Shazam! Fury of the Gods Review

Among the DC Extended Universe’s unexpected triumphs, few would have initially bet on 2019’s original Shazam!. A full-bore comedy that was billed as ‘Big with superheroes’, Shazam! went on to become a considerable surprise hit, bringing a delightfully absurd self-awareness to DC’s god-tier superheroes, one that also managed to hit with an unexpected emotional punch. This is despite the character of Shazam being lesser-known to mainstream audiences, unless perhaps you’re old enough to remember that highly-altered Michael Gray-fronted Shazam! TV series from the 1970’s.

As much as the original Shazam! movie felt like lightning in a bottle for the DCEU (pun not intended), it nonetheless secured both a sequel and a spin-off. The spin-off, Black Adam, hit theatres last October, with less-than-stellar critical reception and box office returns, despite bankable lead star, Dwayne Johnson playing the eponymous arch-rival to the Shazam Family. Of course, it probably didn’t help that the Shazam Family characters, including Shazam himself, weren’t even mentioned in Black Adam, let alone featured, with that spin-off instead building itself around a future confrontation with Henry Cavill’s Superman, who is now officially out at DC, alongside Johnson. This dropped story arc is one of numerous aborted plot teases for the DCEU by this point, with DC’s flagship cinematic universe finally (and inevitably) being announced to get an almost complete reboot and reset after this June’s The Flash movie, under new banner, DC Studios, and under the new creative leadership of co-DC Studios CEO, James Gunn. This announcement was made several months before Shazam!’s sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, was scheduled to hit theatres as well. That’s awkward.

With Shazam! Fury of the Gods uncomfortably lingering as the one DCEU movie scheduled for release ahead of The Flash, the movie that will rebirth the DCEU into James Gunn’s ‘DCU’, this sequel felt doomed from the start, even before considering Black Adam’s franchise fumble. Unsurprisingly, the imminent resetting of DC’s mainline cinematic universe has led to Shazam! Fury of the Gods generating very little interest from audiences as well, ultimately resulting in this sequel being the DCEU’s worst box office bomb since 2020’s Birds of Prey. Not helping matters further is this follow-up’s storytelling largely breaking away from its DC Comics source material, to the point of even ignoring its predecessor’s post-credits scene.

Considering that the first Shazam! gave us what’s arguably the DCEU’s most lovable crowd-pleaser, Shazam! Fury of the Gods just ends up feeling like the definition of a lateral move. It’s still a fun sequel, and it does manage to feel bigger in scope, but the distilled emotion and heightened silliness also lead to Shazam! Fury of the Gods feeling much more disposable than its predecessor, an issue exacerbated further by the DCEU’s impending reboot making this whole affair feel largely redundant.


One previous twist that Shazam! Fury of the Gods is happy to build upon is Billy sharing his Shazam powers with all of his adopted siblings during the first movie’s climax, resulting in the entire Shazam Family’s creation in the DCEU just one movie in. Since then, Billy and co. have done their best to avert disasters and keep the peace in the DCEU’s Philadelphia, and I say, “Done their best”, because their results leave something to be desired. The Shazam Family’s shortcomings as superheroes are so apparent in fact that they’ve been dubbed the, “Philadelphia Fiasco” by their many media critics, an annoyance that isn’t helped by the Shazam Family not actually having recognized superhero names in this universe.

The diminished morale behind their failed saves has ultimately led to the various Shazam Family members losing faith in their powers, and eventually favouring their civilian identities. Billy and Freddy are exceptions, but even Freddy seems disinclined to push the issue, ultimately feeling like he’s a pale imitation of his DCEU idols such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, despite fronting that he’s got it all figured out as ‘Captain Everypower’. In fact, while Billy/Shazam is still supposed to be the main character of this sequel, it’s often Freddy that ends up seizing whatever emotional beats Shazam! Fury of the Gods has to offer, contributing many of its best jokes, as well as its most charming character chemistry between personalities like Djimon Hounsou’s returning Wizard Shazam (yes, he somehow survived his apparent death from the first movie), and youngest goddess sibling, Anthea, played by West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods just ends up feeling like the definition of a lateral move.”

