‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ is generic at best but not horrible
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” (US Rated PG-13)
Cast: Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler, Jack Dylan Grazer, Meagan Good
Genre: Action/Adventure, Comedy
Where to watch: In theaters
Generic done right!
Well, “right” is an interesting word. As is “generic”.
In most cases, “generic” is “absolutely wrong”. But when generic is all you have – and increasingly, with Hollywood superhero flicks, all some folks seem to know how to do – then, some generics are better than others. Certainly “generic” is better than “horrible”.
And “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” features what has to be the most generic of all generic comic book superheroes (and increasingly any supernatural or science fiction) movie plots.
You know the “generic” storyline: Earth invaders from either another planet or another time period (usually the past, but sometimes the future) somehow return to our modern-day world, with all their superhuman strengths (they are usually witches/warlocks or gods or devils/demons and/or aliens), and they seek to reclaim something taken from them or their ancestors, which just happens to be somewhere on Earth.
I’ve seen that plot in movies about 52 times in just the last two years, between Harry Potter spinoffs, Marvel and even DC, the latter of which has basically done it again here with this sequel to the extremely enjoyable “Shazam!” of 2019.
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” has most of the cast from the original film, who are back to – you guessed it – deal with a trio of gods, who have a lot of fury. If you saw the original, and if you’re like me and liked the original, the new edition will still be a treat, despite its even more generic nature.
Bestowed with the powers of the gods, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) 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, Bill as Shazam (Zachary Levi) and his allies get thrust into a battle for their superpowers, their lives, and the fate of the world.
A lot of the humor and heart from the original are here again. But the real treat is the cast additions and character tweaks.
Multiple Emmy, Tony, and Oscar-winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”), Lucy Liu (“Charlie’s Angels”), and Rachel Zegler (“West Side Story” 2021) join Djimon Hounsou, who seems reinvigorated as The Wizard, and now has some of the best lines in the movie – even more so than wisecracking stars Levi, and Jack Dylan Grazer, who just like he did in the first film, electrifies and steals nearly every scene in which he appears.
It’s fun to see the unlikely Mirren in this sort of film and playing this kind of character, even if the script calls for her and Liu to play generic genre tropes.
The challenge for some folks will be that familiarity – that generic-ness – of the whole production. Like last time, this “Shazam!” franchise, featuring teens and preteens, is so similar in tone to Marvel’s “Spider-Man” and even the “Harry Potter” films in some ways that it results in few surprises and lots of predictability.
Nevertheless, it’s still one of DC’s better series. It’s fun and suitable for families, with a decent sense of humor. But this never was nor ever will be something to be taken as seriously as “Black Panther” or last year’s interesting “The Batman” reboot.
After one week at the box office, despite opening at number one in the US, the word “flop” is being used, thanks to some disappointing earnings. Perhaps fans are finally getting tired of seeing the same thing over and over.
And while “Fury of the Gods” is nowhere near as braincell-depleting as other recent comic book-based films, the industry seems determined not to heed advice to rest the genre for a decade or two. Thus, we’re likely to continue to see dud after mediocre and/or disappointing dud – just an endless stream or sequels, reboots and remakes.
So, if this is what must be – and will be, unless moviegoers reject them wholesale, which is highly unlikely – the most we can hope for is likable generics of the “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” variety (and not of the “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” or “Black Adam” brands).
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.