Review by Gabe Gurule
Inside Shazam 2: Fury of the Gods (Dir. David Sandberg), there is a good movie.
The movie follows a family of adopted foster children, who when they utter Shazam!, are transformed into superheroes possessing the powers of Greek deities. They have to stop a trio of Greek goddesses who seek to turn Philadelphia into a new Mount Olympus. To stop this, the heroes chase a series of escalating MacGuffins: a broken staff that once assembled steals magic. Then a Golden Apple when planted will shift the world.
The film is disappointing because when it’s good, it’s good. Sandberg’s background in horror films shines when he’s allowed to show Greek monsters ravaging the city. The CGI is clean. It doesn’t look soapy or washed-out like many of the latest Marvel movies. The action sequences, too, are creative. They feel less like action figures bouncing off Styrofoam but more like a Saturday cartoon come to life. The locations are also inventive: a magical library with a sentient pen named Steve, an ancient Greek labyrinth, even Philadelphia subways, are all markedly distinct and interesting to look at. Even the corny quips are good for a chuckle—they rarely feel forced, instead sounding believably like what a 17-year-old superhero would say.
The biggest let down with this film is that it feels lost. The first act spends time setting up subplots that seem to lead nowhere: Philadelphia hates the heroes or tensions about the heroes drifting apart, but these never coalesce into the larger plot about gods destroying the world. The ending too, limps along. A heroic sacrifice is immediately undone. The issue isn’t that the heroes ride off into the sunset—just the way it is handled, gives one of the most literal deus ex machina’s in any hero movie.
Ultimately, this film feels like the studio gave up on it midway through. This was a production schedule racked by COVID-delays, studio infighting between The Rock and David Sandberg, and the announcement shortly before its release that James Gunn would reboot the entire DC Extended Universe. In some ways, this makes it feel like the perfect coda to the old DCEU: something unique that is different from the countless other superhero movies with great high points. But the persistent low spots grind it into something marginal, leaving an inconsistent and underwhelming, but fairly fun end product.