DC has been having a bit of a rough time of it. The Suicide Squad reboot didn’t quite make its money back, Black Adam was a stinker, and Batgirl got buried before it even came out. If ever a franchise needed a hero, it’s now. Shame, then, that all it can muster is a messy, murky sequel that feels more like a studio trying to cosplay Marvel.
The first Shazam! was pretty good too. The ultimate kid wish-fulfilment fantasy, the 2019 film was the story of orphaned teen Billy Batson (Asher Angel) finding that he can turn into a grown-up superhero (Zachery Levi) whenever he says the magic word (“Shazam!”). Ending that film by sharing his magic powers with his foster siblings, a nifty body-swapped super-team was born – not that the sequel bothers to do much with it.
In a world where most superheroes talk like teens anyway, it’s a tough ask to make a movie about a bunch of kids in adult bodies, but it’s a real shame to see returning director David F. Sandberg squandering his own “Big meets The Avengers” premise by ignoring it completely.
Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu in ‘Shazam! Fury Of The Gods’. CREDIT: Warner Bros.
Swapping comedy for quips and action for messiness, the overstuffed, under-lit sequel only ever seems accidentally enjoyable. Here you’ll find wooden dragons, magic pens, giant forcefields, Gal Gadot cameos and ugly product placement – with the oddly cast trio of Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler now in the mix as three evil Greek god sisters that want to get a thing and do a thing.
Billy still has the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury (and the politics of Laurence Fox) And Billy’s brothers and sisters pretty much all have the same powers too, now rendered slightly interchangeable as CG puppet Power Rangers without distinct personalities to tell them apart. One of the kids is now confusingly old enough to play her own adult self (Grace Fulton), side-kick Jack Dylan Grazer is still far more likeable than main-star Asher Angel, and the three new bad-gal acting heavyweights look slightly embarrassed to be there.
Fury Of The Gods gets a big, silly ending which is occasionally fun, but there’s a cheap and clumsy feel to everything – a superhero sequel made in the same vague shape as a dozen others. Nodding and winking its way towards a place in a shared universe throughout the end-credit stings, all eyes are clearly on bigger super-ensembles with even more tones, characters and moving parts to juggle. But if DC looked a bit closer at their rivals over at Marvel they might actually see what they’re missing.
- Director: David F. Sandberg
- Starring: Zachery Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, Rachel Zegler
- Release date: March 17 (in UK cinemas)
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