Shazam! Fury of the Gods 101.1: Believe in Yourself and Be True to Your Friends, and You Can Accomplish Anything

Finally! They’ve made a movie with a positive message that we just don’t see often enough: believe in yourself and be true to your friends, and you can accomplish anything.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how many kids were around to receive that inspiring dose of pep, because when I saw Shazam: Fury of the Gods this weekend, there were maybe ten people total in the theater. This is superhero fatigue, apparently, which is a phrase that means we’re waiting for Guardians vol. 3, which actually looks interesting.

Fury of the Gods made $30 million in its opening weekend, which is about 10 million below what the studio was hoping for, and about 10 million above what it deserved. It’s disappointing compared to the first Shazam film in 2019, which had a $54 million opening weekend, plus people generally seemed to like it.

Shazam: Fury of the Gods is the story of a group of well-meaning kids who all like each other and can transform into super hot adult versions of themselves whenever they feel like it, and yet they do not do the obvious thing: fuck each other until they get tired, which they never will because they’re indestructible.

But this is squarely a children’s movie, and it is made entirely without the element of surprise. If you saw the first movie and you can imagine what the second movie would be like, then it is exactly like that, so you might as well stay home.

There are good people and bad people in the movie, with one apparently good person turning out to be a bad person. When the revelation that she’s a villain happens, the people in the audience think, oh, I liked her; I hope that she turns out to be on the good side anyway. And she is! Everything that you think is going to happen is exactly what happens.

In fact, I’m going to give you the biggest possible spoiler, and it will not detract from your experience in any way. In the final battle against the bad guys, the lead character is killed. Then they have a funeral scene and everyone is very sad, but he turns out not to be dead after all, so it’s a happy ending. I don’t feel bad about handing you that news, because the same thing happens in approximately nine out of ten movies. This might actually be the first feature film written by ChatGPT.

They throw a lot of kids at you and then switch into their superhero identities very quickly, so if you don’t remember the first film very well then it’s hard to get a handle on who they are as characters. This turns out to be less of a problem than you might imagine.

The movie isn’t really that interested in character growth beyond the extremely obvious, i.e. that the lead character starts out being unsure of himself and then slowly gains confidence over the course of the story. Most of the others don’t really get much to do.

Mary says that she wants to go to college soon, a potential character arc that is not picked up; Darla starts out as a precocious happy-go-lucky little girl with no problems and stays that way; and Eugene has no distinguishable characteristics at all. At the top of the movie, you find out that Pedro is gay, which he blurts out in a random scene later on, and everybody says yeah, we know and that’s cool, and that wraps it up for his storyline.

And you don’t actually see that much of Billy, who’s supposed to be the main character, because they figure that people in the audience would prefer to watch Zachary Levi have panic attacks in his supersuit.

The high point of the movie is Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy, who is consistently funny and is allowed to have recognizable human emotions. You can tell that the producers liked this kid, because he stays in his normal identity for most of the movie. It’s hard to say that he’s the comic relief in a movie that is pretty much trying to be funny all of the time, but he’s the funniest, and the only person in the film that anything actually happens to.

Freddy even gets to have some scenes in school, which is not the case for the others. The movie really resists the idea that the kids are interesting outside of their superhero identities, to the point that I wonder why the producers felt like they needed to include all six of them.

But as usual these days, the real question is whether Shazam is going to continue as a character in the ongoing DC universe. Since James Gunn and Peter Safran took over DC Films five months ago, the extra-diegetic headlines have become the main storyline, and the only thing that people care about.

We know that Henry Cavill is out as Superman, and he’ll be rebooted with a younger actor, but the fate of the other heroes and hangers-on is still a mystery. If Gunn is recasting Superman, then it doesn’t really make sense that Cavill’s co-stars would stick around and “meet” a new Clark Kent. So Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller are probably out as well, and Fury of the Gods’ anemic box office probably means that Zachary Levi will not be invited back. But Gunn hasn’t said anything publicly, because they’ve still got a Flash movie and an Aquaman movie coming out later this year.

This pretty much guarantees that the only reason people will go to see The Flash in June is to find out everybody’s contract status, a question that is way more dramatic than anything that happens in Fury of the Gods. We have become mini movie moguls, you and I, counting the box office receipts and keeping a close eye on the cameos. There are eight superhero movies coming out in 2023, and the only one that I’m really excited about is The Flash and its impact on future casting decisions. It’s good to see that DC Films still knows how to craft a suspenseful storyline.

4.33: Gone Wrong


Hey everyone, I’m sorry that I haven’t been posting much over the last couple of weeks; my tomorrows and tomorrows and tomorrows have been creeping in this petty pace for far too long.

But one of the things that’s kept me occupied is the upcoming Superheroes Every Day podcast, which I am currently learning how to produce. (Today’s challenge: cutting about fifteen minutes out of the first episode.)

The podcast will cover pivotal moments in superhero movie history, jumping around in time to fill in some of the gaps in this ongoing story. First up, my guest and I will be looking at 2013’s Man of Steel, and it turns out we have a couple things to say about it.

It’ll be another few weeks before the podcast premieres, because I want to get a couple of episodes done and I still need a logo. But I am super excited about this, and I hope that you are too. More actual blog posts coming soon; Superman III will not defeat me.

The launch of the Superheroes Every Day podcast!
Episode 1: Man of Steel


— Danny Horn

8 thoughts on “Shazam! Fury of the Gods 101.1: Believe in Yourself and Be True to Your Friends, and You Can Accomplish Anything

  1. If we’re all true to ourselves and believe in each other, we can beat Superman III. We can kick it in the balls, slit its throat from ear to ear, dump it in a ditch and leave it for dead. If we dream it we can do it. Shazam!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “The Flash” is my most-anticipated superhero movie of 2023 too. I collected some of the comics as a kid and he’s probably my second-favorite superhero after Batman, and I’ve been waiting for someone to make a Flash movie for 30 years. It seems like a no-brainer to make a movie about The Fastest Man Alive™, so it astounds me when I look at the list of obscure superheroes who have already gotten their own movies ahead of him (admittedly, most of these are Marvel heroes because the MCU is an unstoppable train, so it’s kind of apples/oranges).

    The thing is, part of me is glad they waited this long, because only in recent years would I say that the state of special effects is ready to do justice to the Flash’s simple but exciting superpower. And I think they will probably release a cinematic spectacle that’s enjoyable and exhilarating. We just have to hope the story is a solid one, no sure thing considering it’s the DCU we’re talking about.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m glad it’s a podcast and not California weather that caused the interruption. I wonder if weather is part of the reason for the low turnout?
    I liked the first Shazam movie. It was funny and light-hearted if I remember correctly, two words that do not usually come to mind when I think of DC movies. For fans of the classic DC movie style, that might be a problem. I’m more interested in Guardians than anything DC has an offer but that’s because I prefer Marvel movies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It does make me feel sad, thinking of all those young men who labored so hard to get smokin’ hot muscles for this movie, only to have it underperform at the box office. If only it were as easy as saying “Shazam!” to get a physique.
    Personally, I would probably settle for having “Shazam!” turn me into an overweight teenager…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Let’s not forget that Billy Batson was the original Captain Marvel. Now there are so many they’re coming out soon with “The Marvels,” which I wouldn’t be surprised if it had Shazam in there. That’s the movie I want to see, and I haven’t been in a theater since “Captain Marvel.” I’m a big fan.

    Welcome back, Danny, we missed you. Looking forward to the podcast.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think the problem is they’re trying to have the best of both worlds: funny kids who turn into sexy adults. But it’s hard to go wow, look at the sexy on THAT adult! when you know it’s “really” a fourteen year old or however old they’re supposed to be.

    Obviously the non-lunatic majority of the audience understands the roles are played by separate actors, but it still leaves the movie in that gross 80s comedy mode where really reprehensible behavior was treated as harmless or at worst sophomoric. Just about the only film I can think of that actually put any thought into the moral ambiguities of this setup was Big.

    Liked by 1 person

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