Shazam! Fury of the Gods Movie Review: The second installment of an underrated franchise, Shazam! 2 arrives in theaters on March 16, 2023, distributed by Warner Bros, confirming the fact that the mix of action, humor, and feelings, if calibrated with a sense of proportion and without pretentious ambitions, is truly a winning combination for the cinecomic that knows what he wants.
Directed by David F. Sandberg, starring Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler, and Djimon Honsou. The twelfth film in the DC Extended Universe (acronym DCEU), is the story of Billy, a teenager who just says the word "SHAZAM!" to transform into the superhero of the same name. The first chapter was released in 2019 and the review can be found here.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods: the ups and downs of a "heroic" family
Billy Batson, Asher Angel plays him as a teenager while Zachary Levi is the superhero and he will be referred to from now on, he suffers from imposter syndrome. Rejected by his family, rejected by the system, rejected by the city (Philadelphia), Billy wonders if the Wizard Shazam (Djimon Honsou) hasn't made a colossal error of judgment in giving him the powers that make him special.
And also very unhappy. His need for human warmth has never failed and if his adoptive parents, Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa (Marta Milans), do not make him miss anything, it is above all on the relationship with his brothers and sisters that Billy bases a large part of his psychological stability.
|Shazam! Fury of The Gods/Warner Bros.|
He also wanted them with him in battle, making them more superheroes, because the strength of a family is his unity. They are six in all and each one seems to fly on his behalf. Billy is afraid that this family will also fall apart; he fears rejection more than anything.
The “others” are Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), Darla (Meagan Good), Pedro (D.J. Cotrona), Eugene (Ross Butler), and Freddy (Adam Brody). Of the group, the only one who is in Shazam! Fury of the Gods spends more time as a teenager than in the ordinance costume is Freddy, played by the electric and restless Jack Dylan Grazer. Freddy is the narrative engine of the film.
The things that happen to him have a huge impact on the people around him, on Philadelphia, and also on the salvation of mankind. Basically, what happens to Freddy is that he meets Anne (Rachel Zegler) at school. Anne is kind, nice, smart, and even very pretty. She has a control freak sister who watches over her all the time, so she says.
Freddy is very taken by the girl and does not notice her impending threat. Billy senses that something horrible is about to happen; he is always very sensitive to the call of heroic sirens because he hasn't given up hope of impressing Wonder Woman. He trusts in the miracles of a good reputation. The threat this time is represented by two very ancient and fierce sister deities, Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu).
They have little or no sense of humor, an unfinished business with humanity, and a tendency to literally astonish those who don't like them. Virtually everyone. For Shazam (Zachary Levi) and his gang of adult heroes but with a young heart (and soul), the clash with the enemy is an opportunity to understand what it means to grow up: to come to terms with the idea of detachment, sacrifice yourself, do not give in to selfishness. Above all sacrifice.
|Shazam! Fury of The Gods/Warner Bros.|
A cinecomic that knows how to be satisfied is an intelligent cinecomic
The limit of superhero cinema, in this phase, is the repetitiveness of stories, themes, and aesthetic solutions. It monopolizes the box offices of half the world, crowds streaming platforms, and colonizes the collective imagination and pop culture; the cinecomic is everything, everywhere, and the same moment of the audiovisual.
The narrative and sentimental structure has appeal because it is simple and its simplicity can be replicated without too much effort and is much appreciated by the public: there is the hero (or more than one), a fluctuating number of antagonists, some inner tangles to put in order, the causes of which must always and in any case be traced back to the dysfunctionality of the family nucleus.
In addition, contraptions/gadgets and the plastic force of spectacular action scenes, are indispensable conditions for founding mythology.
Shazam! 2 enhances its heroes and delves into their psychology because there is the advantage of a first film that has done most of the dirty work. He wisely uses the charisma of the three splendid new entries, one for each generation, Rachel Zegler, Lucy Liu (very bad), and her majesty Helen Mirren.
The action is fast-paced and well-made, and the story has its fair share of iconic references and places (above all the Rock of Eternity, the bat cave of Shazam and his companions). In short, the film beats the tracks of (practically) any other cinecomic in circulation with extreme fidelity. So why, in the extreme linearity and predictability of its intentions, Shazam! Fury of the Gods works more than decently? Because it makes sense of the measure.
Because he respects limits, his own and those of the genre. Is the story that of a group of heroes together adults and children? Humor and sentiment are modeled on these coordinates; the ultimate goal is to offer the public solid entertainment. Shazam! Fury of The Gods was not born with the ambition to change the rules of the superhero cinema game.
If cinema is a popular art, here the weight lies on the second term of the equation: by rejecting empty and pretentious ambitions, contenting itself with being a simple story shot in a simple way, it wins the game of intelligence and maturity. Not afraid to be commercial.
David F. Sanberg also knows that talking about family, the cross and thematic delight of every self-respecting cinecomic, is possible and indeed desirable, as long as you stay away from didactic excesses or, worse still, from the temptation of the "message".
The film does not hit too much on the key in question: if there is praise for the strength and inclusiveness of the family as a social and emotional foothold in a chaotic world, this is especially true at the beginning and at the end of the story. In between, laughter and thunderous heroism. Zachary Levi confirms a certain ease in managing the double soul (registry) of his hero.
Jack Dylan Grazer, among the boys, is once again the most incisive. It is no coincidence that his playing time is higher than that of his peers, with the exception of Rachel Zegler. His nervous intensity, flawed and self-deprecating, ties in well with the overall tone of the film.