|Worth seeing:||as a formulaic but fun tale of a family of foster kids with super-powers, who have to stand their ground against a bunch of ruthless ancient Greek deities who want to reclaim what they believe to be theirs|
|Director:||David F Sandberg|
|Featuring:||Zachary Levi, Adam Brody, Asher Angel, Cooper Andrews, Diedrich Bader, DJ Cotrona, Djimon Hounsou, Faithe Herman, Grace Caroline Currey, Helen Mirren, Ian Chen, Jack Dylan Glazer, Jovan Armand, Lucy Liu, Marta Milans, Meagan Good, Rachel Zegler, Rizwan Manji, Ross Butler|
|Released:||17th March 2023|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Nearly four years ago, a mysterious wizard gave 14 year old Billy (Asher Angel) superpowers, turning him into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi); all he has to do to switch back and forth is shout the word “Shazam!”
Billy then shared his powers with his foster brothers and sisters – among them, comic-book geek Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), whose own alter-ego (Adam Brody) seems to enjoy his newfound fame a little more than the others.
Rather than appreciate all the life-saving and criminal-catching antics the heroes get up to, the press have started branding them the Philadelphia Fiasco, because as fans of The Incredibles will know, heroics often leave a little devastation in their wake.
There’s someone else who’s not too happy with their super-powers; the magic staff used to bestow the powers on them originally belonged to the Greek god Atlas and his three daughters have managed to make it to modern-day America to rid them of their powers and claim back the staff.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The latest superhero film from the DC stable largely feels like a standalone film, with only a brief cameo from a DC stable-mate. It doesn’t rely on having to know about other films or TV shows, meaning that it can be enjoyed for what it is: an entertaining but very silly spectacle.
With a gang of six heroes working together, who needs a wider team? Although there isn’t much variety to their powers and as the villains – or given their back-story, it could be argued the rightful owners simply trying to reclaim their property – get closer to their goal, the fate of the world soon lands on the shoulders of just one hero – no prizes for guessing whose.
On one level, this film could be seen as the most woke of all the superhero films so far; Billy’s foster family has members who are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, disabled and gay – the three daughters of Atlas are white (Helen Mirren), Asian (Lucy Liu) and Hispanic (Rachel Zegler) – and the wizard at the heart of the story is black (Djimon Hounsou), but the storytelling itself is so colour-blind, you wouldn’t even notice. The story just plays out and no-one bats an eyelid at the variety of ethnicities on screen – it just doesn’t matter – and that way, it doesn’t feel woke at all. The disability and the homosexuality are more integral to the plot, but subtly and warmly handled in a way that’s supportive, without seeming at all preachy – like with the differing races on show, it’s just what they are – that’s it – there’s nothing more to see here.
Both the villains and the heroes bounce well off each other but it’s never quite clear why the ancient Greek goddesses cause so much havoc when their goal seems to be quite precise and easily achieved – and there are rather too many coincidences to nudge the plot along.
But the script is generally well-conceived – with a handful of particularly sharp comic moments and set-ups and pay-offs along the way that carry the story along and make it feel oddly coherent – for a film that includes such surreal elements as a floating pen called Steve, evil Skittle-eating unicorns, an existential face-off at a fast-food outlet and the almost universal scene in which an entire city centre is razed to the ground by a battle between our heroes and a bunch of giant, ferocious beasts.
One area where it feels oddly less convincing than the first Shazam! film is how Zachary Levi previously shone as he acted like a child – much as Tom Hanks did in Big – but while his breezy portrayal of a slightly immature superhero remains a lot of fun this time around, his powerless alter-ego is now about to turn 18, making Billy seem considerably more grown-up than his superhero self.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods ticks a lot of boxes – both formulaic story-telling ones and diversity ones – and it gets very silly, but it never takes itself too seriously, has enough in-jokes for the comic-book geeks and while it never feels particularly fresh, it doesn’t feel exclusive and it’s always a fun romp.