When the first Shazam! movie as released in 2019 it seemed to take most comic book fans by surprise. It felt like people were not expecting much and were then blown away by a film that was made up of an interesting, fresh storyline, characters that were easy to fall in love with and just the right amount of humour.

The resulting success of the film, at both the box office and in the minds and hearts of the fans, now meant that director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) has some big expectations to meet with the follow-up Shazam! Fury of The Gods. Could he possibly keep the franchise on a roll with as much heart and creativity the second time around? Well the good news is – the answer to that question is a resounding ‘Yes.’

The films picks up not longer after the first in the franchise and finds Shazam (Zachary Levi – Tangled) struggling in the role of a yet to be officially named superhero. The city is yet to embrace him and he even feels that his side-kicks and allies don’t respect or listen to him when he tries to show authority. To be honest even him himself feels like he is completely out of his depth.

To make matters worse his alter-ego Billy Baston (Asher Angel – Darby And The Dead) is facing a dilemma of his home. His foster father (Cooper Andrews – The Walking Dead) and foster mother (Marta Milans – No Tomorrow) are doing it tough financially and he knows that with him about to turn 18 he maybe asked to move on or to find a job to help out.

In fact the only person that seems to be happy with the way things are going is Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer – It) who is in a happy world of his own after the new girl at school, Ann (Rachel Zegler – West Side Story), takes an interest in him.

Even that happiness is short lived though when the entire group (nicknamed the Philadelphia Fiascos by the press) find themselves and their powers under threat when two Ancients, Hespera (Helen Mirren – The Queen) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu – Charlie’s Angels), arrive in our realm determined to take back the power they see as rightfully theirs and do not care if they have to kill humanity in order to do so.

Anyone concerned that David F. Sandberg couldn’t recreate the magic of the first film this time around will soon be silenced by a film that not only seems to capture the feel of the first film but also manages to elevate it to a new level of epic. Everything that people loved from the first film is all there – there is the humour that is guaranteed to have people laughing out loud and there is brilliantly written characterisation even amongst the villains – which means talented actresses like Mirren and Liu actually get something to work with throughout the film.

Perhaps more important though is the heart that Sandberg is able to capture with this film. At the heart of this film is family and a sense of belonging and that is not lost for Sandberg and his trio of writers. There is a warmth to nearly all the characters in the film and the relationships that they are involved in – even surprisingly with the villains – and the result is once again characters that the audience can’t help but care about and a storyline that everyone is going to find themselves falling in love with.

But then also comes the epic side of the film as well. The special effects and action sequences this time around are out of this world. The bridge collapse and the flight sequences are stunning and suspenseful while the dark, foreboding times during the dragon attack see both Sandberg and his cinematographer, Gyula Pados (The Duchess), come into their own. That part of the film not only looks visually spectacular but will also have the audience on the edge of their seats as well.

As previously mentioned the film’s well written screenplay does allow for the actors to really put on a show. Mirren and Liu are amazing as the two main villains while youngsters Rachel Zegler and Jack Dylan Grazer really step up to make their characters some of the most fascinating this time around. Credit must also be paid to Zachery Levi who as Shazam! has to find the right mix of comedic and dramatic acting and manages to do it time and time again throughout the film.

Shazam! Fury of The Gods turns the tide on some of the sub-par comic book films recently and reminds us what this genre can be like when the filmmakers behind a film not only understand the subject matter but remember one important ingredient – heart. This film is entertaining, humorous, suspenseful and has just enough surprises to keep any hardcore DC fan happy.

Shazam! Fury Of The Gods is currently screening in Phuket and is rated ‘G’.

3.5/5 Stars