Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)
Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 10 min.

Release Date: March 17th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: David F. Sandberg Actors: Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler, Asher Angel, Grace Caroline Currey, Jack Dylan Grazer, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews, Meagan Good, Djimon Hounsou

 


 

A

fter teenager-turned-superhero Billy Batson (Asher Angel, Zachary Levi) defeated Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) and broke his magical staff several years ago, the pieces were obtained for display in a Greek museum. It’s not long before the staff’s rightful owners, the “Daughters of Atlas” Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), arrive with a malicious agenda of bloody vengeance. When they acquire the relic they begin setting their sinister plans in motion, with the first task being to eliminate all of Earth’s Champions.

Meanwhile, those chosen recipients of the wizard Shazam’s (Djimon Hounsou) mythical powers struggle balancing their new roles as guardians of Philadelphia with just being the foster children of loving parents Rosa (Marta Milans) and Victor Vasquez (Cooper Andrews). Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) pursues her education in hopes of getting a meaningful job, while Eugene (Ian Chen), Pedro (Jovan Armand), and Darla (Faithe Herman) attempt to hold on to some of the responsibility-free blisses of childhood. Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) fends off bullies in school while trying to woo new girl Ann (Rachel Zegler) and Billy constantly faces doubts about his place both at home and in his superhero family. When the Daughters of Atlas finally confront the Champions and kidnap Freddy, Billy must use both his head and his heart if he hopes to lead the Shazam Family to victory and save Freddy, their beloved city, and the world.

“The champions of this realm outnumber us.” The cold open introduces an occult artifact, electrical bolts of energy absorbed and dispensed from fingertips, possessed minions, and swirls of dust that freeze people into stone statues. Plus, there are plenty of stunts and fights, promising a new collection of enemies to wreak havoc in Philadelphia, which is now protected by a bevy of Superman-like superheroes.

But it all feels haphazardly introduced and established, as if manufactured from disorganized brainstorming notes, even if it borrows from various ancient mythological concepts. It’s easy to conjure new villains when specific rules, backstories, restrictions on otherworldly realms, and the very connections between every entity is flimsy or nonexistent. Hounsou’s wizard isn’t even dead, which means the story doesn’t follow the incredibly few rules it did bother to set out. As a result, the plights of the protagonists are trivial and aimless; any momentarily tough situation is sorted out within a scene or two, with an explanation or a special tool expounded or obtained. When no vulnerabilities are defined beforehand, audiences aren’t given an opportunity to care about them eventually getting exploited. “But that would destroy their world!”

The only element of uniqueness is still that the superheroes are children with adult alter egos, like a twist on “Freaky Friday,” lending to mild age-gap humor. But, of course, it isn’t exactly unique anymore, since the previous film utilized the same device. Merging a component of “The Incredibles,” by vilifying the superheroes for the accompanying, accidental loss of property during high-stakes rescues, with the immaturity of “Kick-Ass,” which mirrors a lot of what goes on here, save for the fact that they have real superpowers, further transforms this tale into something overly familiar and uninspired. It boasts a sizable budget, but it’s missing a distinct visual identity; everything appears to be lifted from other properties – whether it’s the flying books and an all-knowing pen, or doorway portals to various dimensions, or a monstrous dragon that breathes bright blue fire. None of it fits together well; with all the spontaneity in the narrative, it’s no surprise that the CG concoctions are of comparable incompatibility.

“Unicorns aren’t real!” This striking, conspicuous, pervasive incongruence spills over into the dialogue as well, particularly when characters express their disbelief at something far less unbelievable than the constant presence of supernatural doom-bringers and the superheroes flying about the country on a daily occurrence. At this point, the people of Philadelphia (and the entirety of the United States) shouldn’t doubt the existence of anything. And they’re yet again caught up in a battle of demigods and sorcery, with the city suffering demolition by all-powerful beings going out of their way not to simply kill the weak, unknowledgeable heroes.

The bad guys may use seriousness and threats to counter the good guys’ sarcasm and blind luck, but both sides are functioning on considerable ineptitude – which, by design, stretches out their threadbare dueling for more than two hours. So much pointless, monotonous, repetitive fantasy fighting occupies the runtime, contributing to one of the most uninteresting of all the DC entries. Even the humor is dry, resorting to frivolous one-liners and half-hearted jabs before diving back into computer-animation-drenched clashes. A regular gag involves the lack of superhero names, with one being dubbed “Captain Everypower”; but this sums up a major problem with the film, which is that when zero boundaries are laid out, audiences will have a difficult time investing in the dilemmas. None of it matters; and by the end, none of it has had any impact on anyone.

– The Massie Twins

  • 2/10


The DC Extended Universe


Man of Steel (2013)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Suicide Squad (2016)

Wonder Woman (2017)

Justice League (2017)

Aquaman (2018)

Shazam! (2019)

Birds of Prey (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Black Adam (2022)

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

The Flash (2023)

Blue Beetle (2023)

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)