I know that we all know that the DC universe is going through a bit of a revamp right now. I’m sure we’ve all seen it, with the cancellation of the Batgirl movie and the getting our hopes up over the prospect of Henry Cavill’s return to the fold, only to be crushed when it was announced that the studio was going in a different direction. We all have our feelings about it. That said, if there was a franchise that I would recommend keeping around, it would be the Shazam films. I know, I know, I’m surprised by this revelation too, but the thing is, this franchise of them all was the one that took me by the most surprise. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. Prior to the release of the first film, the character of Shazam (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) had been nothing more than a background character that I’d observed in the animated films and shows. I even questioned the wisdom of introducing a character like this when DC was behind the curve in comparison to Marvel. I thought they should focus on building up the main Justice League heroes so they could get back in the race. Then in 2019, I went and saw this, and it won me over. It gave the DC universe a dose of lightheartedness. Zachary Levi was a fantastic choice for the character, because all the quirks and awkwardness that made NBC’s Chuck a gem were on display in our plucky hero. And now with Shazam: Fury of the Gods, DC just keeps that train rolling. The addition of Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu as the antagonists, the Daughters of Atlas, was a bold and interesting gamble, given that they do not appear in the comics, and are actually original characters created for the film. Yes, I did a bit of research.
When we last left off, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) had finally become a member of a family after a lifetime running away from them in order to find his birth mother. Solidifying his bond with his new family, he elected to share his power with them and create the Shazam family. Picking up years later, Billy, who is on the verge of aging out of foster care, worries as everyone begins drifting apart due to them all growing older and developing their own personal interests. This drifting also affects their heroism, as despite having the best of intentions, they begin doing more harm than good, causing the public to view them negatively even though they save countless lives.
Further complicating matters, the family finds themselves up against new threats, as the Daughters of Atlas reemerge and seek to claim the world for themselves and enslave humanity. Billy will have to find a way to bring the family back together to have a prayer of saving humanity from this fate.
I enjoyed the direction that this film went, as it was a contrast to the original film. In the first film, Billy spent the entire time rejecting this family in favor of the idealistic notion that he built up of his birth family. This time around, as the others begin to go in their own direction, it is he who is desperate to keep everyone together. This is perfectly exemplified in his “all or none” rule. It was a great look at the other side of the coin and a believable natural progression for the character. After all, it is easy to conceive that after finally becoming part of a family that the character would be reluctant to give up that connection. It was also a great way to segue into his struggles as a leader, as we often see, and it called out his tendency to rely on other members of the family to come up with the plans. This was a great character journey where Levi’s character thrived; aptly showing these challenges and the emotional turmoil that accompanies them.
In addition to Levi, there were a couple other characters who got to step up in this iteration. There’s Grace Caroline Currey, who was elevated from just playing young version of Mary Bromfield to also playing the role of her superhero counterpart, who was previously played by Michelle Borth. However, the most notable step up was probably Jack Dylan Grazer, whose character, Freddy Freeman, was given a more prominent role this time around. He even got a love interest. Grazer and Currey both handled their elevation well, but I think it was Grazer who had the more breakout performance. His character had more of an emotional arc, as he learned that it didn’t take his superhero form to do something heroic.
It did seem like Asher Angel got a bit of a downgrade, as his character spent more time in the Levi form than his. Even so, he brought forth some emotional resonance as he was forced to come to grips with some things too. On the villain side there was one character who stood out and went through a bit of a character arc as well. Unfortunately, for the sake of not ruining a twist involving this character, I will leave this person nameless, but trust me; you will recognize them when you see them.
Adding to the hype, there were some surprise cameos. I’ll start with the first one, as previews have already ruined this surprise. Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot makes what could potentially be her last appearance as the character. While in my opinion it would have been better to save this reveal for dramatic effect, her addition was appreciated, as it gave a bit of closure for the character, given the scrapping of the third installment into her character’s franchise. The other two, which I once again leave vague so as to not ruin anyone else experience, feature the return of a character, and the other suggests a possible opportunity for the Shazam character to tie to another series.
Shazam: Fury Of The Gods is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The ultra-high-definition 2160p image is arrived at by an HEVC codec with an impressive average bitrate of 50-60 mbps. You can see the little designs in the hero suit and the small weave patterns that I never saw at the box office. Colors are deep and true, particularly on all of the hero suits. The exterior shots are sharp and crisp and rather cold to match the Philadelphia being portrayed, albeit in Atlanta and summer. The HDR delivers some of the sharpest contrast you’ve seen. The interiors of the lair are remarkably well defined. The black levels are wonderful, delivering sharp and clean shadow definition with brilliantly contained areas of light. The wooden dragon has tons of detail and texture. The foster home delivers warm colors, plenty of soft hues to contrast with the greens and whites of the exteriors. Looking for an image to show off your home theatre? This is it. I’ve heard all of the arguments about streaming dominating the world of film presentation. Let me tell you here and now, you don’t want to watch this on your phone. This is the kind of presentation only physical media and equipment can deliver.
The Atmos track defaults to a powerful 7.1 mix. Just like the image presentation, this is one of the best. Subs reach out and take control of your room, enhancing the hero fights and booms. The subs dominate in the score to allow you to feel as much as hear this audio presentation. It supports dialog with a bottom that just fills everything out. The surrounds immerse you completely into the action and had me turning my head a few times because it really felt like there was “stuff” going on in my home theatre. The dialog also cuts perfectly through the mayhem. It’s not always about the action here. The emotional beats are supported by a nice even sound field that doesn’t always bombard you. Sometimes it just envelops you into those warmer beats of the story.
The extras are all on the Blu-ray copy of the film.
Deleted Scenes: (31:05) There are over 30 scenes in all. There’s a director intro, and there’s no individual selection here. F/X are various degrees of completion.
Shazam! Let’s Make A Sequel: (24:49) Levi leads a rather light and amusing behind-the-scenes look at the sequel. This feature covers most of the elements of the film with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage that covers costumes, casting new faces, production design, stunts, and even the credit stingers. There are two, so stick it out.
The Rock Of Eternity – Decked Out: (5:42) This time the kids have taken over the lair, and they’ve completely redesigned it all. It’s like a teen version of a man cave. You also get a look at the new library room, and the sentient pen, Steve, of course.
Shazam! The Zac Effect: (4:20) It looks like Levi is just a big kid, and we get plenty of candid behind-the-scenes stuff that show all of them just laughing and having a good time. There’s a bit of a Levi love-fest going on, but this plays out more genuine than most.
Sisterhood Of Villains: (7:54) A look at the Daughters of Atlas and the actresses who play them.
Shazam! Set Deconstruction: (10:06) The director gives you some insight into scene-specific breakdowns.
Mythology Of Shazam: Fury Of The Gods: (4:59) A look at the mythology worked into the film. These villains were not taken from the comics, but rather directly from Greek mythology.
Shazamily Reunion: (5:01) The cast talk about how close they are and how doing the second film was more like a family reunion.
As I said earlier, if there was a DC franchise that I would keep going, it is this one. I love the others, but this one is the one that took me by the most surprise. I wasn’t expecting to like it, but it is just a quirky fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I don’t know which way DC is going to go, but there already seems like a way to keep the character around, and Gado’st appearance showed that it didn’t have to be the end for her character either. I know I’m probably wishful thinking, but one can hope.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani