Although 2019's Shazam! was a pedestrian effort when compared to other superhero film releases that year (i.e. Avengers: Endgame), it was lighthearted, goofy and fun enough to appease the masses. With Shazam! Fury of the Gods, its limited charm can't make up for an unfocused story and a largely humorless effort.
We're 4 years removed from the original Shazam! and it's safe to say the superhero film landscape has changed. The MCU has lost its way a little (well, the film side at least), while DC superhero films have gained some footing with 2021's The Suicide Squad and The Batman the following year. With James Gunn firmly in place as co-chairman and co-CEO of DC Studios, it appears a solid plan to properly expand DC's universe is finally in place.
The issue with this Shazam! sequel, though, is that it's so bland and lackluster that this franchise may phase itself out of the DCEU (Gunn's soft reboot has been dubbed the DCU - DC Universe) faster than you can say, "Shazam!"
Henry Gayden returned to pen this script with Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw; The Fate of the Furious) and the pair double down on the "Big meets Superman" allegory. But there are 5 more superheroes (hey, you must go bigger with every sequel) as Billy/Shazam (Asher Angel/Zachary Levi) bestowed powers on his foster kin. That's fine, but Billy acting more of an adult than Shazam is still evident, and it's more annoying than before. With Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer/Adam Brody), Eugene (Ian Chen/Ross Butler), Pedro (Jovan Armand/D.J. Cotrona), Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) and Darla (Faithe Herman/Meagan Good), their child personas are consistent with their superhero selves, so Billy/Shazam's Jekyll & Hyde routine feels more out of place. This is Fury's biggest crutch - it's absolutely terrible because this franchise had the same potential as Marvel's Ant-Man franchise.
The adversaries are a trio, played by Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler. Respectively playing sisters Hespera, Kalypso & Anthea, this is the film's highlight since Mirren & Liu's performances are the glue holding everything together. Zegler isn't in the same league as Mirren & Liu, though, but she's parlayed her performance in 2021's West Side Story into something relatively positive here. These gods (their motivations are typical) come off as mash up of The Witches of Eastwick and Hocus Pocus, which isn't a bad thing. But Mirren and Liu are on a level that leaves this sequel unbalanced.
Ultimately, Fury of the Gods is an entry that should score big with children. But it fails to entertain with adults - the ones who actually pay for the tickets. The potential for another sequel is low, due in part to its poor quality, but mainly because it's poised to make less than its predecessor.
No need to shazam your way to theaters for this one - the only fury it'll cause is from disappointed viewers. JV
2.5 out of 5 stars