‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’: Sequel subjects the superhero, once fresh, to a generic showdown

Teenage Billy Batson’s alter ego muscles his way through loud, underwhelming action sequences.

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In “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” the title character (Zachary Levi) gets help from other superheroes to save Philadelphia.

Warner Bros.

If you wandered into a theater during one of the many loud, overblown and underwhelming action sequences in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” you’d know immediately you were seeing a superhero movie. But unless you’re fully geeked and loaded when it comes to identifying the various save-the-world universes, it might take a beat or two for you to figure out WHICH superhero movie you were watching.

Hey, there’s an iconic, Oscar-winning actor all costumed up as a god of some sort and making Shakespearean pronouncements! Ooh, and there’s a ferocious dragon who looks like a 4/5ths completed version of one of the flying beasts from the “Game of Thrones” franchise. Meanwhile, there’s some sort of Golden Apple everyone wants, and an ancient magic staff capable of harnessing incredible powers, and creepy-slimy CGI creatures are plucking innocent humans from the streets of the big city and hurling them this way and that, and the good guys are alternating between snappy banter and declarations of love and loyalty for their fellow crusaders …

You get the idea. We’ve seen this movie before.

‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’

Untitled

Warner Bros. presents a film directed by David F. Sandberg and written by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan. Rated PG (for sequences of action and violence, and language). Running time: 130 minutes. Now showing at local theaters.

The first “Shazam!” from 2019 was a big ball of fun and a real breath of fresh air in the genre, with director David F. Sandberg and headliner Zachary Levi teaming up to introduce the likable and silly but brave Billy Batson, a 14-year-old kid who can be transformed into a handsome, dashing grown man in a red suit simply by shouting the word “Shazam!” It was great fun — I likened it to a PG-13 “Deadpool” — but as we pick up Billy/Shazam’s story about four years later, it quickly becomes apparent this is just going to be a by-the-numbers, second-tier adventure with only a few small chuckles and one or two genuinely touching moments. The rest is just noise.

Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu play Hespera and Kalypso, respectively, who are the daughters of Atlas and have swooped into Philadelphia to reclaim that aforementioned magic staff, which is rightfully theirs or so we’re told. After they literally enclose the city in a bubble, which is I suppose some sort of metaphor about how “Fury of the Gods” exists in a DC Extended Universe bubble save for one cheesy cameo I won’t spoil, it’s up to the nearly 18-year-old Billy (Asher Angel) and his alter ego Shazam (Levi) and the rest of the gang to put a stop to these powerful antagonists and save the city.

Everyone is just fine and quite likable in their roles, from Faithe Herman and Meagan Good as the young and adult Darla; Jack Dylan Grazer and Adam Brody as Freddy; Jovan Armand and D.J. Cotrona as Pedro; Ian Chen and Ross Butler as Eugene — though only Freddy’s character gets a substantial storyline. Rachel Zegler sparkles as a new arrival in town who takes a liking to Freddy and has some secrets of her own, and you can’t go wrong with Djimon Honsou returning as Wizard, who is, well, a Wizard.

The only thing really noteworthy about “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is the ending, which features a strangely framed and edited surprise, followed by another “surprise” which is the least surprising twist in recent superhero movie history. In the best movies in this genre, there are real consequences. Here, it’s all inconsequential.

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