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REVIEW: 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods' works best with larger-than-life fantasy fun

By Jerald Uy Published Mar 16, 2023 7:32 pm

Ever missed the wonder of reading a superhero comic book for the first time? While gritty and gory graphic novels may have arguably elevated sequential storytelling, it takes talent and restraint to thrill a young reader. The sequel Shazam! Fury of the Gods captures that experience of reading an astonishing all-ages comic book with the right amount of scares, teen romance, and even an adorable coming-out moment. It feels like watching a fun Saturday morning cartoon.

The second installment revolves around the shattered staff of the Wizard, breaking the borders that held the gods from the mortal world. Enter the Daughters of the Atlas—the elemental manipulator Hespera (Helen Mirren), the chaos whisperer Kalypso (Lucy Lui), and the guardian of “access” Anthea (Rachel Zegler) bent on reclaiming the gods’ powers now possessed by the “Shazamily.”

Watching Shazam! Fury of the Gods feels like watching a fun Saturday morning cartoon.

Just a quick history: The Shazam! superheroes were more popularly known as the Marvel Family with members named Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel, Jr., long before DC Comics acquired them from the now-defunct Fawcett Comics. A Gen Z moviegoer would be more familiar with the Brie Larson version of Captain Marvel in the competing superhero franchise Marvel Cinematic Universe. We, titos, certainly get why having goofy names was a recurring comedic subplot in the movie. Whether it’s legality, trademark, or marketing, the studio opted not to name-drop the M word.

It is also satisfying to see one of comics’ earliest PWD superheroes, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), take a more significant role in the movie. Freeman’s character in the comics, Captain Marvel, Jr., had his share of distinct adventures separate from Billy Batson and even has an archnemesis named Captain Nazi, who was the cause of his disability. In modern comics, Freeman also replaced Batson as the Wizard’s champion for a time so it is fitting his character develops in the sequel as the campy-named Captain EveryPower.

The downside is not everyone gets to share the spotlight lest the story would lose its focus. Mary (Grace Fulton), Eugene (Ross Butler and Ian Chen), Pedro (D. J. Cotrona and Jovan Armand), and Darla (Meagan Good and Faithe Herman) are peripheral characters. Darla, however, steals the show in the last act, while Pedro, the gay cub, adorably comes to terms with his identity, which is a good step in queer representation in a family-friendly movie.

Of course, the movie is also filled with easter eggs like the burning violin, which, in the comics, was used by the villain Nero to burn Rome. Original Shazam TV series actor Michael Gray also made a cameo, wearing his iconic yellow and red shirt he wore when portraying Billy Batson. The movie also introduced Steve the Pen, which is an amalgam of Clippy from the ancient version of Microsoft Word and Google for Greek Mythology noobs. How they decorated the statues of the Seven Deadly Sins at the Rock of Eternity is also amusing.

What makes it a good superhero story is the nonsensical supervillains. Right off the bat, the goddesses show they do not care about turning museum visitors including children into statues. However, that is also what makes one of the Daughters of Atlas inconsistent in her characterization. Hespera was willing then to kill humans in the prologue but was against Kalypso’s drastic move in the third act. Something is amiss there.

Without revealing the mid- and post-credits scenes, sometimes these teasers lead to nowhere, which can frustrate people who are rooting for DC Studios to succeed. Remember Black Adam, in which they had Henry Cavill reprise his role as Superman, only for new DC Studios co-chair James Gunn to clarify months after that the actor is not returning? The movie also has a wonderful cameo but sadly it might be her last.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods knows that it works best with larger-than-life fantasy fun.

The ensemble is perfect for the Shazam! mythos so I hope they retain the cast and even director David F. Sandberg of the Lights Out fame. Anyway, new DC Studios co-chair Peter Safran’s name is stamped all over the credits so we hope that the family—or the Shazamily—stays together.

All in all, Shazam! Fury of the Gods knows that it works best with larger-than-life fantasy fun. With DC Studios' recent films focusing on anti-heroes and villains with ticking time bombs, it’s a breath of fresh air to have superheroes working in the light.

Rated PG, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is now showing in Philippine cinemas. Stay for one mid- and one post-credits scene.