Speaking of Billy, he barely feels like a presence at all in this sequel, with poor Asher Angel constantly being overshadowed by Zachary Levi, returning as Billy’s adult Shazam form. Levi was always the bigger draw, sure, but the first Shazam! presented a much more effective balance between these two actors, with Levi shouldering most of the comedy, while Angel thrived as a sort of straight man, manifesting the traumatized teen angst of a displaced orphan boy struggling to find his place in the world. Now that Billy has settled in comfortably with adopted parents and plenty of adopted siblings however, Billy’s character feels like he has nowhere else to go in this universe, despite an attempt made to show him struggling to keep his superhero family invested as a cohesive team, while Billy also approaches the uncertainty of his eighteenth birthday. Even that family struggle is almost entirely shouldered by Levi here however, with Billy spending the majority of this sequel in his Shazam form, while his actual ‘Billy’ form is a disappointing afterthought, practically existing as a cast-off from a more emotionally balanced first movie.

The rest of the Shazam Family is even worse off here, as they barely get any meaningful development to speak of. Eldest sibling, Mary is allegedly discovering a partying lifestyle at college, while Pedro struggles to come out to his adopted family about his rather obvious homosexuality, but even these character conflicts are treated like afterthoughts amid so much CGI sound and fury. Darla and Eugene continue to exist as little more than joke fodder to boot, which they were in the first movie too, in fairness, but it’s disappointing that this sequel didn’t really figure out anything else to do with these characters. The same is true of foster parents, Rosa and Victor, who are mostly unassuming spectators here, defined solely by their comical obliviousness to the superhero identities of their foster children.

This is a big family of characters to juggle in the script, of course, but Shazam! Fury of the Gods too often gives up at the first hurdle when it comes to actually fleshing out its freshly-minted team of child superheroes. They’re all still easy to like in the moment, but there’s also still nothing to most of them as people, making it difficult for audiences to truly invest in any of these characters’ own investment as superheroes or as human beings in this follow-up.


One of the boldest and strangest plot choices in this Shazam! sequel is to feature a duo of original villains that aren’t taken from the Shazam Family’s rogues gallery in DC Comics lore. Instead, Billy and his foster siblings square off against the daughters of Atlas, the ancient titan from Greek mythology in this follow-up. One of these daughters, Anthea, I already mentioned as being a love interest for Freddy, while the remaining two are the main villains of Shazam! Fury of the Gods; Kalypso, played by Lucy Liu, and Hespera, played by Helen Mirren. Kalypso has the power of chaos, allowing her to twist and control the mind of anyone she enchants, while Hespera manipulates the elements of nature, making her a dangerous magical foe that’s stronger than even Shazam and his siblings! Yes, none of this is accurate to Greek mythology, where all of these characters have different powers and affinities, where they are nymphs, not goddesses, and where ‘Hespera’ is an original name taken from Greek mythology’s ‘Hespiredes’, the collective name for all of the alleged nymph daughters of Atlas (which do not include Kalypso or Anthea), but whatever. We need a magical threat, and we have a magical threat.

In defense of Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the source comics’ highly eccentric roster of Shazam Family villains are pretty tough to translate into the live-action DCEU, especially with Black Adam being barred off in his own stillborn franchise. Most of these villains are demons or occult terrorists that would either feel much more at home in a Black Adam movie, or otherwise be far too ridiculous for audiences to take seriously in a live-action superhero blockbuster, even by the standards of the Shazam! movies. This sequel originally planned to feature intelligent evil worm, Mister Mind as its main villain (see what I mean about eccentric Shazam family villains?), as teased during the original Shazam!’s post-credits scene, but Mister Mind was ultimately dropped during production, due to requiring too much runtime to adequately establish. This is disappointing, because, amazingly, Mister Mind is probably the one remaining Shazam Family villain from the comics that might have worked in live-action in some capacity, bizarre as he is.

