Family Clashes with Mythology in Superpowered Sequel SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS

2019’s Shazam! was a fun surprise, injecting the somewhat grim DC movie universe with a big shot of delightful energy that served as a nice contrast to the more serious tone that had been previously established. The character Shazam (or Captain Marvel, if you’re old school like me) isn’t nearly as popular in the modern mainstream as other heroes like Batman or Superman, but that may have been a freeing element, giving the film’s creators a little freedom to have fun with the concept. The film balanced different themes and tones, having a goofy and fun spirit and familial love, but also incorporating elements of horror and themes of abandonment and isolation.

Director David F. Sandberg and his cast of misfits-turned-family, led by Zachary Levi, returned for Shazam! Fury of the Gods, a bigger and wilder story that picks up with the “Shazamily” of Billy Batson and his adoptive siblings who share superpowers culled from legends of myth and magic, transforming from normal kids into studly super-adults. Picking up some time later, the siblings now function as as superteam, albeit an immature one (their exploits are dogged by the media, who have dubbed them the “Philly Fiascos”). The focus shifts a bit to be less about Billy exclusively, and incorporating bigger subplots for the other kids, especially sidekick/best pal/adoptive brother Freddy Freeman who gets a really great character arc. Even Djimon Hounsou’s Wizard character returns for an expanded role, and gets the film’s most hilarious (and surreal) sight gag.

It feels really cool and special to have Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu on board as the film’s antagonists, the Daughters of Atlas, and their grievance – that a precocious and irresponsible boy now possesses their father’s powers – is understandable. And they’ve found a way to steal their powers back. The third and youngest of the sisters is played by Rachel Zegler (West Side Story), who approaches humanity with a little more empathy than her ruthless sisters.

The Daughters of Atlas reign destruction on Philadelphia, letting loose a horde of monsters from the pages of classic mythology – harpies, minotaurs, manticores, cyclopses. This is a movie where Lucy Liu rides around on a menacing dragon, Khaleesi-style. It’s great stuff, owing in no small part to feeling very much like a throwback to the designs of Ray Harryhausen.

This is an ideal sequel. It seems to understand what made the first movie enjoyable and continues all those threads, mishmashing superhero storytelling with elements of mythology and comedy, but still having an edge with some gnarly kills. The story of Shazam continues to be the most casually enjoyable and family-oriented pocket of the DC movie universe.

The Package

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is now available on home video and digitally. The 4K version which I’m reviewing includes a 4K disc, Blu-ray disc, and digital copy. My copy includes a slipcover, which has a metallic foil print. The slipcover features Warner Bros’ current “WB 100” header design celebrating the studio’s 100th Anniversary.

Special Features and Extras

Fury of the Gods comes loaded with a ton of special features, especially considering its COVID-era creation. It’s a solid set, and it’s appreciable that everyone is having a blast making this and enjoying each other’s company.

Commentary by director David F. Sandberg

Let’s Make a Sequel (24:49)
Making of documentary packed with interview clips and behind the scenes footage. My favorite part is the callout to the cameo appearance of Michael Gray, who played Billy Batson in the 70s Shazam TV series.

The Rock of Eternity Decked Out (5:42)
Members of the production design and set decoration teams join with the cast talk about the new, more personalized look for the Shazamily’s home base and exploring its hidden depths (the Library of Eternity, the Room of Doors).

The Zac Effect (4:20)
A profile of star Zachary Levi, who brings a sense of boyish charm with him to the set.

Sisterhood of Villains (7:54)
A really neat aspect of this is Rachel Zegler discussing how the veteran actresses (who have had their own hardships as women navigating the industry) helped advise her.

Scene Deconstruction (10:06)
Director David F. Sandberg walks viewers through some key effects shots and how they were accomplished.

Mythology of Shazam! Fury of the Gods (4:59)
On bringing the mythical pantheon and creatures to the screen. Sandberg specifically mentions the influence of Harryhausen in the designs, something I had picked up on and was pleased to hear confirmed.

Shazamily Reunion (5:01)
Family is a huge component of this the Shazam narrative, and there’s two sets of it between the kids and their adult counterparts. It’s clear from the interviews that there was a great true family dynamic on the sets as well.

Deleted Scenes (31:06)
Deleted and alternate scenes with unused gags and different takes, notably a couple of additional kills that were left on the cutting room floor. Many of these have unfinished and pre-viz effects, giving a little additional insight on the development.

A/V Out.

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All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not the 4K UHD) with no alteration or editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and online imaging.

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