Shazam! Fury of the Gods: Slumming A-list actors, dreary world-building and eye-watering CGI

This underwhelming sequel has no sense of jeopardy, and is unlikely to revive the ailing DC Extended Universe

Shazam! Fury of the Gods
    
Director: David F Sandberg
Cert: 12A
Genre: Superhero
Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Rachel Zegler, Adam Brody, Ross Butler, Meagan Good, Lucy Liu, Djimon Hounsou, Helen Mirren, Gal Gadot
Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins

Gotham City has long been a shadowy place, but the DC Extended Universe has never looked as gloomy as it does now. The chiselled Henry Cavill is no longer Superman. Wonder Woman 3 is officially cancelled. Planned sequels for Aquaman and Black Adam seem increasingly unlikely. Ezra Miller’s Flash is in a spot of bother. Batgirl was canned after the movie was shot.

Can the lighter-toned, kid-friendly Shazam! provide some relief for the underperforming sandbox? Absolutely not.

One would be hard pressed to spot that David F Sandberg, the talented no-budget horror director formerly known as ponysmasher, had presided over this mishmash of slumming A-list actors, dreary world-building and eye-watering CGI.

The central conceit of Shazam! – a bunch of kids can transform into adults with gnarly superpowers – is referenced by a Goonies T-shirt and a short-lived puppy-love sequence but not by the main plot. Instead we are treated – if that’s the right word – to a great deal of exposition: Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu are Atlas’s avenging daughters, out to recover the apple of balderdash so they can rebuild their realm; elsewhere, Djimon Hounsou returns as a wizard to help fix the broken staff of codswallop unhelpfully discarded by Shazam (Zachary Levi, a trouper despite the impoverished dialogue) during the previous instalment.


Visually, Shazam! Fury of the Gods traps us inside hideous, studio-bound SFX as the adolescent heroes move between their happy-clappy foster home and their lair, which resembles a yellow-pack Harry Potter subplot.

The script, by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan, works hard at being a superhero movie for preteens. The trouble is that they already have superhero movies for preteens. They’re called superhero movies.

The rival Marvelverse has arguably squandered all sense of jeopardy in its post-Snap offerings. With the cosy Shazam! there was never any sense of jeopardy. The kind of kids who hide behind the couch during Scooby-Doo may well feel emboldened by the fuzzy feelings, silly quips and toothless villains. But it all feels rather pointless for the non-meek community.

Where is Sinbad’s Shazaam when you need him?

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic