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18th May 2023

Shazam! Fury of the Gods review: Superhero sequel gets sidetracked

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a feel-good film which falls short of its forerunner
Shazam! Fury of the Gods review: Superhero sequel gets sidetracked
Photo: @ Warner Bros Studios

Shazam! Fury of the Gods has finally arrived in cinemas almost a year after its initial planned release date – which was pushed back and forth almost as many times as there are members of the Shazamily. So was the film worth the wait?

The sequel to Shazam! follows Billy Batson (Asher Angel/Zachary Levi) and his foster siblings three years after the events of the first film. The gang lead parallel lives as regular kids at school, and adult superheroes fighting crime. Disaster strikes when the daughters of Atlas, Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Anthea (Rachel Zegler), arrive on Earth to avenge their father and restore the Wizard’s (Djimon Hounsou) staff – which can take back the powers it bestowed on the Shazamily.

The introduction of the God characters grants this film bigger stakes than the first, bringing more chaos and destruction while still nurturing the film’s heart. A scene where Hespera reads a horrifically transcribed letter from the Shazamily in a deadpan voice is a comedic highlight. Mirren and Liu are a dynamic on-screen duo, whilst Zegler is a shrewd foil to the two.

Anthea is a less predictable character than she initially appears to be, becoming established as a girl caught between two opposing sides but knowing where her loyalties ultimately lie. Nonetheless, a scene where Anthea and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) bond over having an irritating older sibling reveals a missed opportunity – an exploration of the parallels between both sets of superhuman siblings.

Billy opens up about experiencing imposter syndrome and expresses fear about losing his family when he ages out of the foster system. What could have been a fulfilling coming-of-age arc is similarly underdeveloped. Levi, rather than Angel, delivers the bulk of these emotional beats, which feels bizarre and insincere. A young person’s struggles with identity and growing up would surely be more poignantly conveyed by a young person. Angel’s performances in Shazam! and Disney’s Darby and the Dead indicate that he can competently portray complex emotions, so it’s a shame that DC doesn’t have more faith in their young protagonist.

Angel is startlingly absent from the film. There are scenes where Billy’s siblings are in their teenage forms, while he is unnecessarily in his superhero form – for reasons which elude me. The imbalance in the titular character’s portrayal highlights the startling disconnect between Shazam’s outgoing, witty personality and Billy’s more sensitive, reserved nature. This makes it difficult to see them as the same person. 

Grazer is given the most screen time out of the young cast. Though the writing forces a connection between Freddy and Anthea, Grazer’s magnetic screen presence and stellar comedic timing, particularly in scenes with the Wizard, make his performance one of the film’s stand-outs. I’m glad he was given a chance to shine. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the young cast aren’t all given moments of their own.

A scene which illustrates how Darla’s (Faithe Herman) girlish interests don’t preclude utility is overshadowed by some heavy-handed product placement for Skittles. This advert could have been incorporated more naturally, for instance when Billy is eating snacks while playing video games at the beginning of the film. The superhero forms of Billy’s four other siblings are largely ignored. 

There are two bonus scenes, one mid-credits and one post-credits. Everyone, except me, in a mostly full cinema left before the post-credits scene came on. I don’t blame them. With the DCEU now in the hands of James Gunn and Peter Safran, it’s unclear if the Shazam franchise is part of DC’s big-picture plans. The credits scenes may merely be a microcosm of the unfulfilled potential in the Shazam! Fury of the Gods script. Still, with Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania having cut back on heart and humour to fit the archetypal action-adventure mould, it would be a shame to say goodbye to DC’s fun found family.


Shazam! Fury of the Gods is available to stream now.

Sumayyah Khalid

Sumayyah Khalid

Winner of Writer of the Year (The Mancunion) (SU Awards 2023) | Highly Commended for Best Newcomer (The Mancunion) (SU Awards 2023) | Shortlisted for Best Newcomer (Rising Star) in the UK (SPA National Awards 2023)

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