Earth’s mightiest champion will face the wrath of fickle fans with Shazam! Fury of the Gods. After a fun first entry, this sequel often forgets what makes the character unique, and it’s not Zachary Levi in improv comedy overdrive. At least the last act was fun. This middling sequel scores a strong Dolby Vision transfer with Atmos audio to match and an impressive selection of bonus features. Some folks loved it and they'll definately want to pick up this disc, for others - consider it Worth A Look
"Taste the rainbow mother fu-----!"
Is it superhero fatigue? Is it because an entire comic book cinematic universe is about to be rebooted? Or is it simply just another mediocre superhero flick? Those are some of the questions folks might ask about what they just saw with Shazam! Fury of the Gods. After a heartfelt family-friendly first film that explored the teenage Billy Batson (Asher Angel) as he wrestles with his newfound superhero alter-ego Shazam (Zachary Levi), this sequel is almost all Zachary Levi’s Shazam and loses a lot of the human heart that made the first film so special.
While the diabolical Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) is incarcerated in a hospital for the criminally insane, Shazam and his Shazamily Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer / Adam Brody), Eugene (Ian Chen / Ross Butler), Pedro (Jovan Armand / D.J. Cotrona), Darla (Faithe Herman / Meagan Good) and Mary (Grace Caroline Currey / Grace Caroline Currey) have been keeping Philadelphia safe… sort of. While they save the day, they’re not always good at it. As Billy’s adoptive family begins to fray with their own interests and goals, their bond will be tested further when the Daughters of Atlas Kalypso (Lucy Liu), Hespera (Helen Mirren), and Anthea (Rachel Zagler) return to rejuvenate their realm by replanting the seed of the Tree of Life thus threatening all of mankind in the process.
I really enjoyed 2019’s Shazam! Of the DC slate at the time, it was a favorite because it was light, breezy, fun superhero shenanigans with a great cast, strong writing, and a lot of heart. I was ready for a sequel as soon as I left the theater (and later reviewed the 3D Blu-ray). It’s one of my new favorite holiday films to pull out around Christmas. Sadly Shazam! Fury of the Gods has left me wishing the franchise had actually stayed one and done.
Part of what made the first Shazam! so good was that it was about the human Billy Batson and his search for his mom. In the process of finding her, he finds his real family - even if they’re not related by blood. This sequel brings everyone back but it’s lacking that bond. There's a limp subplot about Billy aging out of the foster system, but it's inadequately explored for it to resonate. Part of what undoes this movie for me is Billy, Mary, Freddy, Darla, Pedro, and Eugene spend so much time in hero form to the point we forget that they’re all insecure kids and young adults at heart.
To that point, Levi’s wise-cracking portrayal of Shazam in the first film worked because he was used sparingly. His comedic antics were well-timed so the jokes landed and didn’t trade humor for excitement as he tried to figure out his new powers and abilities. It’s the other way around for Fury of the Gods. Levi is nearly always on screen and almost never leaves motor-mouthed joke mode often extinguishing any real excitement before it begins. Then there’s the overly generic plot to overcome.
When it comes to the villains, let's just cut to the chase - they’re not Black Adam. I don’t really understand (or even care now) the who, what, where, and whys that Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam never properly appeared in the first film or was used as the appropriate comic-accurate villain for this second at-bat, but generic magic gods with generic CGI dragon don’t cut it. To be fair, I liked Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu, they were actually two good highlights while Rachel Zagler has some fun interplay with Grazer’s human Freddy. That was fine. But fine isn’t special, it isn’t exciting, it isn’t new or wonderful, or something you want to bench a growing franchise on.
I will say the film finally finds its footing in the third act and some of those missing pieces of the puzzle that made the first film so great do start to fall into place. Who knew it’d take Skittles and scary-ass unicorns but the flick finally (sort of) got there and I started to get into it. Levi’s maddeningly madcap Shazam persona calmed down and he got to the true heroics and the family vibe that was missing for most of the two-hour-plus runtime finally came to life.
