By Jesse Burchill
“Shazam: Fury of the Gods” was released in the U.S. on March 17. It features Billy Batson and his foster family as they must come together to fight the gods Hespera and Kalypso, who seek the destruction of the human world, the rebirth of their own, and vengeance for their father Atlas.
The film’s first scene is set at the Acropolis Museum in Greece, and serves as an introduction to Hespera and Kalypso. They steal back the broken staff of Shazam, which had been interred at the museum, and turn everyone present to stone.
This serves as a fantastic introduction for the two villains, and suggests a darker tone for this installment. However, “Fury of the Gods” keeps the lighthearted tone of its predecessor much of the time. Despite this, scenes like this and the first appearance of the unicorn stand out by far for how creepy they are in comparison.
At one point, Billy has a dream where he has a date with Wonder Woman, but it’s interrupted by a warning from the wizard Shazam. You can be forgiven if you thought that Superman’s faceless cameo from the first film would be repeated, but this expectation is subverted at the end of the film.
Wonder Woman’s appearance feels a bit shoehorned, but is ultimately superior to Superman’s faceless cameo at the end of the previous movie. She actually has dialogue this time, performs some plot-significant actions, and even gets a bit of a rapport with Billy, who has been crushing on her the whole movie.
This film heavily features Freddy Freeman, the foster sibling of Billy Batson - Freddy is the first person to meet Anthea, the third benevolent daughter of Atlas, and even develops a platonic/romantic rapport with her.
Freddy’s emphasis in this film does make him stick out and connect better with the audience. It also suggests that he may become the next “main” host of Shazam’s powers after Billy, but this genuinely intriguing plot thread ultimately goes unresolved.
“Fury of the Gods” continues to carry its predecessor’s theme of familial love and connection. This time, Billy wants to keep his family together, even as they begin heading down their own paths, out of a worry of losing everyone he loves.
This is a compelling plot point, as it reflects the “family coming together” theme of the first film. However, the film’s exploration of family this time comes off as more surface-scraping than its predecessor. It feels like the movie didn’t quite delve into Billy’s struggle as deep as it could have in order to make a stronger bond with the audience.
On the antagonistic side, Lucy Liu enters her most villainous role since O-Ren Ishii in the “Kill Bill” duology. In “Fury of the Gods,” she portrays Kalypso, the goddess of chaos.
Appropriately, Liu comes off as the obnoxious, spontaneous sister who frequently clashes with her more “mature” siblings.
Later on in the movie, Kalypso decides to lay waste to the human world herself. This makes her much better as an antagonist - she even horrifies her own sisters with her mission, and sends the city into chaos under the monsters she commands.
While not as intimidating as O-Ren Ishii, Kalypso proves to be a ruthless and apathetic villain, and serves as a dark reflection of the film’s themes of family and unity. In the end, she comes off as a better villain, at least conceptually, than Hespera, who is more verbally intimidating than physically aggressive.
“Shazam: Fury of the Gods” does not quite escape the shadow of its predecessor. It seems a bit too safe, and its core themes are not explored as deeply as they deserved to be. Despite these flaws, the film is still enjoyable as a superhero film, and the bonds among the Shazam family make you want to see them again in the upcoming reboot of the DC movie franchise.
B-: Familiar, yet fresh