Shazam! Fury of the Gods review


As a big fan of the first movie, I was looking forward to reuniting with the Shazamily and this sequel surpasses my expectations. It is bold, pacy and packed with loads of action plus quite a bit of humour. And it’s features Helen Mirren! Critics seem sniffier and bad word of mouth is spreading but all I can say is that this film is hugely enjoyable and feels fresh despite the zillions of superhero movies we’ve all seen in recent years.

Some spoilers after the break....

We’re a few years on from the events of the first film and our awkwardly named superheroes are regular news even if some of their attempts to save the day cause a lot of damage as evidenced by an early scene of them trying to stop a bridge from collapsing. Yet the group are also moving apart socially due to impending adulthood and therefore independence. Billy in particular worries he will have to fend for himself when he shortly turns eighteen while Freddy has taken to sneaking out to undertake solo missions. 

Meanwhile the daughters of Greek God Atlas from whom the heroes powers were originally taken are back to claim what was once theirs. In an arresting opening scene they take the Wizard’s staff that Billy snapped at the end of the first movie (which he then apparently just dropped on the ground!) and proceed to turn people to stone. Then they come for the heroes. Classical themes are ingrained in the storyline drawing from a different well than simply comic book lore and this is another aspect that makes this movie fresh even if comic purists probably think the two don’t mix. Well where do they imagine the idea of superheroes came from?

What follows is a riot as a series of increasingly large confrontations share the screen with a family dynamic and a little romance. Because its too difficult to really have three villains, the sister’s differing priorities soon split them too. Of course it’s all writ large with quips aplenty but its surprising that they all land and a lot of that is to do with Freddy. Jack Dylan Grazer’s character was a stand out in the first film but he steals this sequel from under everyone’s noses. Admittedly he gets the funniest lines but Freddy is the beating human heart of this story. His loyalty to Billy, his romance with one of the Gods, Anthea, and his desperate heroics do so much to give the film its character underscoring the main themes. Plus, he has a fun double act with Djimon Hounsou’s Wizard who himself proves to be a lighter character than you might expect. Grazer is definitely someone to watch for the future- if you’ve ever seen We Are Who We Are in which he plays a totally different type of character you’ll know what I mean.

Helen Mirren is as imperious as you like and Hespera’s story twists surprisingly later on. Its always good to see a revered actor tackle material like this and still be great because she commits to it. Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler play the other sisters and both get their moments. The former turns into quite a formidable foe- despite having the name Kalypso- while the latter navigates Anthea’s divided loyalties with zest. Zachary Levi remains as silly as ever and it is interesting that his younger persona (Asher Angel) is much more grounded than his adult self. Levi has a lot of fun though and so do we. Maybe some of the quips are a little silly but the character knows it and acknowledges it anyway!

In fact everyone in this large cast gets to shine thanks to scriptwriter’s Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan’s deft, flexible narrative which even manages to avoid the typical superhero movie saggy  bit in the middle coming in at a crisp two and a bit hours. They ensure the story remains relatable whatever the incredulous creatures we might see on screen.

The film even manages something of a new spin on the big cityscape confrontation as ancient creatures are summoned to terrorize the inhabitants in a nod to those old Ray Harryhausen effects of yore. This mythical menagerie- including Gorgon, Cyclops and harpies - are terrifically realised. There’s some unicorns too but if you think you know what they look like wait till you see these ones! Best of all is the wooden dragon (yes it is commented upon!) which is superbly rendered complete with a blaze of light rather than fire and a terrifying roar that shakes the cinema.

After all the goofing about, the finale offers genuinely heroic moments that work on every level providing thrills, edge of seat tension and a few tears too. With the DC Cinematic Universe generally something of a shambles due to endless re-starts and resetting, this is a film that stands in its own two feet with brio, confidence and laughs. It suggests that the superhero film medium is not completely drained yet. See it without prejudice and you will likely enjoy it.

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