At the end of the day, Shazam! Fury of the Gods was just another watchable but ultimately mediocre superhero outing. I don’t necessarily think it’s “Superhero Fatigue” that’s dooming our mightiest comic heroes on the big screen. I think that we’ve been spoiled now with so much good content that when something doesn’t measure up that it becomes an even bigger miss. You can only get so far with big distracting colorful CGI nowadays. Maybe I’ll warm up to Fury of the Gods in later viewings but for now, I’d say it’s a good thing that Shazam! Isn’t on the new DCU slate of projects. Let the character rest and find a story that’s worth bringing back Levi and his Shazamily for.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Shazam! Fury of the Gods lightning strikes home video with a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital release from Warner Bros. The 4k is pressed on a BD-100 disc (even if it only uses 70 gigs) with a BD-50 used for the 1080p disc. The discs are housed in a standard sturdy two-disc case with identical embossed slipcover artwork. The discs load to WB’s standard static image main menu with navigation options along the lower edge of the screen.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods works its magic on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an often excellent 2160p 2.39:1 Dolby Vision HDR transfer. Not quite reference quality, but when it’s cooking it’s using plenty of fire. So in the plus column, practical effects details are terrific. Every little piece of clothing and costuming detail, production design work, and facial feature is ready to be observed. Hairs in Djimon Hounsou’s beard and dreadlocks or the tiny little intricate details in the Shazam’s Shazamily’s costumes look fantastic and easily counter what we see on the included 1080p Blu-ray (which is good in its own rights, but this is the better choice). Closeups and middle shots are generally fantastic and depending on how it was achieved, wide shots can look amazing.
The Dolby Vision HDR grade is well applied giving plenty of attention to the range of colors for the superheroes while accenting the golden/brown earth tones for the Daughters of Atlas and their realm. Black levels are generally on point with some nice deep inky blacks with healthy shadows for added depth, but there were a few darker effects-heavy sequences that lost some of that visual appeal looking a bit hazy and a bit flat with what looks like some digital noise. To that end, some of the CGI-heavy action sequences suffer some weightlessness with HDR and the added resolution. While I don’t really understand what the hell Rachel Zegler's Angthea’s powers were, that shifty swirling building effect could look either really cool or practically weightless, especially if there was an actual human actor on screen. Back into the plus column, specular highlights are gorgeous - especially all of the lightning blasts (and there are a lot of those). All around an impressive but not reference quality transfer.
When Shazam! Fury of the Gods goes big, it’s great in Atmos, but it does have an odd use of the spacing available within the soundscape. Basic auditory elements like dialog are crystal clear without issue. Christopher Beck’s score is fantastic stuff lending some great music cues for all of the action beats throughout. For the action-heavy sequences, the full soundscape really comes to life with tons of imaging throughout all of the channels. The film hits this high note early when the Daughters of Atlas secures the staff and Kalypso uses her hypnosis speech powers on the people, the voices swirl and dip and weave around the channels for a really fun immersive quality. Likewise for bigger action sequences on the bridge or whenever any kind of lightning effect happens, those front/center, side, rear, and height channels get plenty of attention.
It’s the quieter conversational sequences that can suddenly sound less active or spacious. When the family is in their home and there are characters moving all around the house, upstairs, downstairs, to the sides, the height and spacial effects felt oddly limited. Likewise, whenever the Shazamily spends any time in the Rock of Eternity, there isn’t much “space” to the setting or even when they go see all of the doors, there’s no echo or stretching of the effects to make that space sound vast and infinite. I also felt like I had to ride my volume a bit more. Maybe not to a level of a typical Atmouse mix from Disney, but darn close as I felt the need to pop it up a couple of notches. Like the transfer, great when good, but not reference.
On the bonus features front it’s nice to see that despite being a tough flop in theaters, that didn’t cause Warner Bros. to skimp on the extras. Some of the stuff is your typical EPK filler, but there’s also some quality material here to dig into. At the front is another excellent Sandberg commentary track. He flies solo again, but even without someone to bounce material off of he’s a wealth of interesting factoids about making the film, choosing some edits to cut, what to leave in, and simply how they decided to do some pretty big sequences. The movie may not be great, in my opinion at least, but it was cool to hear him run through the process of what choices were made and why. After that, we get to ingest over thirty minutes of deleted scenes. A lot of material is extraneous extensions cut for pacing and timing, but there are also some interesting sequences I’d have been curious to see left in at the expense of cutting some of the repetitive gag humor.
4K UHD Disc
Shazam! Fury of the Gods invites the wrath of the post-pandemic box office for an underwhelming second cinematic outing for this classic superhero. The film has moments and thankfully the final act is action-packed entertainment, but often this show loses sight of the heart that made the first film so wonderful. At least that’s how it turned out for me.
On 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Shazam! Fury of the Gods scores an all-around impressive Dolby Vision transfer and solid Atmos audio albeit with some small caveats that keep it from being a reference quality disc. Sweetening the deal, there are some worthwhile bonus features including an interesting commentary and a bunch of deleted scenes that didn’t make the final cut. I didn’t love Fury of the Gods, I really wanted to and I know some folks who did so if you’re a fan it’s a worthwhile pickup. At the very least, Worth A Look.