Comic Book Brain

Review: Shazork, Fury of the Dorks

Fury of the Gods Shazam Movie Review

Shazam Fury of the Gods plays it too safe, and hides behind "we're family" sentiments to drive the emotion of the story line, and there's simply not a lot of story once you get past this camouflage.

But, Fury looks good and the special effects don't have rushed or unfinished sections (something that haunts some other superhero films of late, for example the more visually and thematically sophisticated family pseudo-drama Quantumania). For the most part Fury can get visually inventive, especially in the third act wind up of the story, but only if the nuances of CGI dragons and the destruction of Philadelphia interests you.

The real problems in the film are elsewhere. The storytelling makes it hard to distinguish the large cast of heroes one from one another, and the question comes unprompted of whether there's any real difference between them (this doesn't include Zachary Levi's Captain Marvel, though, and in this film he actually gets called Captain Marvel one time).

Fury has simply bitten off more than it can chew with this family of foster children that magically become adult sized superhuman alter-egos. Visually this means the cast of "good guy" characters literally gets doubled once the Shazam lightning bolts hit them. This is a lot of people for an audience to keep track of and judging from the way the film moves along after putting them all onto the screen, director David Sandberg (and writers Henry Gayden, Chris Morgan, Bill Parker) assume the audience has got it all down because there's no help given later to keep it straight.

Helen Mirren is a famous international actress with decades (and decades) of awards and respect for her skills, but all that firepower isn't given much to do but wear the "god garb" of one of the Daughters of Atlas, a trio (Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler) who have been upset about something for millennia and now are taking their revenge on Philadelphia. The three women could just as well be evil witches for all that it really matters, and except for some scenes of Rachel Zegler as a student at a school where she meets a Shazam family member, the handicapped Freddy Freeman, which sets up for a few scenes of Spider-Mannish circa 2002 bullying in the hallway, it ultimately doesn't make a lot of sense. Zegler (as ancient greek goddess Anthea) doesn't behave, talk or provide any hint whatsoever she is an ancient being, regardless of what the script claims. For that matter, Helen Mirren is nearly eighty and Lucy Liu is 55, but they don't seem ancient at all and the family-dilemma that's driving them to wreck Philadelphia isn't memorable either, so in the end they're generic supervillains causing problems that calls for superhero solutions, and Fury just doesn't make enough effort to give us actual characters instead of the CGI set-pieces.

Maybe the problem lies in that these three characters are invented for this film and are not derived from the Shazam comic books of yore. Along with the adaptation of a Disney-like adoration of family politics instead of using the built-in family attitude (and moral universe) of the Shazam comics (which was more evident in the successful first film) maybe we've arrived at another example of Hollywood "improving" a comic book so much that it becomes indiscernible from other superhero product and this creates failure because Fury is competing in a marketplace already choked with second-rate superheroes.

There's a "surprise" cameo in the film which kind of kicks the movie into higher gear for a few minutes, and with as much humor that is larded across the script, why couldn't it be consistently high-end like this? But it isn't. We can't move slow enough to understand and enjoy the range of characters, and the film moves too fast somehow to adequately recognize the characters, so in some odd way the film is batting away our attention from both directions at the same time, which is tough to do in a darkened movie theater where the only thing to pay attention to is a gigantic screen physically dominating the room you're sitting in.

Fury of the Gods is loaded with supposedly theistic beings, but like a perverse rendering of Psalms 82:7 "Ye are gods, but you die you're boring like men," the movie demonstrates (like Wonder Woman 84 did) that DC's "mythology" cannot encapsulate a decent, human-sized cinematic story.

Related: Lessons from the adaptations of Flashpoint Paradox and Secret Invasions

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Original Page June 2023 | Updated August 2023