Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Written by Alexander Reams
DC needs a win, they’re in dire straits at the Warner Brothers lot, why else bring in James Gunn and Peter Safran to take over? Even with several projects filming or in post-production connected to the infamous Snyder-verse. Gunn and Safran have been trying to salvage what they can, placing characters from “The Suicide Squad” and “Peacemaker” in “Black Adam” (which was clearly a post-production decision) only convoluted the timelines further and these decisions are interfering with a proper send-off for the current run of DC films. “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is one of the final DC movies from the Snyder era, with “The Flash” and “Aquaman 2” rolling out later this year and concluding the last 10 years of DC filmmaking. Yet the sense of finality is really a sense of relief, audiences are free. Free from the grasp that the ever-changing DCEU had on audiences, whether or not we would get a “Cyborg” film in 2020 was once the talk of the town (yes, that was a real story back in the DCEU heyday). Being a DC fan has been hard the past few years, with “Birds of Prey” and “The Suicide Squad” providing brief windows of hope that this fledgling universe could be saved.
My hopes for a proper send-off for the most super-powered family in DCEU were quickly dashed as David F. Sandberg’s return to the world of “Shazam!” is not only a disappointment but a film that has no reason to exist in the first place. Sandberg and friends pick up 2 years after the first entry ended, and in the laziest way possible we catch up with the family, and by lazy I mean Zachary Levi giving a half-hearted narration that acts more as an intrusion than a device to dump exposition. During this narration, we learn a smattering of events that could have (and probably should have) been “Shazam! 2.” Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is trying to go out on his own and escape the shadow of Billy (Asher Angel)/Shazam. The only other member of the family that has any remote arc is Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), she’s struggling with her decision to not go to college and stay with the family. If the first “Shazam!” film had jokes and bits every five to ten minutes, “Fury of the Gods” can’t resist trying to do one every few. It’s that pervasive, and almost none of it hits.
I can’t help but feel bad for David F. Sandberg, a horror filmmaker who showed buckets of promise, and delivered with “Lights Out” and “Annabelle: Creation.” This led to his hiring on the first “Shazam!” and this entry feels very disconnected from that first film, Levi and Angel are playing two different people, it wasn’t definitive before, but it cannot be ignored here and it reeks. Reeks of studio interference, Warner Bros. wouldn’t be Warner Bros. if they didn’t meddle in their most successful franchise and take creative control away. The final product is a mess of what the studios think the movie should be and Sandberg’s creative tendencies toward family dynamics accented with horror-based set pieces. But it doesn’t work, and it’s hard to watch at times. Everything was set up for this to be DC’s big return after the “Black Adam” debacle and subsequent fraud allegations but it isn’t, and it does eventually have a feeling of finality when the credits roll and the sinking feeling in your stomach that DC is in more trouble than we’d realized.
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” Trailer