Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Shazam! Fury Of The Gods

Title: Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Describe This Movie In One Ghostbusters Quote:
WINSTON: Ray, when someone asks if you are a god, you say "yes!"
Brief Plot Synopsis: Super-powered sibs skirmish, superannuated scoundrels struggle.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 Gomer Pyles out of 5.
Tagline: "Oh. My. Gods."

Better Tagline: "Where the Streets [Of Philadelphia] Have No Name"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Following their defeat of Sivana, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) AKA Shazam (Zachary Levi), is trying to keep his foster siblings together as a superhero team. But there are problems, such as brother Freddy's (Adam Brody/Jack Dylan Grazer) desire to strike out on his own and sister Mary's (Grace Fulton) personal life as an adult. And then there's the three Daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler), inadvertently freed by Billy and looking for the MacGuffin, er, "Seed of Life."
"Critical" Analysis: If you don't recall the first Shazam, allow me to sum up: young Billy Batson was granted nearly unstoppable powers by the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), and subsequently went on to imbue his foster siblings with super powers to fight Sivana, a bad guy who coveted Batson's abilities.

This all also ties in with the recent Black Adam, in that Sivana had the same artifact (the Eye of Sin) that Teth Adam got entombed for using. "Eye of Sin," "Seed of Life," it's almost like they're playing one of those Facebook games that uses their month of birth and model of their first car to generate names.

But that's probably all you remember about Black Adam, if you remember anything. Warner Bros.'s attempts to create unifying elements to the DC movie universe have been half-assed to this point, with David F. Sandberg's Shazam! joining Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman as one of the few bright spots peeking out from the bloated grimdark of the SnyderVerse.

You can see them trying to loop Shazam! in to the newly christened DC Studios, headed by James Gunn. The effort made to connect the two properties may prove interesting, or it may bog any future endeavors down by insisting on tying them together.

Those are future concerns, though. The pertinent question is whether Fury of the Gods succeeds, either as a standalone movie or as a sequel. As to the former, it's self-deprecating and quippy enough to make audiences happy. To the latter? It lacks some of the anarchic joy that so many people enjoyed from the first Shazam!.
click to enlarge
None of these expressions inspire much confidence.
Whatever your views on the relative merits of each comic book franchise, this shit is getting ridiculous. Much like the actual comics they're ostensibly based upon, both the MCU and DCEU are threatening to plunge into total incoherency. DC may not have gone as far down that road (mismanagement has its advantages, I guess), but Sandberg and writers Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan aren't doing themselves any favors by dragging in more mythological gobbledegook.

Repetition is the name of the game as well. You've got your big, poorly lit CGI climax, lines straight out of the "Sir, this is a Wendy's" playbook, enough product placement (Skittles) to qualify for a Super Bowl commercial, and another appearance by "Sabotage," which is evidently the only Beastie Boys song allowed in movies (License to fILLm?).

And I wish I could say the performances make a difference, but with the exception of Grazer — who probably suffered a slipped disc carrying this movie — Zegler, and (occasionally) Levi, everyone is just going through the motions. Liu is completely checked out in any scene she doesn't share with Helen Mirren (Hespera), whose interest appears to be at constant war with gutting it out for what was surely a sweet paycheck.

The template for these movies has become depressingly familiar, and if we've learned anything from the likes of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, having the words "Marvel" or "DC" before your film is no longer a guarantee that audiences will eat it up without complaint. Maybe the intermittently entertaining Shazam! Fury of the Gods strikes a stronger chord, and maybe Gunn can change things up, but the superhero genre is currently in a rut.

Is There An End Credits Scene? There is, and I have no idea how it's supposed to work going forward, though Levi has some good lines.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar