Review: Boy superhero mans up in ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’

The new release is playing at or coming to local movie theaters near you, such as Cozy Theatre in Wadena, Comet Theater in Perham and Washington Square 7 in Detroit Lakes.

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" movie poster
"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is a feature film adaption of the DC Comics character Shazam, and once again centers on a boy-turned-superhero.
Frank Lee / Wadena Pioneer Journal

Can lightning in a bottle be captured twice? The sequel makers of “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” sure hope so.

The superhero movie that introduced us to the titular character in 2019 was a relatively rare box office hit for DC Comics, which has had a checkered past in adapting its intellectual comic book properties into feature films compared to rival Marvel’s wildly successful feature film adaptions.

The new release in the DC Comics cinematic universe again features Zachary Levi as the teen-turned-superhero who was granted magical powers by a wizard whenever the boy says “Shazam!” The motion picture opened this year with less critical acclaim than its predecessor.

But don’t let that dissuade you from the arguably entirely enjoyable or entertaining (albeit probably forgettable) popcorn fare intended to appeal to the inner child in you — you know, the one that likely dreamed of being powerful but felt powerless as a youth in an adult world.

Frank Lee
Frank Lee
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The second act of Billy Batson in the new sequel begins with him having a midlife crisis of sorts even though his life has barely begun. The foster child is fast approaching the age of 18 and is about to age out of the foster care system and have to leave the only family he has ever known.


The anxiety Batson feels carries over to his superhero persona and takes a toll on his other foster siblings with whom he shares his superpowers. Batson may be the oldest of the motley bunch but that doesn’t mean he is necessarily the wisest or most mature.

For starters, Batson was abandoned by his biological parents at a young age, as he explains to his pediatrician as a costumed Shazam lying on a couch in the doctor’s office. The pervasive feeling of abandonment and being unloved causes him to hold on tighter to the ones he loves.

Meanwhile, his other costumed superhero brethren — the other foster children he shares a home with — face growing pains of their own as they mature into teens or young adults with interests and lives of their own.

That is not the only family dynamic on display in the two-hour movie that is rated PG-13 for its elements of cartoonish violence and language, including one scene involving a unicorn-loving girl who surprisingly (almost) utters an F-bomb while riding the mythical creature into battle.

Oscar-winner and English actress Helen Mirren plays Hespera, the oldest daughter of Atlas. In Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan condemned to hold up the heavens or sky for all eternity. Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler play Hespera’s bickering siblings in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods.”

Hespera has a bone to pick with all of mankind, which she believes to be beneath her and her sisters. Hespera and Liu’s Kalypso are especially incensed that the wizard played by Djimon Hounsou chose the boy Batson to bestow the sisters’ realm’s magical powers.

Levi does an admirable job in the movie franchise, channeling his younger self into the role of his alter ego “Shazam” and capturing the sheer exuberance of a mere mortal suddenly granted godlike powers like flight and superhuman strength.

But among the things that he cannot do, like most of us, is stop growing older. He struggles with growing up in the sequel, navigating the complexities of changing relationships and discovering one’s true self, which is something most moviegoers can relate to, I believe.


“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” currently has a 52% approval rating among critics and an 88% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at “More unfocused and less satisfying than its predecessor, ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ still retains almost enough of the source material's silly charm to save the day.”

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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