Star Rating:

Shazam! Fury of The Gods

Director: David F. Sandberg

Actors: Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler

Release Date: Friday 17th March 2023

Genre(s): Comedy, Sci-Fi

Running time: 130 minutes

Now in his late teens, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is trying to contend with growing into adulthood while his super-powered alter-ego Shazam (Zachary Levi) constantly wanting to save day, his adopted family (Jack Dylan Grazer, Ross Butler, Faithe Herman) eager to do the same, and a new threat in the form of the Daughters of Atlas - Kalypso (Lucy Liu), Anthea (Rachel Zegler), and Hespera (Helen Mirren) - who seek an ancient power to destroy Shazam once and for all...

Shazam has always occupied an uncomfortable place in the stable of DC Comics adaptations, but it's almost as if it wanted it that way. The first movie was, at the time, the best thing the DCEU had going for itself - a likeable lead in Zachary Levi and his co-star Asher Angel, a competent director in David F. Sandberg who understood the assignment and was capable of making things light and fun without needing to overstuff things, and no real desire to insert itself into that extended universe of misfits. Shazam was confined to Philadelphia, happy to be saving the day in the City of Brotherly Love, and seemed to enjoy it.

'Shazam! Fury of the Gods' falls into a common enough pitfall with comedy sequels, which is to repeat some of the same jokes, overstuff it with more of everything, and basically try to keep the whole thing frothy and fun. Amazingly, it just about pulls this off - even if it is a little too loud and annoying at points. There's a sense when you watch 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods' that even if you walk out of the cinema and half of the movie is gone by the time you get to your car, you'll have still enjoyed yourself.

Despite whatever's going on with his recent social media postings, Zachary Levi's performance as Shazam is as perfectly pitched as ever. Leaning into his aw-shucks reluctant superhero with endearing aplomb, Levi is able to make Shazam into a believable and likeable character - much as he did in early aughts TV sci-fi sitcom 'Chuck'. The inclusion of Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler is a welcome addition. Mirren, in particular, is excellent in these kinds of screwball comedies, and her deadpan abilities make some of the funniest beats in the movie. Zegler is arguably the weak link in the trio of villains, never quite leaning far enough into the fun of it all and trying to act her way out of it.

The script of 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods' is overburdened with setpieces and high-flying stakes, but when you boil it down and burn away all of the Greek diety crap, it's essentially about learning to accept yourself - which is something that the first one covered pretty well. That it has a weaker script than the first one lets it down, but the able cast and the fun and lighthearted nature of it is such that you're just along for the fun. Given how the DCEU is now set for a giant reset in 'The Flash', it's likely to be the case that Shazam will no longer fly across our screens with a quip and a cheesy remark after this.

As overly saturated as comic-book movies are these days, Shazam was by far one of the more enjoyably entertaining ones - cheesy, earnest, funny, and never prone to taking itself seriously.