Shazam! Fury of the Gods review: a blast from hero movies past

Shazam! Fury of the Gods review: a blast from hero movies past
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When the Daughters of Atlas cross from their realm into ours, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) must join with his family of heroes to stop the Greek demigods from stealing their powers.

The superhero movie, having dominated the box office for the last decade or so, is experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. Marvel’s Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has kicked off its Phase 5 with a whimper following a decidedly mixed Phase 4. Sony’s last outing, 2022’s Morbius, debuted to passable box office but few people fighting its corner, and even Dwayne Johnson couldn’t save last year’s Black Adam from a middling box office response. Now stuffed with anti-heroes and parallel universes, our toned folks in tights don’t seem to know who they are anymore. It’s hard to see what, or who, they’re here for.

It’s oddly refreshing then, to see something like Shazam! Fury Of The Gods. A steadfastly old-fashioned family adventure movie with its tongue firmly in its cheek, it is, for the most part, a cheerfully entertaining blockbuster with a big heart and few surprises. With the bloated multiverse storyline currently engulfing the MCU, that might be exactly what we need.

We re-join Billy Batson a good while after the events of the first movie, where he’s still trying to forge his newly spandex-ified foster family into an elite crime-fighting unit. It’s not going well: the papers have branded the crew a bumbling menace, and older siblings Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) are starting to drift away from the group.

Shazam’s winning Superman-meets-Big formula is perfectly intact here, now with a whole family of supes ready to spread more of the fish-out-of-water love. The film clearly knows this is its secret weapon, and it spends far longer in the family’s oversized superhero suits than the first outing. Who knew that making a bunch of adult heroes swagger around like school kids was just the thing to give the superhero shebang its much-needed fun streak back?

These big kids won’t be messing around for long, though! That ever-dastardly trio of ner-do-wells Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler are here, and ready to cause all sorts of mischief. They play the daughters of Atlas, you see, and since Billy broke their wizard’s staff (remember? From the first film? No?) they’ve been plotting to cross over from their godly realm into ours. That, as you can imagine, is bad news.

Or it would be, if Zegler wasn’t so darn charming. Posing as a high school student, she and the first film’s MVP, Grazer, strike up a rapport which might just persuade the 6000-year-old demigod to put all this villainy on hold (it’s only weird if you think about it). The pair’s chemistry is genuinely sweet, and just one example of the kind of big-hearted fun which permeates Shazam! Fury Of The Gods.

It’s a shame that the other daughters aren’t given quite as much to do, but in the film’s guise as a mid-2000s adventure movie, their simple motivations and slightly nonsensical plans almost work to the film’s favour. The rest of the adult-hero cast, meanwhile, are clearly having a blast, even if their childish antics seem a bit out of whack since their alter-egos are now almost universally in their late-teens.

As a rule, though, Shazam! Fury Of The Gods works much better if you don’t think about it too hard. Not that that’s really a bad thing; it’s been a while since we saw a superhero movie so laser-focussed on having a good time. Even if the 2 hours 10 minute runtime is far, far too long, and the ending definitely stumbles over its own cape, it’s difficult not to leave the cinema with a big old grin on your face.

If the reports coming out of James Gunn’s DC are correct, Zachary Levi’s Shazam might be one of the only heroes to make a return in the universe’s next incarnation. Based on Shazam! Fury Of The Gods, it’s not hard to see why.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is released in cinemas on 17th March.

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