Mythological mash up that tries to beat superhero fatigue
Review: Shazam: Fury of the Gods
If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that you need to make a great movie to bring audiences back to the cinema, or at least a movie that’s heavy on spectacle. But audiences are fickle. Top Gun: Maverick bought people back in droves because of heart-pumping nostalgia. Avatar: The Way of Water because we all want to relive the glory days of 3D cinema circa 2009.
But superhero films – not so much. The recent Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania suffered at the box office with an 80% second week drop off in box office revenue due in large part to word of mouth. Its decline has forced Disney to think about cutting back its roster of Marvel films and TV shows on Disney +. Not only does it feel a little like the laws of diminishing returns are kicking in for comic book films, they just feel, well, inevitable and coming at audiences with monotonous regularity.
While Warner Bros scrambles to reassemble their roster of DC heroes under the watchful new eyes of James Gunn and Peter Safran, there are some sequels and threequels that are being pulled off the shelf and showcased purely to make way for a new roster of movies. Shazam is one of those properties not yet factored into the new DCU.
And so it is we have the sequel to Shazam, with Shazam: Fury of the Gods which rollicks into cinemas this week wearing its big dumb heart on its sleeve. Weirdly, mentioning it’s dumb is actually a plot point — who knew the “S” in Shazam stands for Solomon and his wisdom.
This is a nice seque into the plot of the film.
It’s two years since the original film and Billy Battson aka Shazam is struggling to understand what he and his family should be doing. Their botched attempts at saving citizens earns them the ire of the city. Like babies learning to walk, the six Shazam siblings have their own day-to-day struggles.
Then another family turns up and they have a realm-sized grudge. The daughters of Zeus – Hespera, Kalypso and Anthea (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Ziegler) want to reclaim their powers from Shazam and claim that he and his family are not worthy of the powers they possess. This sets the stage for an almighty showdown which involves lots of CGI mythical creatures and one very large dragon.
With a film thats full of special effects and lots mythical lore and exposition, the film feels very long at just over two hours. One of the biggest niggles with the film is its attempt to mash up the mythogical stories of the Greek gods with some odd Christian elements. There’s an apple and a tree, the fact that one of the powers of Shazam is the previously mentioned wisdom of Soloman (and the slightly irritating in-joke that runs throughout the movie). It’s a confusing mess of Biblical and mythological elements that don’t all quite make sense. Soloman for instance is referred to as an immoral elder. Shazam’s name was an acronym derived from the six immortal elders who grant Captain Marvel his superpowers: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
As with all comic book films, it feels overburdened with elaborate set pieces, CGI beasts and some out of place horror elements similar to the original film. It’s also worth noting there’s a product placement that would make even the best marketer blush.
It’s themes of found family and discovering your path are all admirable, it all just feels like the template needs a bit of a reboot. Or we all need a break from the endless roster of superhero films.
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