Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Shazam! was one of DC Comic’s most heartwarming stories. Its focus on the importance of foster care and the theme of a family bond was a welcome change of pace from what we’ve come to expect from superhero films. And as one of the last films of the DC Extended Universe before James Gunn and Peter Safran’s Chapter 1 slate of films and TV shows comes to reboot the cinematic universe, does the Shazam sequel end with thunderous applause?
Honestly, I was surprised that I enjoyed this movie over the original one. I was slightly disappointed in the original film for not playing more into its comical tone. The pitch and the trailers all indicated that it was a family-friendly superhero comedy, but it ended up not being very funny for me nor quite family-friendly, since it contained some very disturbing scenes. However, these two gripes were fully addressed here. I laughed a lot all the way through, and despite a couple of horrifying monster designs, the violence wasn’t as gross. I thoroughly enjoyed this silly superhero flick with its bountiful humorous moments and a lighthearted family dynamic. However, I feel like the story isn’t as strong as the first. This time around, things are a bit simple. Bad people show up to destroy the world, and the superheroes stop them. There’s not a whole lot more to it. There’s a disappointingly brief discussion about foster kids aging out of the system, and it could have been a very emotional theme throughout the movie. However, it’s only brought up a couple of times, and the rest of the discussions about family is par for the course. Basically, “we’re family so we can do anything” is the message of the movie. It’s not bad; it just doesn’t have the emotional weight of the first film. Despite the lack of an engaging and thoughtful point to the whole thing, it’s still a lot of fun. The Shazamily is a delightful bunch, and their silly adventure is a good time to be had.
The actors do a fine job in their roles. Zachary Levi and the gang return with one notable replacement. Mary is played once again by Grace Caroline Currey, but this time, she also plays her superhero counterpart, unlike the rest of the kids. It’s a little odd seeing her play both parts, whereas the others are played by two distinctive actors. However, I feel like this makes Mary in both her regular and superhero forms feel consistent, whereas some of the others struggle to capture the mannerisms and characteristics of the kids. This is most apparent with the main lead, Billy Batson/Shazam. Though Asher Angel who returns as the younger version of Billy gets significantly less screen time, it’s a bit jarring when he shows up, because his demeanor and overall nature is drastically different from Levi, who plays his superhero version. They’re like two completely different characters, but we’re told they’re one and the same. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but at the very least, both actors are a delight to watch, along with the rest of the extensive cast. One cast member in particular that I think stole the show was Djimon Hounsou as the Wizard. In the last movie, he played a very minor role, but his support is greatly expanded this time and is a nice welcome. He’s a bit grumpier, which leads to some funny sarcasm. Additionally, the cartoonishly evil villains played by Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren don’t annoyingly overdo their performances like Pedro Pascal in Wonder Woman 1984. They seemed to have some glee in their acting and just had a fun time playing wacky fish-out-of-water characters. Lastly, newcomer Rachel Zegler was a welcome addition to the lineup, as she exuded a lot of heart and managed to embrace the comical and good-natured tone of the movie. Though the adult versions of the Shazamily fail to capture the likeness of the younger cast aside from Mary, this wonderful collection of actors helps the movie remain fun and charming from start to finish, despite the lackluster plot.
You can’t have a superhero movie with superpowers, and in the last few years, comic book adventures are a great display for visual effect artists to flex their skills and creativity. Though most of the film is basic super heroics we’ve seen before, there were some effects that were quite wondrous. For example, there is a dragon made out of wood, and one of its powers is to breathe fear upon its victims. It’s a really cool idea, and I’m sure it was a brain puzzler for the artists to figure out how to bring the concept to life. And the artists didn’t stop at a dragon. They brought in Greek monsters as well, and I have to say they were quite impressive. I might even say they were too good. The Greek monsters have grotesque and rather horrifying designs, which is accurate to the myths of old, but like the seven deadly sins in the last movie, the monsters feel more in line with a horror flick and not particularly a family-comedy such as this one. I was rather disturbed and wondered how kids would react to them. Despite the odd decision to make them nightmare fuel, the effects were rather impressive. Throughout the film, I never noticed any animations or effects that seemed wrong or out-of-place. However, with so many superhero movies at the theaters these days, the visual effects really need to dazzle and wow audiences if they are to remain impressive. Aside from the examples I mentioned, nothing else stood out to me because I’ve seen it all done before. Again, there weren’t any bad effects, so everything will appear pleasing, but I didn’t feel amazed by this magical adventure.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods marks the beginning of the end for this era of DC Comics movies. Even though the story isn’t unique nor are the special effects breathtaking, it's a reminder of a simpler time when superhero tales were all about defeating the bad guys and ensuring the world is a better place. I appreciate the simplicity of it because, in a world full of chaos and scary uncertainties, sometimes just seeing a family lovingly work together to overcome hardship is heartwarming and inspirational.
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