PG-13 and that's mostly for a lot of swearing. You know how kids' movies from the '80s had the kids swear a lot? I think that the folks behind the Shazam movies grew up on those movies and really tried to emulate them. They even had the innocent character say a clipped-short mf'er in there. This one is not as scary as the last movie, but it still has some scary imagery. Thank goodness the Seven Deadly Sins are gone, but we have a lot of Greek mythology that can be creepy. There is also some innuendo, but that's pretty mild. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: David F. Sandberg
A couple of facts before I start the deep dive. Firstly, I thought that I would have seen The Flash by now. That hasn't happened. Secondly, it's not like I was planning on being on a DC kick. It just so happens that I watched the '89 Batman in preparation for The Flash, but then I just wanted to have a family movie with the older kids. Finally, I'm also watching Man of Steel to prep for The Flash, so I must be a liar. I mean, for all my griping about the DCeU, I've now seen all the movies in the proper order, haven't I?
I'm surprised that Fury of the Gods is the pariah of the DCeU financially. I think people are kind of done with the DC superhero movies. I'm in the party that is excited that James Gunn is coming in and shaking things up. I'm even more excited that Rachel Brosnahan is Lois Lane, but that's something that is a me-thing and might not be selling the Literally Anything brand as much as I want it to. Fury of the Gods got wrecked at the box office. Honestly, for some reason I felt really bad for Zachary Levi, despite the fact that he might be more anti-vax than I would like. (I know. He would swear that he's anti-big pharma, which is fine, but I am also reading between the lines.) The thing about the Shazam movies is that they are all about fun, in spite of a universe that kind of wants to see everything burn. Wonder Woman 1984 tried touching on the specific tone that the Shazam movies embraced, but kind of didn't build up to it. But we watch these movies because they don't take themselves super seriously. It's not like these movies are skimped upon or look cheap. They just have a good time making these movies. Be aware, the next blog I'll write on is probably Man of Steel, a bleak movie by the most generous of standards. But Shazam? These movies are about fun and Fury of the Gods maintains that tone.
People aren't necessarily wrong with their criticisms for these movies, you know? I mean, I liked Fury of the Gods. There are things that I don't like, which is fine. But there is one criticism that I had with the first movie and that carried around to the second movie. It feels like the world read that blog (they didn't) and ran with that criticism. It's weird how much different Billy Batson's personality is from Shazam's. I think the fault is both in the writing and a little bit in Levi's performance. Listen, Zachary Levi, I think you are great, vaccine-politics aside. You brought me so much joy in every performance you have been in. I think you are a great actor. I even love your Shazam. But there's almost a parody of what it means to be a teenager in your Shazam. He's too goofball. No teenager acts that way. Now, part of that might come something that mostly left unexplored in these movies: why he acts differently. In the early Stan Lee Spider-Man comics, Peter Parker acted very differently than Spider-Man. I mean, that still happens, but Lee would address why he would act so differently in the suit. The concept that Lee came up with was that being Spider-Man was so liberating for a kid who carries the world on his shoulders so much that Spider-Man was a whole separate persona. Fury of the Gods teases this concept in the smallest way: by having Shazam go to therapy.
I like the idea that this is an exploration of Billy Batson carrying the world on his shoulders. I find it weird that that moral of the story is that Billy cares too much and needs to back off, but whatever. It needed to make sure that you had a central protagonist, now that the Philly Fiascos all share Billy's abilities. But it seems like this is a movie that really doesn't know its own themes. The Wizard returns in this movie and, for some reason, hates Billy. I'm sure if he saw the Rock of Eternity, there might be some grousing. But the Wizard spends the first half of this movie lamenting that he gave his powers to Billy. Does the Wizard watch the news? I mean, I'm jumping back to the Lee Amazing Spider-Man, but I love the idea that Billy gives his all, does so much good --but he can't stick the landing. He's a kid trying to do his best and society is dumping on him given every chance. The bridge scene is great for establishing the status quo for these heroes. They clear the bridge, get everyone to safety, but they aren't bridge architects or engineers. Of course that bridge is coming down. But why would the Wizard be following the news for how people react to him?
Also, there's a lot of "pointing out our own plot devices". Billy, in this film, learns what "Shazam!" actually means, stressing "The Wisdom of Solomon". It's a funny gag throughout. But Billy never really got that power. The movie tries giving me an answer for it, saying that Billy's wisdom has always been in his heart. That's touching and nice, but Billy had that on the table before he got the Wizard's abilities. Also, it seems like that Wisdom of Solomon hasn't helped him to always make the right choices in the past. Also, let's weave in some Black Adam into this blog. If the Wisdom of Solomon was an "in-his-heart" thing, Black Adam definitely doesn't have that going on. This is also a moment to point out that Dwayne Johnson's need to separate these two linked characters makes no sense for this movie because I don't think that the Wizard would be lamenting Billy getting powers out of the two of them. Moving on.
I have to agree with the criticism about the villains of the piece. The gods in question aren't all that...interesting? Like Wonder Woman, we tend to care about the heroes of the piece, not the villains. It's not like these characters don't have a rogues gallery. But they aren't exactly top tier. With stuff like Shazam, it's almost upon the writers to figure out new villains because no one really cares about Mr. Mind...yet. Also, that gag got me. The end credits gag was inside baseball enough, but I still found it really funny. Who knows if we'll ever get a follow-up to this movie to pay that joke off, but I hope they do. But back to the villains. It's really hard to relate to these characters because they tell us why they're mad, but we never really experience it. Also, Anthea is too superficial to be considered a real character. Just to get to my point faster, Anthea romances Freddy and is one of those villains who has a change of heart, much like the Sean Connery Bond girls. It's weird that Freddy doesn't hold her accountable for much in the movie. He's quick to forgive. It's called a redemptive arc, not a redemptive moment. From moment one of her disagreeing with her sisters, Anne is all of the sudden part of the heroes? It's just a choice. Also, and I really hate to be rude to anyone, but is Lucy Liu sometimes not good in things? I loved her in Kill Bill but she is playing this part arch as can be. Helen Mirren, fine. Lucy Liu, over-the-top. It's weird.
But I'll tell you what? I liked it. Maybe I like it because everyone else doesn't really care for it. That's fair. It's a forgettable superhero film. I'm not so obsessed with the DC movies to really hold a candle or fight for it. But if you really lower expectations, it's better than most people made it out to be. I wish I had something that really sold this narrative and elevated it to a work of art. No, this is distilled popcorn fun. It's got some faults. But if you are just in the mood for a fun superhero movie, especially a rare fun DC superhero movie, then this is it. It's pretty good, but not great.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.