Is there something wrong with “Shazam- 2” or are superhero films reaching a saturation point?
Poster of the film
  • Release Date: – 16/03/2023
  • Cast: – Grace Caroline Currey, Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Rachel Zegler, Lucy Liu
  • Director: – David F. Sandberg

I have been a comic books fan for as long as I can remember. Comic books generally reach their readers in a 30-40 page weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly issue format. The protagonist or heroes as we referred to them would face earth-shattering or sometimes simple challenges that have an initiation, a middle, and a grand finale in the issues itself.

This format was later experimented on with the introduction of the long story, shared universe, and overarching storylines. But in its very basic form, comic book stories would begin and end within an issue and would encompass everything that a reader needed to know within the issue itself.

The larger narrative involving the protagonist and the recurring characters would also be developed through these stories and with every issue, the protagonist and the recurring characters would get richer and more colorful. This is exactly the kind of experience that “Shazam! Fury of the Gods gave me in its nearly 2 hours runtime.

The recurring characters and their basic traits were established in the first Shazam film. Director, David F. Sandberg, goes into this film taking it for granted that everyone has seen the first film and they know everything about these characters. So, he doesn’t waste any time in character development and immediately gets into creating threats for the heroes in the form of the three daughters of Atlas. They are on earth to unearth a McGuffin known as the “Seed of Adam” and reclaim their lost kingdom that was snatched away from them by the same order of wizards who granted our heroes their superpowers.

The heroes and the villains clash and the villains annihilate our heroes and wrest some of their superpowers. The heroes are now forced to reconsider their position and come up with better ideas to subdue the villains.

Meanwhile, the villains take their attack to the next level and look set to destroy the world. The film builds up to a world-ending climax wherein the protagonist makes the supreme sacrifice to save one and all and, in the process, unlocks his true potential.

This is a classic comic book stratagem that has been repeated over and over again. It is pulled off in this film with moderate success, quirk, and some solid action and visual wizardry toward the end.

I didn’t have any problem watching this film even though it felt extremely redundant, unimaginative, and lacked heart in the characters and drama. There wasn’t a single sequence that I couldn’t predict or one wherein I cared for the characters.

The quirky and funny tone that Sandberg goes for in the film ensures that there isn’t an iota of doubt that all the important characters will survive in the end. Every time something serious develops in the story it is quickly overshadowed by some comical dialogue or something hilarious that unfolds.

Thus, we know from start to finish that the heroes and the good people will make it through to the end. This kind of approach may be well received in a comic book but doesn’t transition well to a live-action feature film anymore.

The villains are extremely powerful but they are quirky and funny too when they are in the company of the heroes. Thus, it becomes increasingly difficult to take them seriously. Even when they are talking about mass murder and annihilation for no particular cause apart from the bad blood that they share with the ancestors of humans. This somehow feels more like a ploy to push the plot forward than something that a particular character believes in and would do out of hatred or a sense of revenge.

Thus, the predicament never lands the kind of seriousness and impact that it was supposed to and it neither leads to instilling a sense of fear nor thrill in the audiences.

One aspect of the film that did work to a certain extent was how the kid and adult versions of the characters were somewhat similar in the rendition.

This holds especially true for the characters of Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). The kids have wonderful comic timing and they use it to their advantage. Jack Dylan Grazer is particularly hilarious. He was wonderful and one of the funniest things about the first Shazam film and he continues to be so here. Asher Angel is a lot closer to his grown self-played by Zachary Levi. It must be noted that he has a lot less to do in this film but he does get better in terms of his performance. The two heavyweights, Helen Mirren, and Lucy Liu are utilized to add a sense of respectability to the cast of the film and they do just that. They breeze through their performances with a few lines here and there that grabs your attention.

The action sequences and the VFX of the film are uneven. The VFX and action in the first half are extremely poor and sometimes inexplicably revealing. The flying sequences look particularly bad.

However, as the film progresses, you understand what they are saving their money for. The dragon and the other creatures that burst out onto the screen in the second half make up for the lapses and the inconsistent VFX in the first half. There are patchy moments in the second half too but the action and the proceedings move at such a breakneck speed that you hardly get the chance to notice these inconsistencies unless you are looking for them.

Also, these inconsistencies in the VFX and action make the film feel oddly different in the two halves. The tone and the interpersonal dynamics also change in the two halves and it was not a good thing.

The film lacks a sense of urgency and any serious stakes in the story, characters, drama, and what was to become of the world. All the characters are walking around coolly even when the world as they know it is metamorphing right in front of their eyes. The same can be said about the bystanders who looked neither shocked nor threatened.

Some of the conducive coincidences that we see in the film are too much to fathom and they quickly make the proceedings utterly nonsensical. There may be little sense in questioning the sense of realism of a superhero film but suspension of disbelief must be aided by the storytelling and visuals to back it up in a film of this nature or else it is bound to liquidate the fun and intrigue of the film.

Coming back to my initial attempts to draw a parallel between the film and a comic book issue, it is somewhat successful in extracting a similar feel and sense of fun. This film would have worked wonders had it been released 20 years prior.

Sadly, we have seen so much of the superhero stuff and have seen so many better and more engaging iterations of similar stories in different mediums that now the audiences need to be wowed with something extraordinary in terms of execution, action, character development, performance, or drama. 

Sadly, this film falls flat in all these departments. It neither attempts to rise above its mediocrity nor takes itself seriously enough to incite true drama, thrill, or intrigue. I have almost forgotten everything about it except Marta Milans who was outrageously beautiful as Rosa and looked nothing like the character that was forced upon her. Her beauty and the injustice that was done to her making her play a character like Rosa will be something that I will definitely take away from this film. Chuckle! Chuckle!   

Rating: 2.5/ 5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.

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