Shazam! Fury of the Gods, by Albert W. Vogt III

Sometimes I regret the dedication I have to keeping up with The Legionnaire.  I am currently visiting with some friends of mine, who have blessed me with the honor of being Godfather to their new daughter.  How do I repay my good friend?  By taking him to see Shazam! Fury of the Gods.  Poor guy.  He spent the entire day picking up his parents from the airport, taking them shopping, cleaning the house, making dinner, and putting his son to bed.  He did this with some help, of course, but he was active in all of it.  Then, after all that is done, he got the dubious pleasure of going to the movies with me.  Had it been a better film, I would feel less bad.  I probably should have just gone by myself, as usual, and let him go to sleep.

Something was off about Shazam! Fury of the Gods from the outset.  We zoom in on Athens, Greece, from above, moving past the Acropolis, to a museum at the base of the hill.  It is night.  Despite the time of day, there are several people looking at the collected artifacts.  There is a guide in front of a standalone glass case, speaking in English and to apparently no one.  The case contains a staff broken in half, and this is what the guide is describing.  Eventually, he gains an audience when two figures dressed as Greek hoplites (look it up) stride in unison up to the broken item.  These are Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), daughters of Atlas.  To the guide’s horror, they break the glass and take the artifact, and commence to causing all kind of ancient Greek magical havoc.  The incident becomes international news, making it all the way out to television sets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Why do I specify that city, you may ask?  Because that is where Captain Everypower Jr. and his friends fight crime.  Wait, who?  Well, apparently Shazam (Zachary Levi) does not yet go by that title.  There is some further explanation needed.  He is the title superhero, but he is only in that form whenever he says shouts that word.  Otherwise, he is soon-to-be eighteen-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel).  As for the Captain Everypower Jr. sobriquet, the senior version, I guess, is his best friend and foster brother, Frederick “Freddy” Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer).  He is the one who transforms into Captain Everypower (Adam Brody).  Like Billy, the change happens when he exclaims “Shazam!”  There are four others, and they will be introduced as needed.  Finally, they all have the powers of Superman.  The problem is that they are each teenagers, all of them foster siblings. Hence, while they inhabit adult frames in superhero form and can perform incredible feats, they have the mentality of kids.  This is why the city refers to them derogatorily instead of in glowing terms as you might expect from six people with extraordinary abilities.  This is all underscored when they go out to save people from a collapsing bridge.  While they ensure that no one dies, they cannot prevent the destruction of the span and are thus ridiculed.  When they get home, the newscast of their work is interrupted by the reporting of the Athens incident.  Billy is the one who is immediately concerned, while the rest seem absorbed in their own issues, to his frustration.  The main sore spot is Freddy.  At school, Freddy attempts to stand up to a group of bullies in order to defend Anne (Rachel Zegler), the new girl at school on whom he has developed a crush.  She seems interested, too, and thus Freddy does not show up to the meetings that Billy calls in their secret lair known as the Rock of Eternity.  While Billy and the others attempt to figure what will happen, Freddy spends time with Anne.  Meanwhile, in what looks like Mount Olympus but is referred to as another dimension, Hespera and Kalypso force the captured wizard (Djimon Hounsou) to repair the staff they stole.  They plan to use it to take back the powers that they feel Billy and his siblings unjustly stole, even though it had been the wizard who granted them these abilities.  They are also looking for the seed of life, whatever that is.  It is not until Anne, who is really the third daughter of Atlas known as Anthea, finds Freddy and convinces him to change into Captain Everypower, that her sisters arrive.  So, too, do Shazam and friends (there is a DC reference for you), but not before they take Freddy’s powers.  They also make off with Freddy and put an inescapable dome around Philadelphia, for some reason.  Shazam’s next move is to arrange a trade to get back Freddy, and to set a trap for Hespera.  This they do, though Freddy and the wizard manage to escape their prison with some help from Anthea.  Hespera getting captured also plays into her plans because it allows her to steal the seed of life, which she somehow knew was in the Rock of Eternity.  Her idea had been to plant the seed in their realm.  However, Kalypso wants to punish humanity because humans are bad, mmm-kay?  Hespera has misgiving about it, but goes along with the plan, over Anthea’s objections.  Thus, she is deemed a traitor, but not before helping Freddy and the wizard get back to Philadelphia.  It is there that Kalypso plants the seed, which instantly sprouts into a giant tree from the baseball stadium with roots that extend all over the city.  From those roots spring all sorts of monsters that attack civilians.  Also, Kalypso uses the staff to strip the powers from all but Shazam.  Hespera is devastated by the destruction, but is killed by Kalypso.  This leaves a showdown between Shazam and Kalypso and her giant dragon.  Shazam emerges victorious, but it seems to have cost him his life.  Luckily, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) shows up at the end, fixes the broken staff Shazam used to defeat Kalypso and the dragon (band name!), and brings Shazam back to life.  She also restores the abilities to the other five.  Thus, they return to Philadelphia to rebuild where the wizard finally calls Billy by the title name, Shazam.

