Almost 85 years ago C.C. Beck and Bill Parker created a character named Captain Marvel for Fawcett Comics. However, after a lawsuit from DC Comics, the superhero was eventually called Shazam, after the six immortal elders that make up his name - Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. Shazam (Zachary Levi; Chuck), a young man in the Philadelphia foster system named Billy Batson (Asher Angel; Andi Mack), is given the superpowers of the "elders" whenever he says the word, Shazam, which he then uses to fight evil. In 2019 Shazam! was released in theaters and this month the sequel is being released.
Four years after obtaining his powers and sharing them with his foster siblings, Billy is frustrated because everyone seems to be going their own ways instead of remaining a cohesive, family unit. Billy is also a few months away from turning 18 and "aging out" of the foster system. Additionally, unbeknownst to Billy, when he broke the Wizard's Staff he unleashed the Daughters of Atlas, Hespera (Helen Mirren; The Queen), Kalypso (Lucy Liu; Charlie's Angels), and Anthea (Rachel Zegler; West Side Story), who come to earth looking for the staff so they can regain their powers. Once they obtain the staff, they drain the foster family of their powers and it becomes Billy's goal to stop them, but not before they manage to unleash evil on earth.
The DC Universe tends to lag behind the MCU as far as content, effects, and plot are concerned. They have also had some controversy of late with the firings of Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot as Superman and Wonder Woman respectively. So it is safe to say skeptics were a little concerned with this sequel. However, while not perfect, it isn't nearly as bad as it could have been and much of that has to do with the casting.
All the major players return from the first film including Levi, Angel, and Jack Dylan Grazer (It). The foster family members are also back which adds to the chemistry and cohesion of the relationship they all have. The new element is the ladies portraying the Gods/antagonists this time around. Casting Mirren was an inspired choice as she is a formidable talent and easily plays an evil character with ease. Zegler, while young, is a seasoned performer and once again impresses as a young woman who can hold her own against the likes of Dame Mirren and Liu. Unfortunately, Mirren is underutilized and isn't given enough smart dialogue to sink her teeth into. Liu is the weakest link in the trio and comes across as more annoying than menacing.
With the success of the first Shazam! Not only was a sequel practically inevitable, but one with a bigger budget for special effects was assured, most of which are well done. For example, the dragon is detailed, impressive, and sharp. However, Liu riding on the back of the dragon looks fake and obviously utilizes CGI. Conversely, when the wizard manages to obtain a sliver of the staff and uses its magic to turn the sliver into sparkling dust that blows in the wind, the effect is very well done.
Shazam! was a fun movie that introduced us to one of the lesser-known superheroes of the DCU. Shazam! Fury of the Gods continues some of what we got in the first film while presenting audiences with a new but not necessarily better plot and script. It will be interesting to see if DC orders a third installment of the franchise and what that might look like if they do, considering the big changes being made.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods has good and bad points, but when you come right down to it, it is a decent film that includes a star-studded cast, a cool, evil dragon, and Zachary Levi!