Movie review: Shazam! sequel shows that the magic might be gone

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Shazam! Fury Of The Gods (PG13)

131 minutes, opens on Thursday

2 stars

The story: Billy Batson (Asher Angel as the teen version and Zachary Levi as the adult) and siblings at the foster home now accept that they can transform into superheroes, following the wizardly events of Shazam! (2019). The sudden appearance of the daughters of the god Atlas, played by Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler, put the city of Philadelphia in danger. The young heroes must fight the new menace, while trying to keep everyone, including their foster parents, unaware of their alter egos.

The less-than-thrilling Black Adam (2022) features the same deities as this movie and both suffer from the same issues: poorly sketched villains, one-dimensional good guys and an overreliance on action to fill up the time.

Throwing the likes of Liu and Mirren into the roles of goddesses Kalypso and Hespera respectively is like racing Formula One cars in a HDB carpark. They are tragically underused as characters who could have added much-needed scares and depth to a movie overflowing with sunny kids and even sunnier foster parents.

Kalypso and Hespera are there to spit out a line of lore explaining why they are compelled to do this or that bit of destruction – after a while, the accumulation of stuff about magic fruit and wands becomes a blur – then get to business turning parts of Philadelphia into a wasteland. Or at least, in some magical way, reducing the property value of certain areas.

Even for a superhero movie based on magic, it feels perfunctory. The first movie, if you remember, had a fully formed and properly sinister baddie in the form of frustrated wannabe superhero Sivana, played by Mark Strong. He also looked menacing and motivated, while Liu and Mirren mainly look bored. For some reason, director David F. Sandberg, who also helmed the first film, told the actresse...

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