I will hand to my friend.  While watching Shazam! Fury of the Gods, he agreed with me that it felt like there was someone just off camera making this stuff up as they went along.  Oh, does this threat of losing their powers not seem big enough?  Why not toss in something about the seed of life and how it can destroy the entire world?  I guess we have not seen enough of that, have we?  At least this time it is a tree instead of a blue laser.  The bigger issue, though, is the constant desire for Hespera and Kalypso to take back the powers they feel unfairly given to Billy and his siblings.  They can only look at the humans as humans, and therefore unworthy of being gods.  Please note the small “g.”  I could not understand what they were so bent out of shape about that they had to go through the trouble.  Kalypso can get people to do her bidding by whispering in their ears, Hespera controlled elements (?), and Anthea could manipulate reality.  While the Shazamites could fly really fast, are super strong, and shoot lightning bolts, this all seemed inadequate in dealing with the combined might of the Atlas sisters.  So, what were they missing?  I did not understand the motivation.  There were other parts that seemed equally made up that I did not follow the logic of as it unfolded.

Much of Shazam! Fury of the Gods focuses on Greek mythology.  There also seems to be some Christian theology mixed in as well.  I am referring to the Tree of Life, the seed of which is a golden apple.  If that is not an allusion to Christianity, then I should probably read my Bible again.  If you are unfamiliar with these references, in Genesis, our distant ancestors ate an apple, though from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  God had forbidden Adam and Eve from taking of its fruit, but the serpent tricks Eve into partaking, and Adam soon follows suit.  It was sort of a package deal, except humanity has paid the consequences for this action ever since.  Adam and Eve existed in the Garden, relying on God as would a child on her or his parents.  A child is wholly innocent, which why subsequent Christianity preaches that this is how we should approach our individual relationships with God.  Eating of the apple, as it says in the Bible, opened man’s eyes to a whole host of things that were best left to God’s purview.  Indeed, one of the serpent’s lures was that it would make us like gods.  Sound familiar?  Shazam is basically a god, but he combines it with an innocence.  This makes for some eye-rolling humor, cinematically, but you can at least see what they are going for thematically.  I wonder what Shazam is going to be like when Billy gets to be an adult.  You can kind of see this with the oldest of their group, Mary Bromfield (Grace Caroline Currey).  Incidentally, she is the only one that does not need an adult body.  At any rate, she cares more about getting through college and shows up to one of their meetings hung over.  In short, Adam and Eve probably should have left that apple alone.  Then again, there is no use complaining over spilled fruit.

There is nothing in Shazam! Fury of the Gods that is too objectionable.  It is just silly and full of plot holes.  If that is your idea of a good time, have at it.  As for me, my time with my friend might have been better served if we had just gotten sushi.


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