In 2019 the first “Shazam!” introduced us to one of the sweetest heroes of the DCEU.  In a world filled with incredibly angsty superhumans, Billy Batson, his magic-infused alter-ego, and supportive family are some of the most likeable characters DC has offered up in years.  It was a breath of fresh air in an already saturated genre.  Is “Fury of the Gods” able to recreate the magic of the previous film?

Since we last saw them, Billy (Asher Angel) and his super-siblings have continued trying to service the fine citizens of Philadelphia.    A great opening sequence at a collapsing suspension bridge showcases everything that made the original special.  Each character bounces between trying to be heroic and their youthful tendencies.  Once character chooses to rescue a basket of adorable kittens prior to saving the humans who own them.  They save lives, but their immaturity usually leads to massive collateral damage.  The media has resorted to referring to the collective as the “Philadelphia Follies.”  Because of this, and a lot early childhood trauma, Shazam (Zachary Levi) is sinking is developing a serious case of imposter syndrome.

To make things worse, three goddesses, Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Anthea (Rachel Zegler) suddenly appear to reclaim their stolen powers from these foolish mortals.  It’s one thing to wallow in self-doubt, but can you imagine what it would feel like to have an actual goddess reinforce all of your worst fears?

Like the bridge sequence, the first appearance of the goddesses is quite fun.  They arrive in Greek armor, trash a museum, create “whisper zombies” and generally wreak havoc.  But then all of that stops.  During the middle of the movie, the fun slows to a crawl while we drudge through exposition upon exposition and general teenage angst that teeters on annoying.  Thankfully, the humor continues to be sweet and self aware.  When two teens awkwardly express their affection, an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) rolls is eyes with exasperation.  The kids might not know how silly some of this is, but everyone else does.

Once we enter the third act, everything picks up again. The wholesome family dynamic is back, the humor kicks it up a notch, the action ratchets back up, and we get to meet a bunch of nasty mythological monsters. (Including a cyclops that looks suspiciously Harryhausen-esque!)  Even the cameos step it up.  There’s already a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from Annabelle, but that pales in comparison to seeing director David F. Sandberg being attacked by a harpy.

It’s clear that a much needed reset is coming to the DCEU.  Most of the fallout has already been publicly announced, but some characters are still stuck in limbo.  “Fury of the Gods” isn’t as cohesive as the first “Shazam!” but this movie leaves no doubt that the DCEU would benefit from Shazam and his family going forward.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods