good job capturing the pure excitement of being superheroes. Once again they don’t get a lot of development but each adult actor does pretty well at trying to act like a child as an adult with a particular shout-out to Meagan Good as the super version of Darla Dudley, Billy’s younger sister, whose acting is simply precious.
The problem is that these adults act far more like children than the actual children do. Shazam and Billy Batson don’t feel like the same character. You have Billy Batson struggling with grounded home life issues but Shazam is far more arrogant, whimsical, and of course with constant quips, and yes, several of these quips come right in the middle of emotional moments to disrupt the tension. As I said, the less liked aspects of Marvel movies.
I understand that there are superheroes like Shazam or Spider-Man who become more confident in their masked persona but the personality shift between Billy and Shazam is far too disconnected to the point that it can take you out of the film.
This brings us to our three godlike villains, Helen Mirren as Hesperia, Lucy Liu as Kalypso, and Rachel Zegler as Anthea who all deliver strong performances. The film does a solid job of going over their backstories and showing them as decently sympathetic. They’re not after Shazam’s powers for evil’s sake, they have the legitimacy to feel like they were stolen from their father Atlas.
They also help bolster the theme of family as all three are able to act like real sisters standing up for each other but having their own set of discourse that needs to be sorted out. The only issue is like the Shazam kids, they don’t get a lot of screen time to really flesh them out properly beyond their backstory. The movie definitely had trouble judging so many characters and this is the result.
Facing The Fury
The action scenes of Shazam are likewise a mixed bag. In many ways, they fall into the problem of a lot of comic book and movie action scenes nowadays in they’re decently shot and choreographed but with an overreliance on CGI and lack of internal weight to make the fights feel meaningful. The exception to this however is the climax. Here the film manages to hold back a little a balance out more emotional moments with some decent jokes that don’t overstay their welcome.
I also really liked a lot of the mythical beasts that were brought to the fight. The director of the movie David Sandberg previously worked on Annabelle Creation (the best Annabelle movie) and you can see a good amount of horror influence in the monsters. They’re not scary but they have pretty cool and intricate designs you’d see in a dedicated creature feature.
Does Lighting Strike Twice?
Shazam Fury of The Gods isn’t bad by any means but it does feel held back by the conventions of modern superhero movies. I really enjoyed the development around Billy Batson and the hardships of having to grow up, I’ll even say I like the idea of him using Shazam as a way to escape his troubles but there’s escapism and there’s going completely out of character. The change in personality between Billy and Shazam feels too great to the point where it feels like the movie is fighting with itself over what they want this character to be.
Outside of this, the movie was solid overall. The action was decent and while a lot of the jokes could get annoying, there are still quite a few that did land. Chances are this won’t be your favorite superhero movie, but it’ll make a good afternoon out watching a fun character.
|Billy Batson's story is relatable and well told||There is a major emotional disconnect between Billy and Shazam|
|Zachary Levi is still great as Shazam||Loads of unfunny quips|
|Climax fight is solid|
Shazam Fury of The Gods is screening in cinemas across Malaysia.
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