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Welcome, World Travelers! Shazam: Fury of the Gods is Super Fun

by James Coulter

The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has proven to be quite the tumultuous movie franchise. Originally, it was marketed as the “darker” and “edgier” competitor of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but its superficial “maturity” only led to cinematic disasters like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Only after it shaved off its “edge” and lightened its tone did the DCEU gain momentum with some real successes: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Suicide Squad, and Shazam!

Without exaggeration and with all sincerity, the original 2019 Shazam! is the best DCEU film, if for no other reason than it’s the most fun and hilarious. How can it not be? The movie has a very fun and hilarious premise: what if a young boy was granted the power to turn into an adult and gain super abilities like super strength, speed, and flight? The answer is a superhero version of 1988’s Big, with a boy taking full advantage of being both an adult and superhero, from performing heroic feats to legally buying beer at a gas station for his teenage companion.

Zachary Levi (despite the glaring fault of his anti-vaccine views) does a great job of playing a young boy trapped inside the body of an adult man with his immature quips and mannerisms. He certainly has you believe he is a young boy turned into a man. And he certainly appears to have fun playing that role, which makes it even more fun watching him play that role.

Shazam: Fury of the Gods follows where the last movie ended. Two years had passed since Billy Baxton and his foster family of children gained the superpowers of Shazam. They try to use their powers to be superheroes and save the day, but, still being young inexperienced children, they often fail in their endeavors, to the point of their team being dubbed the “Philly Fiascos.”

Aside from the many failures of him and his superhero team, Billy also battles with the insecurity of almost turning 18 and soon aging out of the foster system. That, along with his other family members doing their separate things, makes him question his place in his family and worry about his future within it.

Of course, things take an unexpected turn when he and the others are hunted by the Daughters of Atlas, the Greek titan punished with holding up the Earth, and who was one of the legendary heroes whose powers were stolen to create Shazam. His daughters now seek to hunt down Billy and his family and steal back those powers for their own nefarious purposes. Will Billy keep his family together, both figuratively and literally, in the face of these new threats?

Admittedly, this review is going to be short because I don’t have much to say about it. Shazam is your typical superhero movie with your typical message about the importance of family. It follows the typical beats of those stories, and thus you know what the typical outcome is going to be. This movie is typical, which is what I’m trying to get at. It’s average—or “mid”, as the kids these days will put it.

But, again, as with the original movie, what makes this sequel work is Zachary Levi and the other actors, all of whom do a good job of acting like kids inside the bodies of adults. Special

props to Meagan Good, who does an excellent job of playing a young woman being played by a young girl playing a young woman. There’s one scene at the start where she and the team are saving people from a collapsing bridge. She sees a car with a basket of baby kittens. She coos in excitement over their cuteness and snatches them to rescue them, leaving behind the confused human occupants before returning to save them.

Moments like that essentially save this movie from being just average. Like the original movie, it is fun and hilarious. There are plenty of funny moments that certainly prove entertaining and add levity to the heavy action.

For example, one of the scenes involves a little girl having to tame a unicorn to save a city from an army of monsters by tossing Skittles at it and asking it to “taste the rainbow!” If moments like that make you roll your eyes and scoff, you’ll want to avoid this movie. But if you like fun and having fun, then give this movie a chance.

Not many superhero movies know how to be fun anymore. Aside from the Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, and Ant-Man films, most superhero movies take themselves way too seriously. That was especially true for the DCEU at its start. So it’s a real relief to finally be able to watch movies like Shazam that don’t take themselves too seriously and know how to have a good time. We need more movies like that.

So, it’s a real pity that Shazam: Fury of the Gods isn’t doing well at the box office or in reviews. The movie flopped its opening weekend with only a measly $30.5 million, and with a meager 52 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Don’t let its poor performance fool you. The new Shazam! movie may not be great, but it’s pretty good for what it is. If you liked the campy children’s movies of the 1980s, both this and Shazam! 2019 have that exact feel that will make you feel good and make you chuckle. Overall, I’d certainly recommend watching this movie, at least as a matinee.

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