Director: Elizabeth Banks
Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Rachel Zegler, Adam Brody, Ross Butler, Meagan Good, Lucy Liu, Djimon Hounsou, and Helen Mirren
Movie Length: 1 hour 35 minutes
The DC cinematic universe has often struggled to find a consistent tone as it lurches from uber-dark and gritty to attempts at humor seemingly jammed into the film in response to seeing what works for Marvel. Ironically, it is in its adaptation of one of its less known characters that DC makes its most fun movies.
Most people know Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Aquaman. Shazam not so much (though he is a longtime character). The character is a teenager who gets magical powers from a wizard that changes him into a superhero when he says “Shazam!” The movie isn’t afraid to lean into the silliness of the concept which results in the movie not taking itself too seriously, and becomes one of the most fun DC movies (I also like the latest Suicide Squad). Zachary Levi is the DC equivalent to Paul Rudd, I had doubts when he was cast as a superhero, but he brings silly sweetness to the role, which requires him to basically play a 17 year old in an adult body as well as a 17 year old in an adult body pretending to be an adult. In fact, one of the strengths of the movie is how well the ‘adult’ counterparts of each of the family members (Shazam gave the rest of his crew powers in the first film) act like their child counterparts.
A superhero movie is only as good as its bad guys. Shazam’s second outing brings in some kinda random Greek mythology baddies. As is often the case in comic book movies, their origin and motivation is something you just have to go with. But it does allow for some cool monster design in the final third of the movie that is a vast improvement over the oft used generic baddies. Helen Mirren provides tons of gravitas to her character, who kind of reminded me of Cate Blanchet’s Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Lucy Liu plays her character a bit over the top, but she provides enough menace to drive the movie.
The Fury of the Gods has pretty good special effects. There’s a lot of ‘magic hand waving’ and punching through buildings (which seems to be a DC movie requirement), but there are also some cool monsters and some creative reality warping visuals that I’m not sure I understood- but they did look cool. Best of all, it was always easy to see what was going on during the action sequences. There isn’t much ‘new’ in Shazam (wait, a bridge is collapsing?), but the execution is pretty strong.
Finally, I think another positive aspect to Shazam is the fact that it makes family a central concept, which is different from the tack taken in other films (Superman is an alien, Batman is an orphan). This installment manages to flesh out most of the main characters and give them more to do without stretching things too thin.
You don’t need to see any of the other DC movies aside from the first Shazam to enjoy Fury of the Gods. Comic book fans will catch many Easter eggs, but that knowledge is not required to understand the film. Overall I’d say this movie isn’t the best comic bool movie ever made, but it is a fun popcorn movie that should probably be viewed on the big screen. Shazam is DCs best attempt yet at mimicking Marvel’s balance of comedy and action, so if you like the Marvel movies, I think you will like this one.
Here is the Through the Lens podcast version of this review https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/darren-shulman/episodes/Shazam–Fury-of-the-Gods-Review-e20irmt
Score 9/10 (graded on a curve because I tend to get annoyed at the excessive darkness of the DC movies).
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