SHAZAM! Fury of the Gods is the latest superhero blockbuster to grace cinemas. Our resident film buffs Tom Parry and Stefan Bradley went to check it out.

SB: This is a sequel to the first Shazam! and takes place in the same universe as the Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Justice League and Suicide Squad movies. It follows Billy Batson and his foster siblings, who transform into superheroes with Superman-like powers by saying “Shazam!” and are forced to fight the Daughters of Atlas to stop them from destroying the world. To get right into it, if you liked the first Shazam! movie, you’ll probably like this one, but it is a let down. Speaking as somebody who loved the first picture, this was a disappointing watch.

TP: I think the same. In some respects, Fury of the Gods is better than the first Shazam! in that it’s less dark and has a couple of slightly more interesting villains – the original’s antagonist was bland and forgettable. Other than that, this new one is fairly underwhelming, unfortunately. I enjoyed it as much as the Shazam! spin-off film Black Adam, if not slightly more.

SB: I liked it more than Black Adam and a little more than Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. The first Shazam! despite its horror elements had a very comedic tone, and it absolutely nailed its cast of characters. My minor criticism is relegated to its generic final action scenes with a bunch of CGI-infused fights with even more generic monsters. It also had a forgettable villain – as in I literally forgot who the baddie of that movie was. I agree with you that the villains are better this time around, but every action scene with or without them is banal. Fury of the Gods’ entire third act was very clunky overall with a poorly-executed ending.

TP: That ending more or less comes out of nowhere. Now, the visual effects are shocking. The film is not even trying to hide that a computer has been used to bring everything to life, and it’s obvious this has been put together by animators on a limited budget.

SB: I’ll give a point to Black Adam for having much better action scenes that conveyed the power of the character. All the actions scenes in Fury of the Gods were bland and unoriginal. The camerawork was fine, so it’s not like you couldn’t see what was going on, but it all felt slow and you don’t feel as though anyone’s in danger. I sighed when the Shazam family went to that collapsing bridge to save people – how many times have we seen superhero action scenes on a bridge? And the film’s third act, with even more CGI monsters, just goes on forever. The first film made fun of various superhero tropes, so it was strange to see they adopted every superhero cliché imaginable in the sequel.

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

TP: It’s cliché after cliché, and I agree that the third act dragged on. This movie is about 130 minutes, but felt much longer than that. I have been negative up to this point, so I should say that the cast is as likeable as ever. There’s a lighter tone, so fewer horror elements than what was in the first movie, which is to be appreciated; I think it is slightly funnier too. Some of the new characters I quite liked, including the villains; I thought Rachel Zegler was incredible as Anthea – I liked her in the recent West Side Story remake, and here she plays one of the most charming characters I’ve seen in a DC film in a long time.

SB: I agree with you about the cast and that’s the most disappointing part. This movie didn’t play to its strengths, which is its lovable cast of characters. There’s a lot of them – Billy Batson has five siblings, so they don’t all get their time to shine, but even in their brief moments they’re tons of fun. The ending tries to tug at your heartstrings, but because there’s very little family conflict, the emotion doesn’t land. The first movie does all the heavy lifting in that regard; but if you haven’t even seen the original, why would you care? Billy Batson is worried about being abandoned by his foster family after he turns 18, but it’s not like he has a major falling out with anyone. You’d think a big family like this would have constant family drama.

TP: In fairness, we have seen that kind of conflict played out time and time again, and not just in blockbusters.

SB: The first two-thirds of this movie was an enjoyable watch, despite its flaws. I want to give a shout out to Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays Billy’s brother Freddy. He was the MVP by far, and had an emotional arc. Billy on the other hand spends most of his screentime in his superhero form, and Zachary Levi performs that role extremely well; but Asher Angel, who portrays his teenage form, isn’t given that much to do. I would watch a TV show with this family where every week they go on superhero adventures together. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t like these heroes.

TP: You’re right, this would be a perfect TV show. To conclude, I’d say go see Fury of the Gods if you’re a diehard DC fan, or really enjoyed the first one.

SB: I think the cast makes up for the film’s shortcomings, so I do think it’s worth a watch just for them. It’s not a bad time, but I expected better.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is rated M for supernatural themes and violence, and is currently screening at Sale Cinema.