Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: M – Violence
Zachary Levi and Asher Angel as Billy Batson/Shazam
Jack Dylan Grazer and Adam Brody as Frederick “Freddy” Freeman
Rachel Zegler as Anthea/Anne
Grace Caroline Currey as Mary Bromfield
Ross Butler and Ian Chen as Eugene Choi
D. J. Cotrona and Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña
Meagan Good and Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley
Lucy Liu as Kalypso
Djimon Hounsou as Shazam
Helen Mirren as Hespera
Director: David F. Sandberg
Bestowed with the powers of the gods, Billy Batson and his fellow foster kids are still learning how to juggle teenage life with their adult superhero alter egos. When a vengeful trio of ancient gods arrives on Earth in search of the magic stolen from them long ago, Shazam and his allies get thrust into a battle for their superpowers, their lives, and the fate of the world.
I remember liking the first Shazam when it released back in 2019, yet I felt rather reluctant to watch its upcoming sequel. The trailers looked fairly average, and certain other elements didn’t help, like the looming James Gunn DCU reboot on the horizon. Still, I decided to watch it in the cinema, and for what it’s worth, I enjoyed it more than I expected to.
The plot is very average and formulaic, just another average superhero plot. It’s very safe, and nothing much of consequence happens. There are some bland mythology and worldbuilding and that’s it. Much of the story feels rushed, like this was a first draft, and the conflict, stakes and emotional beats feel off. While the overall plot of the first movie wasn’t special, there was a family dynamic aspect which made it work. However, its sequel doesn’t take advantage of this, and there’s no development or change whatsoever. Any potential emotional beats here are just obligatory, and the big heart and emotions in the first movie doesn’t feel genuine. While the comedy in the first movie mostly worked, it is really mixed here. It is funnier than most MCU movies nowadays, but for every joke that hits, there’s another joke that misses (usually ones involving Shazam himself). There is an appearance of a notable DCEU character, and all I can say is that I hope the actor was paid well for it because it’s the worst appearance of that character in the DCEU, even worse than the Joss Whedon Justice League from 2017. The mid credits scene is absolutely terrible, and the end credits scene felt almost like a parody of credits scenes, so I liked the last one at least.
Asher Angel and Zachary Levi return, with Angel reprising his role as Billy Batson, and Levi playing the grown-up superhero version of him, Shazam. As I was watching the movie, I wondered why I liked Zachary Levi in the first movie at all. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that so much of my enjoyment of the sequel was taken away by Shazam’s characterisation and Levi’s performance. There is such a disconnect between the two actors its weird, you can hardly buy that they are meant to be the same person. It’s especially a shame because Asher Angel does seem the better actor but has less than 5 minutes of screentime. The strangest thing is that the other kids in the Shazam family are more mature, and at the very least their older actors are believable as the superhero versions of their younger selves. Billy is around 17 years old, but it’s like his brain reverts to that of a 10-year-old whenever he becomes Shazam. I can only conclude that Zachary Levi worked as Shazam in the first movie because there they divided the screentime between him and his younger version decently, and it is easier to buy into his childish behaviour because its believable that a kid who suddenly gained superpowers would act like that. The first movie is about Billy Batson, but the second movie leans into Shazam, and unfortunately we have to sit through many of his childish antics. Supposedly he went through some sort of arc in this movie, but I didn’t really see that at all. Compared to the first movie, he just doesn’t go through any sort of progression, terminally stuck in default goofy mode.
The rest of the cast are pretty good. Jack Dylan Grazer is again a standout actor reprising his role of Freddie Freeman, and Adam Brody is believable as an older superhero version of Grazer. A surprise returning actor is Djimon Hounsou as the wizard, who had an important but small role in the first movie as he granted Billy Batson superpowers. He gets to do a lot more in this movie and was one of the highlights. The villains are played by Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu, good casting let down by their bland characters. At the very least though, they seem to be having fun in their roles; Mirren especially hams it up and is fun to watch.
David F. Sandberg returns to direct after the first movie. The visuals are a very mixed bag and the quality of the CGI changes depending on whether the scene was set at night or at day. The CGI is pretty good when the lighting is darker or it takes place at night, but whenever it looks terrible at daytime. It is quite lurching watching a dragon initially look decent and straight out of a fantasy movie with a good budget, to looking like its from a CW show. The action is passable, same as the first movie, but its nothing that impressive. It is entertaining enough, especially the last act.
As far as “bland and generic superhero movies that don’t do anything special” go, Shazam 2 is one of them but its not one of the all time worst. There is more enjoyment to find here than in say Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. It is entertaining enough, and there are some good performances (aside from Levi). Regardless of the coming change in the DCEU, Shazam 2 just isn’t that special, and is pretty much just a worse version of the first Shazam. Still, if you liked the first Shazam, Fury of the Gods might have enough for you to enjoy it.