Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Another forgettable superhero flick

One of my friends once told me that he comes to care about superhero flicks far less than before, and I came to feel more like him while watching “Shazam! Fury of the Gods”. Although I was not terribly bored during my viewing at last night, I remained mostly unimpressed and distant throughout its 130-minute running time without much care or attention, and all I can say is that the movie is just marginally better than that boring superhero flick starring Dwayne Johnson in last year.

I enjoyed “Shazam!” (2019) enough for recommendation, but, folks, I do not remember that much about it although it has been only four years since I watched it in 2019. Oh, yes, we all went through a pretty hard time in one way or another during last three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so 2019 feels like a distant past these days, but I still cannot recollect much of “Shazam!” except its silly but rather amusing story premise.

The story premise of “Shazam!” is surely simple enough to remember. After his fateful encounter with an old ancient wizard played Djimon Hounsou, Billy Baston (Asher Angel) comes to acquire the power to transform into a mighty superhero figure played by Zachary Levi, and he comes to share his power with his fellow foster kids including Frederick “Freddy” Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) as going through their first big adventure.

Since that adventure, Billy and his fellow foster kids have often done some heroic stuffs in their hometown while hiding their superhero identity from others around them, but things do not look exactly good for them. Despite their latest heroic act, they are still not so welcomed by the city and its citizens, and Billy is also having some emotional issues as he feels more insecure about himself and his future. He and his fellow foster kids have had some fun together inside and outside the house belonging to their generous foster parents, but they are growing older day by day, and they may be separated from each other someday if they are too old to be under their foster care.

And then, of course, there comes a new menace which will threaten not only their city but also the whole world. Three ancient gods, who happened to be released by Billy’s rather reckless deed in the previous film, are looking for Billy and his fellow foster kids, and these ancient gods, played by Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler, want to retrieve not only the superpower of Billy and his friends but also something they need for restoring their barren world. Once warned by that old wizard, Billy and his friends try to stop these ancient gods, but they soon find themselves becoming pretty helpless for a good reason, and there is also one complicated situation between Freddy and one of their opponents.

The mood subsequently becomes all the more serious as heaps of CGI creatures and actions are unfolded onto the screen, but I observed that from the distance without enough entertainment. As hurriedly moving its main characters from one point to another, the movie is frequently contrived in terms of story and characters, and the romantic subplot between Freddy and the aforementioned character feels rather redundant as often being pushed aside for more actions served to us.

Like the previous film, the movie occasionally tries a number of silly moments for some amusement, but most of them are flat and disposable on the whole. Although he can be both funny and likable as shown from the previous film, Levi’s performance here in this film is somehow deficient in comic spontaneity, and his superhero character remains to be a one-joke superhero figure just like the fellow superhero figures surrounding him. In case of Jack Dylan Grazer, he tries as much as he can do with his conventional sidekick character, but he is often limited by his under-developed role, and the same thing can be said about Zegler, who is considerably wasted here compared to her wonderful breakout turn in Steven Spielberg’s recent musical film.

In contrast, Mirren and Liu acquit themselves well as the two main antagonistic figures in the story. While Liu has a few juicy big moments from her character’s vengeful aspects, Mirren shows admirable professional commitment as effortlessly bringing some menace and authority to her character. She knows that playing absolutely straight is the best way to handle the materials given to her, and she certainly amuses us as maintaining her usual unflappable attitude even during the silliest moments in the film. As a matter of fact, she is as heroic as she was in that dreadful high school black comedy film “Teaching Mrs. Tingle” (1999), where she was incidentally its sole saving grace.

Overall, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods”, directed by David F. Sandberg (He also directed the previous film, by the way), is another forgettable superhero flick of this year after “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (2022), and they made me wearier about all those superhero movies to come during next several years. In my inconsequential opinion, the ongoing era of superhero movies had already passed the peak even before “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) came, and the disappointing results of “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” confirm my little concern more. I will surely keep reviewing whatever will come next, but, considering my ever-growing weariness with superhero flicks, I do not know whether I can actually endure.

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