‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’: A Fun Predecessor to James Gunn’s DCU Reset


(Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery)

By Zach Anderson, Arts Writer


On March 17, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” was released to a resounding “meh” from critics. From the same director as its predecessor (David F. Sandberg), “Fury of the Gods” follows Billy Batson (Asher Angel/Zachary Levi) and the Shazam family as they resist the devious plot of the Daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler) to turn the world into a monstrous hell-scape suited for a new age of gods.

This film retains a good chunk of what made the original such a hit: expansive Greek mythology, a stellar performance from Jack Dylan Grazer and kids in superheroes’ bodies. Critics are valid to point out the lack of compelling villains and character arcs, but the movie’s goofy, fun tone was extremely enjoyable. This less serious tone, which recent DCU projects have been embracing, makes me hopeful for James Gunn’s leadership and for our favorite superhero franchises.

The Shazam Fam Versus the Mild Aggravation of the Gods

The biggest strength and weakness of this sequel is the inclusion of not just one Shazam, but a whole family’s worth. By including more kinds of kids that transform into superheroes, audience members, especially younger adolescents, can picture themselves in that fantasy more clearly. The Shazam fam plays off each other well both as superheroes and as kids, but leaves little room for character development. At times, it feels like they’re competing for the attention of the audience, much like an actual six-person family.

The character that most caught my eye was Freddy (Grazer), whose performance was as funny as it was earnest and heartfelt. The same couldn’t be said for the Daughters of Atlas. The actresses did what they could with the material and felt dangerous enough to be an obstacle, but they didn’t stick out as characters. Their anger felt less relatable, which made their motivations for doing what they were doing far less compelling than they could have been. Something I did enjoy as a fantasy fan, however, was accurate references to Greek mythology and tense magical fights between gods and kids pretending to be gods. It seems like Sandberg understands Shazam’s niche.

A New Voice Across the DCU

Unlike the Zack Snyder films of the early DCU, there seems to be a lot more variety in the current DCU, but not without consistency. Gunn is seeming to encourage filmmakers to tell stories specifically about the characters and what they’re meant to be. Every successful DC movie isn’t necessarily a superhero movie, but a movie with superheroes in it. “Wonder Woman” was a WWI genre film, “Aquaman” was an Indiana Jones-style adventure film and “Black Adam” was a typical Dwayne Johnson movie.

Regardless of genre, each one fits its character and what they are supposed to be in line with its source material. That’s the formula that made Marvel films as successful as they were in the first place. With Gunn’s announcement of DC’s new slate of films and shows, I can’t wait to see what lies beyond this summer’s “The Flash” and the reboot that comes with it.


[email protected]