​​‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ is an underwhelming and confusing mess


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Flavio Moreira, Staff Writer

In the long-awaited sequel of a not-well-known DC Comics superhero, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” may have lost the battle to reach its full potential.

The story in this installment is simple even though it tries to put very complex issues on the screen: Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu’s characters are daughters of Atlas, the Greek god. The Wizards, interpreted by the always amazing Djimon Hounsou, gave Billy Batson the power to become Shazam and later gave it to his family. Parallel to that, Billy is worried about being kicked out of the family’s house, as he is almost turning eighteen and aging out of the foster system. Through this recipe, very similar to the first movie, director David F. Sandberg navigates the plot with a few mishaps along the way.

Zachary Levi leads the cast as the adult “Shazam!” He is known mostly for his title role in the TV comedy “Chuck” and meshes the silliness of his previous character into his superhero counterpart. There is no doubt he is talented in comedy, but there is a notable difference in his portrayal of Billy Batson and the teenage one played by Asher Angel, who is dealing with the rejection of his biological mom and the fear of growing up. This duality is so aggressive in the sequel that it makes Levi’s performance annoying to watch. Every dramatic decision made by Angel to deepen the story seems to be overshadowed by the jokes Levi makes minutes later. There seem to be two different stories happening on the screen. 

The real star of the show is Jack Dylan Grazer, who gained notoriety for his role as Eddie in 2017’s “IT.” Grazer returns as Billy’s side-kick, Freddy Freeman, who is also Captain Marvel Jr. He is much more natural and nuanced as a teenager than anyone else in the cast–his portrayal is honest, sincere and maybe the only one in the movie where there is no imbalance. Rather, the human Freddy is probably the heart of the story in contrast to Billy Batson, who is set aside to make Levi’s “Shazam!” the real star. The rest of the family is also delightful to see on the screen. Although they seem pretty flat at times and their dilemmas are just inserted for the sake of it, they are amusing and have good chemistry, especially when they are just playing teenagers and not superheroes.

The first scene in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” depicts Mirren and Liu in a fight scene to recover an ancient artifact from a museum in Athens. Antagonists in superhero movies usually have very vague motivations, and here it’s no exception. Something that is observable in most DC and Marvel movies is the frequent threat that aliens might make it to the mortal world. There is also usually a villain consequently threatening to destroy the Earth with the most nonsense explanation whatsoever. Maybe the last villains who had a plausible motivation were Thanos in the “Infinity War” saga and Cate Blanchett’s Hela in “Thor: Ragnarok.” Sadly, “Fury of the Gods” leans into the predictable construction of a blockbuster formula. It is hard to make sense of the writers’ reasoning.

Overall, the feature does not lead the viewers anywhere. Not even the surprise ending nor the two post-credit scenes give the audience an idea of what the future holds for Billy Batson and his family. This is because the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is being rebooted with “The Flash” to make James Gunn, who became co-chairman of the DCEU last year, able to create things from scratch, not based on someone else’s work like the controversial “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.”

The pulsing force of the first installment in 2019 was compiled of the rejection the main characters received from the world, and not how the superpowers made them incredible, but their hearts. This is what made “Shazam!” so approachable and successful at a time when Marvel released the popular “Avengers: Endgame.” In “Fury of The Gods,” just like Batson’s portrayal by Angel, this matter is thrown away.

There are just a few emotional scenes with the younger characters, while the menacing, godly characters of Liu and Mirren are all over the place. In fact, the latter recently told CBR that she thought the story was too confusing. As mentioned before, everything seems unbalanced and rushed to compete with Marvel’s success, even when the public is suffering from superhero fatigue. The script leans on clichés and simple monologues, which leads the audience to congratulate the cast for making the best with so little.