For better or worse, the daughters of Atlas are simple and easy to understand as antagonists in Shazam! Fury of the Gods; They’re awakened by Billy breaking former villain, Doctor Sivana’s staff during the climax of the first movie, and they want to use the staff’s power to restore their dying god world, at the expense of Earth. Naturally, this begs a few questions after the Greek god lore established in 2017’s Wonder Woman movie especially, but this cinematic universe is about to be rebooted, so I guess it doesn’t matter. Like I said, we need a magical threat, and we have a magical threat.

Liu and Mirren are clearly having fun playing sinister goddesses, plus both Kalypso and Hespera lend themselves to no shortage of highly entertaining (and flashy!) action scenes. Much like the bulk of this sequel’s story elements though, both Kalypso and Hespera are ultimately shallow enemies that fail to leave much of an impression. Mirren tries her best to add some additional presence to Hespera, who is the more memorable of the two goddess villains, but even she can only do so much in a movie that largely lacks dramatic weight. Liu, meanwhile, strangely appears to be directed to be as cold and detached as possible, a bit of an odd choice for a goddess of chaos. Considering the pedigree behind both of these actresses, you might expect a bit more out of them as antagonists here, but without comic book source material to draw from, it feels inevitable that both Kalypso and Hespera struggle to keep pace with the innate appeal of the more established DC villains.


Shazam! Fury of the Gods is frustratingly lightweight in terms of its characters and storytelling, as if it knows that any story development it presents could be wiped out of existence by this June. One thing that this sequel does tend to deliver on however is action and spectacle, effortlessly elevating the scale and ambition behind its more contained 2019 predecessor.

Finally, the DCEU’s Shazam Family are fully allowed to flex their powers in earnest, assisting with bridge collapses and other major moments of destruction that truly allow them to come into their own as superheroes. Or, well, try to, at least. With larger, more powerful mythological villains to fight this time as well, rather than human mastermind, Doctor Sivana, it feels like the Shazam Family is attempting to work up to the station of more recognized DC heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman. To that end, they attempt to present a major blockbuster that’s comparable to those heroes’ cinematic offerings, at least in terms of style and scope.

“One thing that this sequel does tend to deliver on however is action and spectacle, effortlessly elevating the scale and ambition behind its more contained 2019 predecessor.”

Granted, this would have worked better if the storytelling throughout this sequel actually felt like it mattered in the end, but I still have to commend Shazam! Fury of the Gods for doing everything it can to live up to the ‘fury’ part of its title. This sequel contains much more flash and much more destruction than its predecessor, despite a barely noticeable increase in the budget. A lot of this is due to the creativity behind how the daughters of Atlas’ powers are portrayed, with the alien-sounding whispers of Kalypso sounding amusingly freaky, while Anthea’s geography-rearranging powers blend very nicely with flying sequences in particular.

If you’re simply coming for the bolts and spells of larger-than-life figures clashing for the fate of the world, or at least for the fate of Philadelphia, Shazam! Fury of the Gods will deliver a colourful, ostentatious romp that’s worthy enough of your superhero movie dollars. Like I said though, for all its style, I just wish that this sequel managed to maintain that same surprisingly inspired character work from the original Shazam! movie. Instead, what we get with Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a pretty, but nonetheless shallow distraction while Warner Bros. and DC prepare to relaunch virtually all of their cinematic superhero franchises, with the current Shazam Family’s fate far from secure in that endeavour to boot.


(NOTE: The ‘spoiler’ section, when clicked, discusses whether Shazam! Fury of the Gods has any post-credits scenes, whether it features any additional DC characters of note, and whether it sets up any future projects for the DCEU or DCU.)

Despite the fact that Shazam! Fury of the Gods exists as one of the last gasps of the current DCEU, before it’s relaunched as the rebooted ‘DCU’ in just a couple of months, the movie contains both a mid-credits scene and post-credits scene. The mid-credits scene features Emilia Harcourt and John Economos from The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker humourously meeting Shazam in order to recruit him into the Justice Society of America, first featured in last year’s Black Adam movie. Rumour has it that Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam was originally supposed to appear in this scene, finally linking the Shazam! movies with their darker, more violent spin-off, but difficulties with Johnson supposedly led to the scene being rewritten so that Harcourt and Economos appear instead.

