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At The Movies: ‘Shazam! Fury’ in Philly

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is the 12th entry in the superhero marketing machine called the DC Extended Universe, not to be confused with the rival multiverse marketing machine called the Marvel Extended Universe.

The conceit, or cinematic device, or gimmick, in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” a sequel to “Shazam!” (2019), is that the main character, a teen-ager named Billy Batson (Asher Angel) becomes an adult superhero, Shazam (Zachary Levi), with super powers, when he shouts “Shazam,” the name of a wizard.

Black Adam also says “Shazam” to summon his super powers. However, even that might not return Black Adam to the DC Extended Universe orbit.

It didn’t work for Gomer Pyle, who says “Shazam!” on TV’s “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” (1964-1969) and “The Andy Griffith Show” (1960-1968). Gomer is still, well, Gomer.

Captain Marvel, aka Shazam, first appeared in 1939 in Whiz Comics. Because the character, Captain Marvel, is a trademark of Marvel Comics, the character was reintroduced as Shazam by DC Comics in 1972.

Saying “Shazam” will not resolve that legal case. The multiverse only goes so far. Apparently, the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe twain shall never meet.

And here you thought super heroes were all about super powers when all along they’re about their real sidekicks: attorneys, who have the real super powers: lawsuits.

Even so, the incantation, Shazam, is powerful stuff: an anagram for Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage) and Mercury (speed). There will be a quiz about all of this at the end of the movie column. Just kiddin.’

Billy Batson and his foster-care family of siblings are imbued with superhero powers by the Council of Wizards’ one and only, Shazam (Djimon Hounsou).

In addition to Billy Batson, the family includes Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer as a teen with a disability and Adam Brody as the the character’s adult superhero), Mary Bromfield (Grace Caroline Currey as the teen and adult superhero), Eugene Choi (Ian Chen as the youth and Ross Butler as the adult superhero), Pedro Peña (Jovan Armand as the young version and D. J. Cotrona as the adult superhero) and Darla Ducley (Faithe Herman as the girl and Meagan Good as the adult superhero).

By my count, that’s six siblings in the household of Rosa Vasquez (Marta Milans) and Victor Vasquez (Cooper Andrews). Even the foster parents seem bewildered by the children in their care. For the casual movie-goer, it’s even more difficult because, there are 11 actors playing the six roles. There would be an even dozen in the dual roles, but Grace Caroline Currey plays the teen and adult superhero Mary.

Now just when you think you have this game of basketball teams-sized characters slam-dunked, in addition to the “Shazamily,” as the foster care family is dubbed, there are the gods. That these are Greek gods makes it even more complicated. The movie’s “Night at the Museum” opening scenes don’t help.

On the “Gods” side of the Universe, there’s, of course, the wizard, Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), who hovers in the real world and the world of the Gods like a dreadlocks without the reggae music.

Anne, aka Anthea (Rachel Zegler), youngest daughter of Atlas, is the love interest of Freddy Freeman.

The real Godfathers in the movie are Godmothers: Hespera (Helen Mirren), eldest daughter of Atlas, and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), middle daughter of Atlas, with predictable middle-daughter neuroses, including impulse control and anger management. Her issues have issues.

The fury for me in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is figuring all this out concerning the characters and following them in the plot line, which switches back and forth between the teens and their adult superhero alter egos.

Add to this the release of some half-dozen hideous monsters, including a dragon that would give Godzilla a run for his wrath.

In “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” it’s not Tokyo or New York City that’s the target, but rather Philadelphia. The William Penn sculpture by Alexander Calder atop City Hall is still standing, but Citizens Bank Park takes a beating.

Hopefully, the grass and turf playing field is restored in time for the Philadelphia Phillies’ first home game April 6 for the 2023 Major League Baseball season against the Cincinnati Reds. No problem. Divots the sizes of sinkholes are courtesy computer-generated imagery.

Oh, and by the way, the Ben Franklin Bridge snaps its britches, er, its cable supports, which seem to get repaired during the course of the movie.

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is directed by David F. Sandberg (director, “Annabelle: Creation,” 2017; “Lights Out,” 2016) from a screenplay by Henry Gayden (screenwriter, “Shazam!,” “Earth to Echo,” 2014), Chris Morgan (screenwriter, “The Fast and the Furious” series, “Cellular,” 2004) from characters created by Bill Parker (1911 - 1963).

