“What is happening right now?’ exclaims Shazam (Zachary Levi) in this action comedy sequel to a popular comic-book original; it’s the right question to ask. Making movies is a tricky business, and stars and behind-the-camera talent alike have proven as erratic and unpredictable as the audience’s demands. So superhero movies, which depend more on masked and costumed IP than on hot talent, provided an ideal if temporary solution that worked in most international territories; why wonder about the cultural translations of character, plot or comedy when you can just have two giant figures bashing each other as another city crumbles to dust?
Like the third Ant Man film for Marvel, Shazam’s 2’s poor box office returns for DC suggest that audiences are suffering for advanced superhero fatigue. In David F Sandberg’s film, Shazam himself is introduced deep in reflective conversation with his counsellor, complaining of ‘impostor syndrome’. We get the impression that he’s not enjoying his prominence; for reasons not entirely clear since he’s a genuine hero, everyone in downtown Philly hates him. Worse still, ‘daughters of Atlas’ Kalypso and Hespera (Lucy Liu and yes, that’s really yer actual Helen Mirren) have appeared looking for some kind of broken magic staff that can lead to a magical apple that might give them ultimate powers or something. So Shazam hooks up with his Shazamily to take stock in the Rock of Eternity and hatch the resistance to the ‘Greek sisters’ and their otherworldly intervention.
Shazam 2 doesn’t aim to do much more than re-tread the ’kid that’s friends with superheroes’ theme of the original film, but the laws of diminishing returns applies. So the garnish is important, and includes cameos (Wolf Blitzer and Wonder Woman), retro references (The Goonies, yet again), music cues (The catchy musical theme from Superstars, somehow), unsubtle advertising slogans (‘taste the rainbow!’) and other crowd-pleasing ephemera. The big novelty here is Mirren, veteran star of such culty films as Hussy and O Lucky Man, who suffers various indignities in the name of modern comedy. That means shilling for Gatorade, being physically wrestle-slammed into a concrete floor, Shazam saying ‘sucks balls’ to her and a weird Fast and Furious reference that’s just too confusing to unpack. Mirren being the trouper she has always been (and here’s a clip that shows exactly what she’s been up against in darker times), wears it well, but it’s a dancing bear of an extended cameo, remarkable for its existence rather than the quality.
Films with dragons landing in baseball stadiums aren’t to be taken too seriously, and Shazam 2 is no better or worse than last year’s similarly mechanical Black Adam. But if these films are to be ‘amusement parks for the brain’ then the rides need to be more involving and intense than this. A slam on a passing character who doesn’t know what Comic Con is feels agonisingly sour; maybe the target audience are familiar with all the details of such events, but for the rest of us, such in jokes are alienating and produce nothing more than a shrug. ‘Destiny’s Child did it better’ says one character, and he’s right; almost everyone else has done this kind of movie long before Shazam got round to it.
Thanks to Warner Bros UK for access.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is out now on most streaming services.
I gave up after Endgame. The clue was in the title there.
Good of then to provide such a clear and obvious exit ramp…
My thoughts exactly.
Pretty sure I gave up after Thor II. Wish I had stopped after the 3rd X-Men and never even started on Marvel.
As someone who loves movies and theaters, hate to root against box office success for any film. But it would be nice if people started sending the message that they’ll fill seats to watch something other than superhero movies.
And if they’ll only come for superhero movies, then we’ve already lost.
Yup, but I think there’s growing evidence that the superhero boom is no longer the licence to print money that it became. Films like Shazam 2 and Arnt Man 3 still do a turn, but not in the way that was hoped for or expected. Streaming as settled down to being second tier to movies, so the big challenge now is to create new and successful IP that brings in the punters. Lets hope so!
I enjoyed the first one. But only because of it’s novelty. A rewatch of it showed me its complete shallowness. So a sequel hasn’t a hope of getting watched by me. I wish it luck and all the best, but it just isn’t going to be for me…
Not even to see Helen Mirren ride a dragon?
I can accept her as an aging assassin, but not a super villain…
Hard pass. Didn’t see the first one so no point in this.
Back to watching Harry and Flo trying to make it in their ideal community. I wish there was some source I could turn to — some online authority on film, if you will — that would warn me to stay away from these turkeys.
I did I issued a stern warning about that one. But I will wait for you to tell me exactly what I should have thought…
I’ll get back on it and let you and Fraggle get to practicing your oaths of allegiance for tomorrow’s big event.
Yea, swearing will be a big part of tomorrow. Are you going to fraggle’s street party? Saw the bunting up…
You very nearly got swear words and rudery for that comment. The only thing I’m celebrating is another extra day off on Monday and I don’t need bunting for that.
Use that extra day for something better than watching the means via which the elite suppress the will of the people!
I have every intention of doing just that. (The something better, not the supressing people bit).
Is the correct answer.