David F. Sandberg’s second characteristic concerning the unlikely teen superhero (and fam!) exists, fairly actually, in a bubble all its personal. That is a very good factor.
About midway by means of David F. Sandberg’s “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” our hero’s hometown of Philadelphia will get sealed into a large, magical bubble. What higher metaphor for this sequence’ place within the DC Universe, a sprawling franchise that by no means fairly cohered and is now getting a serious retooling by the hands of recent brass, do you want?
When Sandberg’s first “Shazam!” movie arrived in theaters in March 2019, it was on the heels of large field workplace successes like “Aquaman,” “Justice League,” and “Surprise Lady” — the salad days of what was then generally known as the DC Prolonged Universe — and a seemingly intelligent time to launch the closest the DCEU had gotten to a standalone movie for the youthful set (the primary “Suicide Squad,” after all being for a extra mature viewers). It was cute, humorous, candy, and really a lot its personal factor. It existed in its personal bubble, sure, however that wasn’t a bug, it was a characteristic.
For its second outing, that bubble turns into literal. That’s a very good factor, and whereas the way forward for this specific sequence hangs within the stability — a 3rd “Shazam!” movie just isn’t presently a part of the primary wave of movies being prepped by the brand new guard — Shazam and his super-powered household deserve a spot in no matter comes subsequent. And whereas “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” doesn’t completely recapture the giddy enjoyable of the primary movie, its humor, sweetness, and delightfully human heroes remaining vibrant spots in a style too typically obsessive about the darkish and the gritty.
Not that it kicks off with such light-heartedness, nonetheless. As a substitute, the movie opens with a grim introduction to 2 of our main antagonists: sisters Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), two of the daughters of Atlas, a pair of righteously pissed off goddesses who’ve arrived in our earthly realm to take again what’s theirs, i.e. a large magical stick final seen being damaged in two by Shazam himself (Zachary Levi) on the finish of the primary movie. Each Mirren and Liu don’t fairly appear to completely grasp what’s at stake right here, however they’re certain as hell having a good time doing it.
As soon as the pair have taken again stated magical stick, they proceed to air their rage on the poor vacationers who simply so occur to be dawdling across the museum it was housed in. Quickly, they’ve turned your complete assemblage into statues — doesn’t really feel nice, huh? — a considerably comprehensible dastardly deed that highlights a lot of the movie’s issues. Particularly, it’s actually scary for a movie ostensibly aimed toward youngsters (the movie is rated PG-13, which permits the numerous teenagers who populate it to swear in regular cadence, but additionally makes room for some really unsettling violence), nevertheless it’s additionally a bit complicated, performed out of sequence (we later be taught that the opening scene really takes place days and days after the remainder of the movie kicks off), and it requires an entire mess of exposition.
However, wait, what’s occurring with, you recognize, our titular hero Shazam? When Sandberg is leaning into the lightness of this story — that it’s a few common previous teenage boy, plus his charming foster household, getting became a really cool superhero — “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” sparks to life. Whereas the primary movie chronicled the dizzy pleasure and complete wackiness of a child (a child!) getting superpowers, its sequel takes that to its subsequent logical cease: a few years into this hero factor, and younger Billy Batson (Asher Angel returns to play the teenage hero when he’s not in Shazam get-up) is affected by imposter syndrome. Rating one for relatable issues!
Billy’s makes an attempt to wrestle along with his internal demons embrace every little thing from a go to to a really baffled pediatrician (perpetual scene-stealer P.J. Byrne, whose doc works out of an workplace that features a fantastic blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to Sandberg’s horror roots) and subjecting his “fam jam” to movies breaking down what labored (and, extra typically, what didn’t work) throughout their missions. Billy’s whole ethos hinges on his household motto — “all or none!” — that requires all of his foster siblings (and fellow superheroes) to take part in stated missions, which have gone so haywire that the troupe has earned the moniker “The Philly Fiascos.”
Pay attention, it’s arduous to be a superhero whenever you’re simply 17 years previous! However whereas Billy is fighting main this rag-tag group, the remainder of his household is ailing, too. Younger Darla (performed by Faithe Herman as a kiddo, and the terribly charming Meagan Good in her superhero kind) simply needs a kitten, Pedro (Jovan Armand and D.J. Cotrona) is coping with a distinct form of self-actualization, Eugene (Ian Chen and Ross Butler) spends most of his time making an attempt to map the place the assorted doorways of their lair result in, and Mary (Grace Caroline Currey, taking part in each side of the character) is just a little pissed off that she’s being stored from her school desires.
As for Billy’s finest buddy, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer, one way or the other much more pleasant than he was within the first movie, plus Adam Brody as his superhero counterpart, additionally a complete pleasure)? He’s by no means happier than when he’s off combating crime, even when meaning he’s doing it alone.
However these are all distinctly Earth-bound dilemmas, and when Hespera and Kalypso convey their rage (and their magical stick!) to Philadelphia, with a purpose to — uh, checks notes, avenge their father? save their very own realm, which was sealed off from magic by Billy’s personal wizard pal (Djimon Hounsou, who apparently didn’t die within the first movie)? get some magic apple? kill the youngsters? good gods almighty, what is going on right here? — issues abruptly get very actual. And, as continues to be the case with any and all main superhero movies, they get actually massive, with the destiny of nothing lower than your complete universe within the stability.
All that superhero stuff, all these played-out issues (the universe?? once more??), all these tropes recede when Sandberg’s movie (written by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan) faucets again into the particular bubble that’s Shazam. Superhero motion pictures don’t must be darkish or dismal or simply for adults, they are often colourful and foolish and humorous for the entire household! These are in no way unique concepts, however when “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is doing them nicely, the movie is a sterling reminder of how really extensive the style may be, and the way more and more slender it feels.
Ultimately, Shazam and people naughty sisters (plus a 3rd, who we received’t spoil right here) must reckon with one another, after the goddesses steal Freddy, seal off Philly, and snatch the powers of the remainder of the household. Issues get nonetheless extra convoluted when that aforementioned apple (actually, the seed of life) is planted within the inhospitable soil of (ew, gross!) Earth by a maniacal Kalypso. It doesn’t sprout pleasant wonders, however a “blighted” tree that then hatches a sequence of basic mythological monsters, all method of minotaurs and cyclopes abruptly jamming round an already-addled Philly.
Regardless of the common stakes of what’s unfolding, the motion feels comparatively contained (the monsters look good, the lightning Shazam so typically employs has by no means regarded higher, nevertheless it all feels as if was shot on a single backlot). And whereas the remainder of the DC world does sometimes discover its means into this specific bubble (Billy, for example, has a serious crush on Surprise Lady), there’s one thing to be stated for a sequence like this that may really stand alone. It’s charming — and it’s totally different, and it’s price saving.
Warner Bros. will launch “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” in theaters on Friday, March 17.
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