By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Writer
Shazam! Fury of the Gods has Shazam searching for a superhero name and suffering from imposter syndrome as he leads a diverse group of sudden superheroes against three gods (Lucy Liu, Helen Mirren and Rachel Zegler) to save the world.
The gods are attempting to regain what their father, Atlas, lost but just how they implement the final stages of their plan is something they can’t quite agree upon.
If you need a review of what happened in the first installment, visit my blog for the full review.
What you need to know is Billy Batson was 14 in the first film, but is now almost 18 and soon will age out of the foster care system. He lives with a multicultural foster family. Unbeknownst to the foster parents, all of the six kids (including Billy) have been granted superpowers. Visually, this works out with each character being played by two actors–one as they are in real life and an adult actor as their superhero form. To transform, they utter the word, “Shazam!”
This film begins with two helmet and armor-wearing people marching into a museum in what looks like Greece. This isn’t cosplay day, but two daughters of Atlas, Kalypso (Liu) and Hespera (Mirren), come to steal the magic staff. The staff is one of the things they need to take back the powers of their father that the human wizards stole from him.
Shazam (Zachary Levi) and his foster family are struggling to grow into their new powers and the responsibilities entailed as well as figuring out how to work as a team. Their latest adventure is dubbed the “Philly Fiasco,” even though they saved all the people caught on a collapsing suspension bridge.
At school, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) continues to be bullied and yet he comes to the aid of an attractive new student. But that student turns out to be the youngest of Atlas’ daughters, Anthea (Rachel Zegler). She’s there to lure the superheroes out. When Freddy appears in his superhero form (Adam Brody), Anthea and her sisters use the magic staff to strip Freddy of his powers. They kidnap Freddy, and Shazam and the remaining foster kids must decide how to save both Freddy and the world.
All that involves a dragon, a magic tree taking root in a baseball stadium, a few monsters and unicorns. Liu holds her own in her scenes with Mirren; they are the badass sisters. Zegler’s Anthea is the soft-hearted one. Liu gets to ride the dragon which makes her a literal dragon lady, in a Game of Thrones way. None of these are spoilers because you can see all of this in the trailers.
The level of diversity is high here, even if you’re thinking the focus is on the two White characters, Billy and Freddy. Asher Angel who plays Billy Batson is a minority (Jewish according to Wikipedia). Grazer, who plays Freddy, came out as bisexual. Brody, who plays Freddy’s superhero form is Jewish. The Shazam foster family includes a Singapore-born Chinese Malaysian hapa (Ross Butler as Eugene Choi’s superhero form), a Taiwanese American (Ian Chen as Eugene Choi’s normal form), Black Latina Native American actress (Meagan Good as superhero Darla Dudley), African American actress (Faithe Herman as her normal form), Italian American actor (DJ Cotrona as Pedro Peña’s superhero form), and a Salvadorian Mexican American actor (Jovan Armand as Pedro’s normal form). Cooper Andrews, who plays the foster father Victor Vásquez, is part Samoan (father) and Hungarian Jewish (mother). Marta Milans who plays Victor’s wife, Rosa, is Spanish American. Even the furious sisters are diverse featuring a Columbian American (Zegler), Chinese American (Liu) and part Russian refugee (Mirren). Both Liu and Mirren hit the diversity mark for being women over 50.
Because director David F. Sandberg helmed the first film (with a screenplay by Henry Gayden based on a story by Gayden and Darren Lemke), this sequel (also written by Gayden, this time with Chris Morgan) has the same basic vibe, although a shade darker, and, there’s a cohesive thread of character development.
As a lover of dragons, unicorns, rainbows and diversity (and as one who self-identifies as the dragon lady at comic-cons), I enjoyed this film, even if the unicorns more closely resemble a cross between rhinos and heavyset draft horses than the slender white steeds of The Last Unicorn and the dragon is more ferocious than fun (How to Train Your Dragon) or fluffy (Pete’s Dragon). Shazam! Fury of the Gods is essentially about two different families, one bio and the other foster, working together with different results. And for movies about family, this is far better than the Fast and Furious series (mentioned in this film).
Be sure to stay for the mid-credits and the post-credits scene. The post-credit scene for this film echoes the post-credit scene for the first film. In case you’re confused as Shazam, there is both a Justice Society and a Justice League.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods premiered at the TCL Chinese Theater on 9 March 2023. It will be released in the US on 17 March 2023.
For my full review and a summary of the 2019 film (but no spoilers), visit my blog: AgeOfTheGeek.org.
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