Shazam! Fury of the Gods continues the story of teenager Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who transforms into his adult superhero alter ego Shazam (Zachary Levi) upon reciting the magical word “Shazam!”

What I believe to be the film’s official synopsis says little – if anything – about the film. However, watching the trailers – a slew of them giving it all away, including the startling reveal of Gal Gadot’s final appearance as Wonder Woman – makes one wonder the extent of the malfunction and indecisiveness in DC film production’s PR machine.

This is a dramatically turbulent time for the DC Superhero catalog at Warner Bros. So much is changing so quickly – from the cast to origins to highlights. If today’s studio narrative could be put into words, it would sound like the unspeakable tangle of alphabet soup.

It’s really a pity then that the gigantic weight of a crumbling and restarting comic book movie universe is taking its toll on Shazam! Fury of the Gods – a better sequel to the mediocre successful first installment that functioned more or less independently in the Justice League continuity carried by Zack Snyder.

Director David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a good sequel that kids might like more than adults

With the final straws being drawn this year – Aquaman’s sequel, due out in the final quarter, could also suffer the fate of Fury of the Gods – and the one big final throw, The Flash, set to be the biggest film of the year The audience could not be blamed for missing out on Fury of Gods, whose future seemed doomed from the studio’s point of view (also: the Ramazan season worldwide is generally bad timing for blockbusters).

To be honest, I was one of those skeptics who thought the film just wouldn’t live up to the bad press…until I actually saw the film.

Fury of the Gods is a good sequel that kids might like more than adults. Billy Batson (Angel) and his once orphaned family – Jack Dylan Grazer, Jovan Armand, Ian Chen, Faithe Herman, Grace Caroline Currey – who are now adopted by a nice, cool couple, are in a better place than the last film.

For the most part, we see them functioning like any overcrowded family: bickering, staying together, yet happily enjoying their secret superhero lives while saving crumbling bridges (their alter egos are played by Adam Brody, Ross Butler, DJ Cortana, Meagan Good, with Grace Caroline Currey, who plays both the main character and the alter ego.

While Billy in his superhero form (Levi) is fed up with a psychiatrist (the man is actually a pediatrician), his brother Freddie (Grazer) falls in love with cute new student Anne (West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler). who – surprise, surprise – is one of the three evil daughters of Atlas out for revenge.

The three women – Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu) and Anthena (that’s Anne’s real name) – kidnap the wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who gave the Shazam family (aka Shazamily) their powers and draw the powers of the Boys made of heroes as they populate the town like all bad girls.

Now I’ll admit: there’s not a lot going on in the story department, but I wouldn’t take that as a deterrent. Tentpole movies usually have tiny plots. What makes her work the most is the treatment.

There is innocent appeal to David F. Sandberg’s direction. The feeling it evokes is – for lack of a better explanation – warm and inviting – like a Sunday morning cartoon or a wholesome family comedy.

The actors play their roles well, the color palette is vibrant, the editing is on point, and the production quality — including the CGI — is decent (for a $125 million budget, they should be better).

I believe Fury of the Gods will be a beautiful, if bittersweet, reminder of the end times of superhero movies for DC movies. It stands on the precipice of both an end and a new beginning – a reminder for those of us in the future of a time when cinema admissions became expensive, the genre lost most of its appeal, and the factory mindset of migrating our pedestrian feed was upon its all time high

Yet despite the desolation, in a small corner, hope—however fragile and feeble it might be—remained. What could be a better superhero story than this!

Published by Warner Bros. and HKC Entertainment (in Pakistan), Shazam! Fury of the Gods is rated PG-13 and is in theaters worldwide

Published in Dawn, ICON, April 2, 2023


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