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Review of the new DC superhero movie, ‘Shazam: Fury of the Gods’
THE first ‘Shazam’ was a big hit in 2019 so it’s not surprising that DC Comics now comes up with a sequel, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods”. In the first movie, 14-year old Billy Batson (Asher Angel of the Disney series “Andi Mack”) is transformed by an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) into a superhero just by saying Shazam!
As the superhero, he is played by Zachary Levi of the TV series “Chuck”. Their opponent then is Dr. Thadeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a scientist. Billy is the foster son of Rosa and Victor Vasquez (Rosa Milans and Cooper Andrews) and his five foster siblings: Mary (Grace Fulton), Darla (Faithe Herman), Eugene (Ian Chen), Pedro (Jovan), and the crippled Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer.)
As an origin story, it worked, with his siblings also given the power to transform themselves into superheroes. In the new movie, still directed by David Sandberg (”Annabelle”, “Lights Out”), their enemies are Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), daughter of Titan Atlas.
The evil sisters go to a Greek museum to get the Wizard’s broken staff that will give them superpowers. Meantime, Billy and his siblings come to the rescue of people whose lives are in danger while the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia is breaking down.
Billy is then told by the Wizard in a dream to get ready for the daughters of Titan Atlas who intend to create much havoc. Freddy is given a longer role here when he is attracted to a girl in school, Anne (Rachel Zegler, Maria in Spielberg’s “West Side Story”), not knowing he will jeopardize their family.
As it turns out, she is the youngest sister, Anthea, of Hespera and Kalypso who abduct Freddy to get his superpowers and also that of Billy and their other siblings. Billy as Shazam tries to chase them but Hespera envelopes the city with a dome that traps everyone inside.
For a while, it seems like the bad guys are winning, but we all know that in superhero films like this, their victory won’t last forever and the heroes are the good guys who eventually triumph in the end. The movie relies heavily on CGI effects and it can be quite noisily bombastic at times with many crashes and explosions.
The movie’s appeal also banks on Levi’s charming persona as the big hero who is still basically a boy at heart. He and his young sibling sidekicks bring a Gen-Z vibe to the superhero template.
Somehow, them and the movie itself know how not to take things seriously, like when unicorns who have a special liking for Skittles suddenly appear to help rescue them from the monsters invading the city.
In this movie, we also get to know the other kids a bit better, specially Freddy who is perennially harassed by bullies in their high school.
Sometimes, though, it just strains quite hard to get laughs, like in that sequence where Shazam is consulting a shrink about his plight as a kid who got lucky to be given superpowers and he feels that he doesn’t really belong to the roster of other existing superheroes.
The joke is that the doctor he’s consulting is not really a shrink but just a pediatrician who diagnoses him as having the imposter syndrome, whatever that might be. One plus factor in the film is it stresses the importance of having a supportive family whose members are white, black, Asian and Latino to make it multi-racial.
Rosa and Victor don’t even know that their foster kids have superpowers but here, they are finally informed about their true situation. This movie is not really a great sequel but still an enjoyable one with its action-packed sequences and spectacular digitally engineered catastrophes.
In a key sequence, Kalypso plants a golden apple in a park and it instantly grows to be a monstrosity, with its roots crawling up to encompass huge skyscrapers and releasing a battalion of beasts to terrorize the entire city.
A big disappointment, though, is Lucy Liu as the main villain, Kalypso. She gives a lukewarm performance that lacks menace and she seems like she’s just suffering from flautulence and constipation that she looks so emotionless even in the climactic scenes where she is supposed to be at her most sinister.
As usual, there are cameo roles to surprise us. Gal Gadot pops up as Wonder Woman. There are two short previews in the end credits. In the mid credits, Jennifer Holland and Steve Agee as Emilia Harcourt and John Economos, members of the DC’s Extended Universe show up.
They intend to recruit Shazam to be a member of Justice Society of Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis in “Suicide Squad”.) But Shazam rejects their offer and mentions other groups he can join, like Avenger Society, which, of course, belongs to Marvel.
The last short preview shows Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana, talking with a worm, Mr. Mind, asking as to when he will be freed from his prison. Does this mean there will be another sequel and Dr. Sivana will be released to fight Shazam again? Well, let’s wait and see. As it is, initial reports say that the sequel did not fly high at the box office as expected and might not duplicate the success of the original.