Movie review: Shazam! Fury of the Gods

I didn’t get a chance to watch Shazam! Fury of the Gods on opening weekend. And I was so caught up in con excitement (attending my favorite regional con, Planet Comicon in Kansas City), that I really didn’t have time to read any reviews or check out how the box office was doing. I went to the theater early last week, still recovering from that post-con haze, and found Shazam! Fury of the Gods to be a very fun time at the movies. 

And then, of course, I hopped online and discovered the drama brewing behind the scenes on this film. It’s probably fair to call this film a flop at the box office, earning less than its predecessor and getting buried by John Wick 4 in its second weekend. This has sparked the perennial “are people feeling superhero fatigue” debate and added to the ongoing drama surrounding the DC cinematic universe. And apparently the Rock and Shazam star Zachary Levi are having some kind of feud, but I don’t have the energy to wade into that alleged mess. 

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on surrounding this film, and I won’t be unpacking all of it in this review. I think there might be some sense of superhero fatigue amongst the general public, but only because by this point people are feeling a sense of been there/done that. There’s still a market for superhero content, but people are less content with mediocrity now that the genre has matured and we want to be wow-ed when we spend our hard-earned dollars at the movie theater. 

The box office is still adjusting to a post-COVID world and people have gotten used to streaming at home. I bet Shazam! Fury of the Gods will perform decently well on streaming, especially due to its family film vibe. And, not necessarily through any fault of its own, Shazam! Fury of the Gods feels rather like a lame duck, as James Gunn prepares to wipe the DC cinematic universe clean. Who knows if this film will have any lasting impact on DC cinematic storytelling going forward. 

But setting all that aside, I liked Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and I’m a bit surprised it’s only hitting about 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. I will always defend a critic’s right to dislike a film, and I have to remind myself that a “rotten” score doesn’t mean everyone will automatically dislike said film. It’s just a more mixed response. Personally, I did enjoy this film, and I actually like it more than the first one (though maybe I’m in the minority there). 

Some of that might be because I feel a personal connection to this story, with its focus on found family and foster parenting. As an adoptive parent, I love stories of families who are bound by choice (not necessarily blood), and I love the camaraderie between the kids and the deep love the foster parents clearly feel for their family. It truly is a beautiful thing, and made me tear up a couple times. 

Sometimes the humor in this movie is a little goofy and cheesy, but it fits because these are a bunch of teenagers who become superheroes. And didn’t we all act just a little bit goofy and cheesy as teenagers? It’s for that same reason I liked the cute little romance between Shazam/Billy Batson’s foster brother Freddy and (redacted). It’s not a super spoiler, because the twist is a little obvious, but still, I thought it was sweet. 

As much as I love watching Zachary Levi play a teenage superhero in an adult body, I kinda missed getting to see Asher Angel as teenage Billy Batson. Watching his search for love, closure, and belonging gave the original Shazam so much heart. Especially since we do get to see so much of the other foster siblings as kids vs. just superheroes. 

The fights are pretty standard superhero fare, but again, I didn’t mind that because you have the novelty of these being kids/teenagers who are still figuring out how to do the whole superhero thing. And while Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu aren’t exactly turning in Oscar-worthy performances as the villains, I enjoyed seeing them, and they look great in superhero gear. I’ve said this a lot, but it’s always awesome to see action-oriented roles for women over the age of 50 in Hollywood. 

In conclusion, I really liked Shazam! Fury of the Gods and I had fun watching it. I probably would have liked to see it on the big screen again if my schedule had allowed it, and it’s one I know I’ll have fun watching with my daughter when she’s older. It’s a shame it didn’t seem to resonate with everyone, but that’s OK. It worked for me, and I’m glad Warner Bros. actually decided to release it, especially with all the behind the scenes drama going on. I have a gut feeling there won’t be a Shazam 3, based on how this one performed, but maybe we’ll get to see some of these characters cameo in other projects.

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