Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) and writer Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) return to the Shazam franchise with Shazam! Fury of the Gods. The film is enjoyable and entertaining but also occasionally tiresome, perhaps a side effect of replacing Darren Lemke with Chris Morgan (The Fate of the Furious) on writing duties.
Billy Batson struggles because his siblings are growing up and getting their own interests separate from their superhero duties. They still step up when there’s danger, but Billy wants them all to remain a team and a family forever and in all things. Meanwhile, his destruction of the wizard’s staff has freed the Daughters of Atlas from their imprisonment. They retrieve and mend the pieces of the staff and set about trying to retrieve the Seed of Life so they can remake their father’s realm, regardless of the cost to humanity. All that stands in their way is the Shazam family, and the Daughters are more than ready to seek revenge and recapture the lost power of the gods that ended up in the hands of mere mortals.
The story is a fun concept and works well as a sequel to the original film. However, it doesn’t retain the full charm of the first. The types of jokes that worked before fall flat the second time around and sometimes seem forced for the sake of getting the laugh again. The script is solid when they step away from that, with one other exception. There are too many characters to give depth to, so when Gayden and Morgan step away from the close characters of Billy and Freddy, development seems more like an afterthought. Despite these flaws, they manage to fill the running time nicely without many slow points. This is driven by fine performances by Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer, who demonstrate that while it is difficult to steal a scene from Helen Mirren or Lucy Liu, it is at least possible to hold your own.
The special effects, especially the designers’ concepts for mythological creatures, are outstanding, if not always seamless. There are occasions where the action moves so quickly that it is hard to keep up or appreciate the hard work that went into them. The visited realms are spectacular and paint a complete picture of otherworldliness.
While the film suffers from a script that isn’t as fulfilling as the first movie in the franchise, it is still solid and captivating. It isn’t a shocking success like the first film, but definitely has enough juice to get the job done.