Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 10 minutes, Director – David F. Sandberg
Whilst trying to make sure that his now super-powered family sticks together Billy Batson (Asher Angel) finds his Shazam (Zachary Levi) powers challenged by a group of Gods (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler) looking to take them back for themselves.
2019’s Shazam was something of a breath of fresh air in the DC Universe when first released. It wasn’t plunged in darkness, or gritty, or the filmic equivalent of a scowl (although none of these labels are really worn by Wonder Woman either). It was fun. As we saw teenager Billy Batson (Asher Angel) explore his various superpowers as the multi-powered superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi) whilst confronting the fact that he can’t just use them for his own amusement. It therefore comes as something of a disappointment that the sequel appears to have forgotten how to have fun, or why its characters worked in the first place.
Billy and his entire foster family (aside from parents Rosa (Marta Milans) and Victor (Cooper Andrews)) now have super powers, however the original Shazam still boasts the full array of powers. Yet, even that collection is challenged when a group of Gods (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler) arrive on Earth looking to both bring their own realm and take back the powers which are rightfully theirs. Soon the group of heroes start to feel even more strained than before, with some – especially Jack Dylan Grazer’s Freddy and Caroline Grace-Cassidy’s Mary – already having wanted to go near their own way.
There’s a lot of characters on display here, at least as part of the central group, and the film shows this by not quite being able to capture their personalities. Instead a number of side characters within the family – such as Faith Herman’s Darla – feel more like general character traits than people with proper personalities. It’s hard to connect with them as there’s not much there to actually connect with as the film tries to move the narrative forward while still showing the characters with their powers (characters who while clearly being older the film still wants to treat just as they were four years ago). In fact, when shedding elements and simply focusing on Billy/ Shazam (even if you do sometimes forget that the titular hero is a child) there’s a stronger feel to the proceedings as the pace is picked up and the action in general feels much stronger.
Much of this comes forward in the third act after a first hour which, while having its moments, fails to truly lift off due to the simple fact of blandness. A feeling perhaps created because of the struggling personalities of the core family. There’s more focus on less as the film progresses, meaning that there’s more enjoyment to be had. There may not quite be a sense of fun, or as much humour as you would wish despite one or two chuckles along the way, but things certainly improve as become more refined and engaged with their details. The powers of the villains at hand are shown with more effect – especially in regards to a number of very enjoyable, and fearful, monsters which start to crop up alongside an undeniably cool wooden dragon – and there’s a more engaging nature to things overall.
Even with just how much happens in the build-up to the final face off, and to some extent afterwards, there’s a consistently engaging feel to it all. Things could so easily feel drawn out but thankfully the film avoids this making it a rather worthwhile set of events after the more uncertain footing of what has come beforehand. For a film focusing on the central character trying to keep his family together – we see him in a therapy session at the start trying to come to terms with past traumas and abandonment – it works best when they’re largely apart.
There’s an uneven nature to the opening half of Shazam! Fury Of The Gods. While some moments are fine others feel bland due to too many characters with too little personality. However, as things are shed and the action picks up there’s a more enjoyable quality, particularly to the action on display.