I’m not even going to try to bury the lead here. “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” is really bad, shelving all of the heart and charm of its predecessor for mediocre visual effects and big, loud, dumb action sequences. It needs to be said that I came into this sequel with pure excitement and anticipation. I genuinely enjoyed “Shazam,” which turned out to be a surprise hit in a rather lackluster and bleak string of DC films.
Lightening doesn’t strike twice, as this sequel goes out of its way to abandon everything that even slightly made the first one enjoyable. It’s all bang no buck, and the shameless product placement seems unbothered by its own irrelevance in the overall film, becoming easily one of the most egregious uses of advertisement I’ve seen in a film in a very long time. The running joke throughout “Fury of the Gods” is that Billy Batson/Shazam lacks the Wisdom of Solomon. Apparently so does this sequel.
David f. Sandberg returns to direct from a script by Henry Gayden (“Shazam“) and Chris Morgan (“Fast and Furious” franchise, which is deeply telling considering my gripes with the film), along with the rest of the cast returning to reprise their roles. The film follows Billy Batson and his family all dealing with their new found powers. Billy wants to keep the family together, but ends up being too overbearing and not allowing his brothers and sisters to live their own lives. They also aren’t very good at being superheroes, and are named in the media as the Philadelphia Fiascos. While they’re all trying to figure out their lives, a new threat emerges in the Daughters of Atlas, goddesses who resent the world of men for stealing their godlike powers and are set on restoring their home world even if it means destroying our own. Our heroes must learn the true meaning of power and come together to save everything they’ve come to love.
Truthfully, I wish this was the actual synopsis of “Fury of the Gods.” The overabundance of subplots and forced ideas confound whatever simplicity lies beneath the surface, leaving the film unsure of what or who’s movie or story they’re actually trying to tell. It never settles on any singular protagonist or antagonist, zipping from one big, pointless CGI magic battle to next without any care or concern for how it all strings together. This would be all well and fine if this was 2004, when superhero films had 0 merit and you could get away with the flashy pointlessness of it all and just show off your new green screen technology. But it’s 2023, and we’re way past this phoned in garbage. This film is mediocre at best, lacking just about anything that has made the new supe stories compelling or interesting in any way. I legitimately can’t remember the last time I was this disappointed by a sequel I was very much looking forward to.
For all its over the top action set pieces, everything looks subpar and uninspiring. “Fury of Gods” had a $100 million budget that clearly didn’t go to VFX, because none of it looks like it was done with any care or concern to make it look even half decent. And frankly, this would be fine if the story and characters were as charming as they were in “Shazam,” which had enough charisma and heart to make you overlook some of its shoddy visuals and lackluster villain. “Fury of the Gods” give viewers absolutely nothing and no one to care about, forcing the whimsy of its predecessor without any understanding of why or how it was effective previously. All we’re left with is a cacophony of PS3 level visual effects that have a near zero impact on whatever is happening.
This is pretty much just “Black Adam 2.0,'” a sequel that exists without merit or purpose, largely forgettable before the film even ends.
The new additions of Helen Mirren, Lucy Lui, and Rachel Zegler as the Atlas Sisters are all squandered talents that add nothing to “Fury of the Gods.” Three women I’m all the way in on, so it pains me to besmirch them in a review. Mirren is largely flat and clearly here for a paycheck, Lui is stuck doing a bizarre British accent that stifles her often menacing but endearing villainy, and Zegler is left with nothing to showcase her rising star talents. Mirren and Lui are perfectly fine collecting a WB/DC paycheck they don’t really need, but Zegler truthfully deserves better. The very few times the film is interesting is when she is interacting with Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) in their Teen Rom-Com love story, which is another brief thing that happens in. It’s like this movie wants to be everything but good, having no clue what to do with their vast ideas or even how to put them together in a way that makes sense, so they just kind of throw shit at a wall and CGI whatever sticks.
Honestly, the surprise stand out is Meagan Good, who seems to be the only one having a blast playing a child in a woman’s body. Though not used nearly enough in “Fury of the Gods,” she is somehow the best part of the whole family, adding the only heart and charm to a film that desperately needs it but isn’t used nearly enough to matter. Plus, she’s overused for this appalling Skittles product placement which just makes me even more angry and disappointed. I can’t even stress how shameless this candy commercialization is in it. It quite literally feels like a really long Super Bowl commercial, which is not something you should be able to say about an anticipated feature film sequel to a rathe popular IP. It just misses the mark in every form of execution, and is so unfocused in its story that it becomes incredibly difficult to care about anything.
It’s really a shame, but “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” should be a blast. It has a solid foundation, a willing cast who clearly enjoy making these, a tone already set by your own creation, and a rich history and heart just waiting to be tapped into. Instead, they decide to go full “Hobbs and Shaw,” unable to capitalize or repeat anything that made its existence possible and doubling down on all of the wrong things that result in one of the worst sequels I’ve seen in a long time.
That’s saying a lot, because I’ve seen “Terrifier 2.” It’s probably for the best that “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” kills its own potential to exist in the new reign at DC. They could’ve fought to exist in the James Gunn world, but instead cling to outdated tropes and cliches to actively work itself out of a continuing franchise.
You can skip “Shazam: Fury of the Gods.” Just watch the trailer. It is a collection of the best parts of the movie without Skittles being mentioned every 30 seconds. I’m not exaggerating here. One of the characters literally shouts “Taste the rainbow Mother fu….” in the third act. It’s THAT bad, and feels as eye rolling to hear as it is to read.
Heed my warning, the gods have no power here. Just save your money for something else.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
“Shazam: Fury of the Gods” is now playing in theaters. You can watch the trailer below.