Similar to how Henry Cavill’s (re)appearance as Superman was all but confirmed prior to the release of Black Adam (and then, you know, leaked in its entirety through supposed bootleg footage), which in itself was viewed as a desperate ploy to drum up interest for the Dwayne Johnson-led superhero flick, there’s a similar air of questionable tactics taking place with Shazam! Fury of the Gods; and it’s a damn shame!
With official trailers beating any keyboard warriors (or in-cinema recorders) to the punch by releasing footage featuring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, it can’t help but be viewed as a calculated move for a film that seems to be entering the multiplexes with a surprising lack of hype. Maybe it’s genre fatigue in general, or that DC have burned too many devoted enthusiasts, but for such a high profile sequel Fury of the Gods isn’t tracking in the manner a DC property should be; and, again, it’s a damn shame!
Releasing the Gadot footage – and, for the record, her appearance is the epitome of an extended cameo – cheapens Fury of the Gods‘ mentality, as it suggests she’s more involved in proceedings than she actually is. Not to mention, with James Gunn overhauling the DC space, which puts into question where the character of Shazam and, by extension, Zachary Levi‘s embodiment lie, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever see her as Wonder Woman again. Yes, it’s nice to get a final appearance after the divisive Wonder Woman 1984, but it’s also leaving us with false hope, which is probably the most frustrating thing surrounding Fury of the Gods as a whole. It’s a serviceable, highly entertaining action sequel that reminds us of how fun DC can be – and it (probably) ultimately means nothing in terms of connective DC property tissue; A. Damn. Shame.
After Levi’s enthusiastic turn as the character – the grown-up, superheroic counterpart to young Billy Batson – earned fanfare (and box office dollars) in the original Shazam! (2019), it made sense that we’d have a follow-up adventure, and Fury of the Gods makes sure to announce itself with the unlikely (but fabulously dynamic) duo of Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu wreaking havoc in their quest to restore the magic they believe has been stolen from them. Mirren’s Hespera and Liu’s Kalypso are two of the daughters of Atlas, and they aren’t overly enthused that Billy (Asher Angel) and his adopted brothers and sisters – Freddy (played by Jack Dylan Grazer as a human and Adam Brody as his superhero alter-ego), Eugene (Ian Chen and Ross Butler), Darla (Faithe Herman and Megan Good), Mary (Grace Fulton, pulling duties as both versions of her character), and Pedro (Jovan Armans and D.J. Cotrona) – have assumed the powers, as so bestowed by the wizard Shazam (Djimon Honsou), for themselves.
It’s not the most imaginative narrative when you boil it down, but writers Henry Gayden (who penned the original film) and Chris Morgan (who has blessed us with a multitude of the Fast & Furious films, which also gives him license to throw in a joke mentioning that franchise here) know that, so they pepper the film with good natured humour, a sense of emotionality, a little bit of romance (Grazer is surprisingly given a strong personal arc surrounding his relationship with Rachel Zegler‘s Anthea, the other daughter of Atlas who is torn between her duty as a sister and her developing feelings for the human Freddy), and hefty action. The last component is a staple of these films, and whilst the climactic battle is a little overindulged, it’s a testament to returning director David F. Sandberg that he manages to present us with visual stimulants that still manage to surprise in a time when comic book proceedings feel entirely telegraphed.
Although this is a Shazam film, and Levi is effortlessly comfortable in the role, both from a physical and emotional standpoint, the narrative decision to move into a familial directional space is the smartest one. Singular heroes are all well and good, but in giving Shazam (and Billy) the family he never had, it allows the character to exist in a less-selfish headspace. The chemistry between the family, both as their human selves and their superhero counterparts, is one of the film’s most enjoyable assets, and, again, it’s a damn shame that we may not see their future in the DC universe expanded upon.
As for the aforementioned Gadot, her appearance is more to execute an amusing punchline throughout regarding Shazam’s evident love for her, as well as a likely response to those assuming they might do the “headless hero” bit that the first film ended on when “revealing” Superman as one of Billy and Freddy’s best friends. Even in the smallest of appearances, Gadot is radiant in the attire, and if this is indeed the last we’ll ever see of her and the Shazam fam, at least they go out on an enjoyable high.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is now screening in Australian theatres.