This article contains spoilers for Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)
First things first – Shazam 2 absolutely does not deserve its current 53% rating while the atrocity that was Thor: Love and Thunder gets to rest on top of it at a more comfortable percentage of 63. And coming from an avid Marvel fan, that says a lot. But this isn’t the first time the Rotten Tomatometer has gone wonky under the immense fluctuations of the electromagnetic division of opinions.
Case in point: Eternals. With brilliantly executed action sequences, incredulous visual effects, a plot delving into the rich history of the world with its equally enriching character backstories, and a well-formulated villain all tied up in a unifying thread of love, loss, endurance, and sacrifice — the films stands at a paltry 47%. And if one needs a less divisive example to go by, check out the RT scores of the ubiquitously beloved film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [spoiler alert: it’s lower than Shazam 2’s abhorrent rating].
Also read: “I saw where this was heading”: Shazam 2 Director Hints WB Wanted Zachary Levi’s $100M Sequel to Fail to Make Way For James Gunn’s New DCU
Shazam 2 Fails to Execute David Sandberg’s Vision
David F. Sandberg struck gold with Shazam! It was fun-packed, light-hearted, and featured an incredible tale of love, friendship, familial ties, and heroism in its 132-minute runtime. Interspersed with acts of bravery and the omnipresent CBM action sequences, the moments that otherwise felt disconnected in the transition of Billy Batson into Shazam were almost forgivable. Perhaps, Zachary Levi overplayed his childlike enthusiasm for Asher Angel’s Billy Batson because often the two entities of the same person felt rather like two entirely different people.
The second film, on the other hand, doesn’t have time to dwell on such simple matters. With gods turning on mankind and on each other, the team initiates an all-hands-on-deck protocol from the very start. And one of the things that the director misses out on in the race to the finish line is his wish to incorporate name-brand cameos. Speaking about the film’s mid-credits scene, Sandberg claims:
“It was supposed to be other characters but that fell apart at [the] last minute so Peter Safran pulled some favors. As a fan, I was happy to have them… (even though it’s perhaps a bit weird that they’re the ones recruiting for JSA).”
Also read: ‘And it will probably be 100x better’: Shazam 2 Reportedly Cost WB a Whopping $100M Less Than The Rock’s Black Adam
Clearly, the director’s original narrative did not include the cranky bickering duo, Emilia Harcourt and John Economos, sauntering (more like dragging their feet) in to recruit Shazam into the Justice Society. But if that means having someone from the old DCEU fly in (like Cavill’s Superman did with Black Adam) or having The Rock himself appear (setting up Shazam and Black Adam’s age-old feud) hasn’t been made explicitly clear in Sandberg’s tweet. However, the director did claim that he planned for a character from Black Adam’s JSA to show up to recruit Shazam into the Society.
They were supposed to be Justice Society members but when that fell apart at the last minute we had to improvise. This happened way before Gunn became boss. I know a lot of people think it was his idea but it wasn’t. I’m happy we could use his characters since I love Peacemaker
— David F. Sandberg (@ponysmasher) March 17, 2023
Unfortunately for the Shazam 2 team, there were simply a few months late in their formulating plans which, on the brighter side, doesn’t tie in the film with the old DCEU, sparing it yet another day to fight and live for under the new regime.
Shazam 2 Works Better Without Name-brand Cameos
Fury of the Gods sets a tone of urgency to the narrative from its opening moments itself, sacrificing a familiar (and favorite) character in the ensuing chaos, and keeping up the pace throughout the narrative. Never does it falter in its plot’s progression, never fails to seamlessly blend in the several tonally-different stories developing in parallel, all the while introducing new and vast realms that don’t seem overwhelming at any given point, and keeping the cracks, gags, jabs, and jokes so subtle that it actually works with the more serious approach of the film, as compared to its more blatant predecessor.
The one cameo that Shazam 2 does end up having doesn’t feel like it was put there for the sake of threading in the interconnectivity between DC’s overarching franchise. It felt natural and was superbly executed, especially since after the headless scene (a fine gag of all the headless Superman cameos that DC pulled before), the audience wasn’t expecting to find the real Gal Gadot showing up.
Also read: Shazam 2 Director Claims Zachary Levi Starrer Is as Grand as an Avengers Movie “Because there are so many characters”
The entire script moved fluidly across its 130-minute screentime, delivering just the right amount of emotional drive to its superheroes (most of them are adolescent teenagers – a lack of angst in the film wouldn’t be believable otherwise), the right amount of laughs that didn’t feel forced, the perfect composition of threats and what’s-at-stake, a reasonable villain (Hespera) turning on her sister – a maniacal villain (Kalypso), and most-of-all, a sacrifice that didn’t end up feeling futile in its climactic magnitude and execution.
Shazam 2 is a callback to what a perfectly balanced superhero film feels like and David F. Sandberg’s vision however squashed by Warner Bros. still feels like a job that is supremely well done.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is now playing in theatres worldwide.
Source: Twitter | David F. Sandberg