The computer-generated imagery of the action scenes is impressive. The character of Shazam can move at the speed of The Road Runner (Warner Brothers “Looney Tunes” cartoon character, beginning in 1949).

The dialogue is often quippy fun. For example, as a car teeters on the Ben Franklin Bridge, the radio plays Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero” (1984). Shazam says to the woman behind the wheel, something to the effect, ”You gotta be kidding me. You want me to rescue you to that song?”

There are many other self-referential asides, mostly by Zachary Levi as Shazam. Levi has a plasticity to his face that ranges from self-admonishing to faux smugness to startled deer-in-headlights. He’s the most well-adjusted and cheerful of superheroes. Levi has the gift of goofy charm.

Excellent in supporting roles are Jack Dylan Grazer as the young Freddy Freeman, Grace Caroline Currey as Mary, Rachel Zegler as Anne-Anthea and Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren as the goddesses from hell.

The real goddess is Gal Gadot in a cameo as Wonder Woman. Gadot is always an absolute delight.

Each of the 11 actors playing the siblings in the “Shazamily” is well-cast and quite good. It’s too bad that they are not given more screen time, which is dominated by monster fights, fights by monsters with monsters, fights by Shazam with gods and monsters, and the urban removal of Philadelphia. What is it with superhero movies and the blowing up and battering of urban landscapes? Build it and it will be demolished.

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” can be enjoyed by teens, fans of the superhero movie genre and adults who relish a pun on wry.

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods,”

MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.) for sequences of action and violence, and language; Genre: Science-Fiction, Action, Comedy; Run time: 2 hours, 10 minutes. Distributed by Warner Brothers.

Credit Readers Anonymous:

The “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” end credits have lovely line-drawing images of the movie’s characters and scenes as Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” (JXL Edit Remix, 2017) is heard. Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and Steve Agee (John Economos) appear opposite Shazam (Zachary Levi) in a silly mid-credits scene. At the very end of the movie, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) is visited in his prison cell by the alien worm, Mister Mind (voiced by director David F. Sandberg).

At the Movies:

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” was seen at AMC Tilghman 8 in the standard format. There are scenes which would benefit from seeing the movie in the Dolby or Imax format.

Theatrical Movie Domestic Box Office,

March 24 - 26: “John Wick: Chapter 4” opened with a solid $73.5 million in 3,855 theaters, as “Creed III” moved up one place to No. 2 with $10.4 million in 3,207 theaters, $140.8 million, four weeks, and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” dropped two places with $9.7 million in 4,071 theaters, $46.3 million, two weeks.

4. “Scream VI” dropped two places, $8.4 million in 3,355 theaters, $89.8 million, three weeks. 5. “65” dropped one place, $3.2 million in 2,786 theaters, $27.8 million, three weeks. 6. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” dropped one place, $2.4 million in 1,915 theaters, $209.8 million, six weeks. 7. “Cocaine Bear” dropped one place, $2 million in 2,207 theaters, $62.1 million, five weeks. 8. “Jesus Revolution” dropped one place, $2 million in 1,964 theaters, $49 million, five weeks. 9. “Champions” dropped one place, $1.5 million in 1,917 theaters, $13.5 million, three weeks. 10. “Avatar: The Way of Water” dropped one place, $1.4 million in 935 theaters, $680.4 million, 15 weeks.

Movie box office information from Box Office Mojo as of March 26 is subject to change


March 31:

“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,”

PG-13: John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein direct Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez and Hugh Grant in the Action, Adventure, Fantasy. The quest film is based on the table-top role-playing game.


R: Jon S. Baird directs Taron Egerton, Miles Barrow and Toby Jones in the History Biography. The story of how one of the world’s most popular video games was developed.


R: Jesse Atlas directs Bruce Willis, Andy Allo and Dominic Purcell in the Action, Crime, Thriller. A CIA team must retrieve an experimental drone.


April 1:

“Miracle at Manchester,”

No MPAA rating: Eddie McClintock directs Dean Cain, Daniel Roebuck, Kathy Patterson and himself in the Family film. A community aids a teen battling cancer in the story based on true events.


April 3:

“Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields,”

No MPAA rating: Lana Wilson directs the documentary Biography about model-actress-celebrity Brooke Shields.

Movie opening information from Internet Movie Database as of March 26 is subject to change

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY LIONSGATE Philadelphia freedom: Zachary Levi (Shazam), center, foreground, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods.”