The Joyful Teenage Energy of Shazam!: Fury of the Gods
2019’s Shazam! brought a breath of fresh air to DC’s cinematic world of heroes with its teenage energy, providing a joyful movie experience to its viewers. The movie introduced Billy Batson’s sentimentality, who was in search for his biological family and eventually realizing that his foster family was the family he had always longed for. This realization helped the movie achieve more staying power than many other superhero movies.
The sequel, Fury of the Gods, misses some of the heart that made the first movie so special. In Fury, we see the Shazamily putting their newfound abilities to the test against a trio of deadly deities seeking to overrun Earth. The Greek myth iconography introduces new challenges, but the storytelling falls short, making the sequel feel less compelling.
Lack of Compelling Antagonist Role
The Daughters of Atlas are the lateral move for the antagonist role in Shazam’s story, making it difficult to connect with them. Their grudge against the Shazamily and the wizard who empowered them is not compelling enough, making their plan to overthrow Billy’s realm feel overcomplicated. Furthermore, their plan to overtake Earth feels like a fetch quest and game of keepaway, which gets old quickly. Their ultimate plan also closely retreads one we’ve already seen in another DC film.
Motivation Lacking in Daughters of Atlas
Although the Daughters lack compelling motivation, their screen presence cannot be ignored. Helen Mirren’s near-total command of her character and function as a lead villain to the goofy Shazamily’s antics is delightful. However, the movie fails in using her performance to better sell the Daughters’ personal investment in the conflict. The action starts to feel tiresome as it moves towards the third act.
Creative Solutions to Countering the Daughters
The Shazamily’s powersets and godly lineage create opportunities for the movie to scale up the spectacle, but the action stays grounded in the superhero wish-fulfillment theme that serves as the series’ backbone. Moments where the kids come up with creative solutions for serious problems are gratifying, but the action might become tiresome going into the third act, where similar mythological creatures are dropped in to distract the heroes.
Focus on Supporting Characters
The movie’s focus on supporting characters such as Freddy Freeman, who is a chaotic ball of anxiety, nerdiness, and wit, often leaves Billy feeling stranded. The resolution of Billy’s arc feels unsatisfying. In contrast, Levi’s embodiment of Shazam is consistent, retaining the boyishness of Billy Batson while conveying occasional melancholy self-doubt. The rest of the Shazamily falls into predictable supporting positions, with little to contribute except for character-non-specific quippery.
Storytelling on Its Own Terms
Despite its shortcomings, Fury of the Gods tells its own story on its terms, and the missteps it makes along the way feel like part and parcel of the team’s efforts to forge their path. This approach is unencumbered by the heavy world-building expected of superhero franchise entries these days.
Even with James Gunn and Peter Safran’s impending DCU reboot, Fury of the Gods tells its story on its own terms, acknowledging the larger DC world but avoiding the heavy world-building.