Shazam! Fury of the Gods: A Startling Decline for a Promising Series (Blu-ray)
When "Shazam!" came out back in 2019, it was a surprising breath of fresh air for DC, who had been having quite a lot of trouble delivering satisfying content in the post-Nolan era with flat entries like "Justice League," "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," and "Aquaman." At long last, here was a film that, while it may not have been particularly great, was fun and entertaining, essentially checking off some of the most important boxes of any comic book film. With the film's success, there was little doubt that we'd be getting a sequel, and after a lengthy wait of four years, we finally got it with "Shazam! Fury of the Gods." Could lightning possibly strike twice for this series that showed a glimmer of promise, or has it already run out of juice like most of its fellow DC films?
As the film opens, we witness two daughters of Atlas, Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), steal the Wizard's broken staff from a museum. Shortly after, they take it to the imprisoned Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and force him to fix it. Meanwhile, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) has been trying to use his Shazam (Zachary Levi) persona for good, along with his fellow fosters-turned-superheroes, all of whom are starting to drift apart as they get older. The Wizard comes to Billy in a dream to warn him about Atlas' daughters, which leads to the team discovering their purpose of reclaiming their father's powers with the staff. When one of their own is kidnapped and their entire city placed in jeopardy, the rest of our heroes have to figure out the best way to save the day.
As mentioned, the first "Shazam!" had been the first decent DC film to come along in several years. It wasn't without its own problems (a bland villain, a very typical actiony climax), but it provided far more fun & excitement than we'd gotten in their last several outings. When it comes to "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," it seemed like the stage was set to continue delivering on those same elements that had made the first film work pretty well. Strangely, however, the sequel has many of those elements toned down quite a bit. It has a spot of humor here and there, but overall, the fun & excitement has been diminished significantly.
Next to the tone, the film's other significant problem is that the storyline is simply not very engaging. The first film had the origin & first steps of the hero to bolster the story before having them face off with the antagonist, but with those portions of the tale done, the sequel tries to make up for it with a half-baked coming-of-age subplot and a romance that doesn't add much to the film. And so, by the time we come to the standard action-packed climax, we haven't gotten anything satisfying to cling on to before getting numbed by an overly-long finale that feels as though it takes up half the film.
It's a shame because there's a pretty good cast involved, including Dame Helen Mirren, Djimon Hounsou, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler. They're ultimately let down by a script that didn't have quite enough effort put into it, resulting in a rather forgettable outing that fits in more along the lines of most of the other DC films that've been released in the last ten years. Given the film's dismal performance at the box office, it seems pretty safe to assume that this is where the series ends, at least in this DC universe. The second film may have been a major disappointment, but at least we got one good film in the series, which, in this context, is still quite an accomplishment.
"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The image is quite sharp throughout the film's two-hour duration, highlighting its extensive VFX work. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos-TrueHD audio track is stunning, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score in excellent quality. Overall, as usual, Warner Bros. impresses in both departments for the film's home release.
Commentary with Director David F. Sandberg
Shazam! Let's Make a Sequel (25 Minutes)
The Rock of Eternity: Decked Out (6 Minutes)
Shazam! The Zac Effect (4 Minutes)
Sisterhood of Villains (8 Minutes)
Shazam! Scene Deconstruction (10 Minutes)
Mythology of Shazam! Fury of the Gods (5 Minutes)
Shazamily Reunion (5 Minutes)
Deleted Scenes (31 Minutes)
The Blu-ray comes with a whopping 90+ minutes of extras. Not all of the featurettes are particularly worth watching, but there are a couple of good ones in here, including a 25-minute look behind the scenes and an intriguing breakdown of certain sequences. Plus, you get an informative commentary track from the director and a large helping of deleted scenes that total about 30 minutes. Definitely plenty here to please any fan of the film.
"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" makes for a rather disappointing follow-up to what had been a surprisingly fun & exciting DC outing. It may boast a few impressive cast members, but with its toned-down levity & unengaging storyline, it becomes just another flat, forgettable entry that fits right in with the other bland DC films of the past decade.
Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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