The post-credits scene meanwhile is also a vaguely teasing, vaguely joking scene, albeit one that could pour salt in the wounds of Shazam Family fans that are currently worried about these characters disappearing from James Gunn’s and Peter Safran’s rebooted DCU franchise. This scene picks up with Doctor Sivana, still in prison two years later, and still played by Mark Strong. Sivana is once again visited by Mister Mind, who assures that his plan is still coming together, before Sivana angrily berates Mister Mind, claiming that his plot has already taken over two years in development. This scene is quite funny, in fairness, finally acknowledging the obvious fact that Shazam! Fury of the Gods flat-out ignored its own predecessor’s post-credits tease in the movie proper, but considering that the DCEU is about to be reset into the DCU, it also kind of hurts to know that we may never see Mister Mind’s proposed team-up with Doctor Sivana actually come to fruition. Considering that Shazam! Fury of the Gods was a box office flop that saw a middling critical and fan reception to boot, it’s likely that this is the last we see of both characters in their current live-action incarnation, and that’s a huge bummer.

Fortunately, at least one planned DCEU tie-in was left intact in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, that being a cameo by Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman during the denouement of the movie. This cameo is a lot of fun, but frustratingly, it was also spoiled in this movie’s TV spots, leaving Shazam! Fury of the Gods with its biggest and best surprise known to the masses before they even see the movie. That already feels like the final insult for a compromised superhero movie sequel that’s facing a universal reboot to follow it, but what’s worse is that it was also supposed to feature cameos from Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman. Due to negotiations falling apart with both Cavill and Affleck in the wake of the coming DCU reboot, both cameos were dropped from the final film, leaving Gadot to serve as the sole link that finally connects the Shazam! movies to the wider DCEU in earnest… Right when this cinematic universe is about to be reset. Hey, they tried, right?


Shazam! Fury of the Gods faces an impossible battle with commendable courage. Despite its cinematic universe’s imminent rebooting in June, this comedy superhero sequel nonetheless puts on a happy face and brings the spectacle, even while its miniscule drama and stakes feel deflated before they’re even established.

It’s not totally this sequel’s fault, since it’s clearly a compromised production, something that even director, David F. Sandberg has all but bluntly confirmed on social media. Most of the planned DCEU tie-ins for Shazam! Fury of the Gods were cut after plans for James Gunn’s rebooted DCU came into being, difficulties with Dwayne Johnson further killed a planned link to the Black Adam franchise that’s now itself being aborted after just one movie, and even this Shazam! sequel’s originally planned villain had to be awkwardly swapped out for a duo of antagonists that don’t even exist in DC’s comic books. Even putting aside the fact that the current Shazam! movie franchise’s cast and characters may or may not exist in the rebooted DCU to come, there were already several storytelling hurdles dooming Shazam! Fury of the Gods out of the gate. That’s very frustrating, considering that its 2019 predecessor is easily one of the best movies in the DCEU library.

DC fans that want to enjoy another round with the DCEU’s Shazam Family will get some solid high-powered action with Shazam! Fury of the Gods, along with some decent enough laughs, but pretty much everything else in this anticipated sequel is frustratingly disposable and ultimately pointless. It’s a lot of bad luck more than plain old incompetence, that’s for sure, but that misfortune still fails to change the fact that we’re just killing time before the death of the DCEU, and the rise of the DCU. To be frank, the Shazam Family didn’t really have a chance in this situation, and the commercial failure of this sequel will likely ensure that their chances of finding a new home in the DCU are slim to none at this point.

Shazam deserved better.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a fairly fun, but ultimately disposable sequel, one that's immediately deflated by releasing mere months before a full reboot of its cinematic universe.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Flashy, exciting action scenes
Freddy, Darla and Shazam still get some solid laughs
Story ties in better with the wider DCEU (even if many tie-ins were cut)
Shallow characterization that lacks the first movie's emotional impact
Flat, disposable storytelling that lacks stakes
The imminent DCU reboot immediately deflates everything