The Daughters of Atlas wreak havoc in modern-day Philadelphia in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, a direct sequel to one of the better films to come out of the DC Extended Universe that, like last year’s Black Adam, largely ignores other goings-on in the now-defunct franchise. Out now in Prague and in cinemas worldwide, Fury of the Gods is bigger and messier than 2019’s Shazam, but still retains its playful charm.
A big part of that comes thanks to director David F. Sandberg, who comes from a horror background and leans into the fantastical elements of the source material, which has roots in Greek mythology. The first Shazam! briefly presented a horde of Gremlins-like creatures, but Fury of the Gods goes full 1950s monster movie as minotaurs, cyclopes, harpies and other mythological creatures rampage through the streets of downtown Philly.
Fury of the Gods opens in contemporary Athens, as Greek Gods Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu) stage a heist to retrieve the two halves of a mystical staff that can grant superhero powers — and was thoughtlessly discarded by Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a teenager who can become the super-powered Shazam (Zachary Levi), at the end of the previous film.
Billy and his five foster siblings all have superpowers in Fury of the Gods, but they’re having trouble being teenagers while saving their city; the local press have dubbed them the Philadelphia Fiasco. The team includes Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), who turns into a superhero played by Adam Brody and tries to impress the new girl in school (West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler) with his super connections.
But the Greek Gods want something that the superpowered teens have access to, and launch an all-out assault on their city in order to get it. That involves kidnapping the wizard who gave Billy his powers in the first place (Djimon Hounsou) and utilizing the mystical staff to take the powers away.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods has something of an identity crisis, with six central kids who transform into six adult superheroes essentially giving us twelve main characters to try to follow. It helps that the eldest of the kids (Grace Caroline Currey) plays both her young self and the superhero version, but most of the others tend to get lost in the narrative.
That includes Billy Batson, who should be the central character in Fury of the Gods, but gets lost inside his superhero character throughout the entire film. Billy has a nice character arc about feeling at home with his foster family, and worrying about leaving them after he turns 18… but these real-world coming-of-age themes just don’t work when we see him as an invincible superhero for most of the movie.
Instead, Grazer’s Freddy Freeman becomes Fury of the Gods’ central character, and it’s his character’s journey about what it truly means to be a hero that truly resonates with the audience. But because the movie focuses on Freddy himself, we don’t get to have much fun with his super-powered form.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is at its very best during an extended monster mash climax, with some terrific location shooting at Citizens Bank Park and other Philly landmarks (though most of the film shot in Atlanta, relocating from the original’s Toronto).
Unlike Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and other blockbusters that hide their CGI behind a murky sheen in otherworldly dimensions, Shazam! Fury of the Gods does a great job of presenting its effects in broad daylight in downtown Philly. The result is some genuinely appealing creature effects that include an impressive dragon and an array of mythological Greek creations that take inspiration from Ray Harryhausen.
The first Shazam! was one of the best films to come out of the DCEU, and this sequel is bigger and splashier and captures the same sense of fun. Like the recent Black Adam, the dissolution of the DCEU renders the world-building and attempts to tie the movie into a larger world meaningless; as a stand-alone comic book adaptation, however, Fury of the Gods is more satisfying than a bunch of recent MCU efforts.