The wisdom of Solomon. The strength of Hercules. The stamina of Atlas. The power of Zeus. The courage of Achilles. The speed of Mercury.
It’s a nice summary of Billy Batson’s powers when he’s in his Shazam form. But it’s actually more than just a summary. It’s actually a categorical list of all the gods, demigods and (apparently) an Israelite king from whom Shazam takes his powers. And we learn that a previous Shazam did, indeed, literally take them (though Billy wasn’t aware of any of this), leaving the aforementioned deities powerless.
And here’s the thing—the gods don’t exactly appreciate it when you steal their powers.
They (the Greek titans and gods, that is) have been sealed away from our world by a magical staff for thousands of years, which is why we haven’t seen them—and as long as that staff remains intact, that seal cannot be broken.
You might remember that said staff made its appearance in the first Shazam! movie, when Billy and his foster siblings battled it out with the maniacal Dr. Sivana and his Seven Deadly Sins. You might also remember how Billy broke said staff in half during said battle.
And just like that—the seal is broken. The Daughters of Atlas are coming. And they’re not very happy that their father’s name is a mere letter in Shazam’s.
The first Shazam! featured many positive messages about family, and its sequel is no different. In the first film, Billy struggled with believing whether or not a genuine loving family could actually exist. In the second, Billy struggles with the fear that his family is going to abandon him like his birth mother did.
That’s because he’s about to turn 18, which means that his foster parents, Victor and Rosa, will no longer receive federal aid for housing him—and according to Mary, the oldest of the foster siblings, his options are to either get a job to help the struggling parents or move out. The fear of abandonment is evident—Billy tells a man that he feels abandoned by his mother, his family and his city (the last of which thinks of the superhero siblings as “fiascos.”)
The fear of abandonment is perhaps why Billy is so focused on making sure that he and his siblings only go crime fighting as a team. But Billy’s fears are eventually assuaged by Rosa, who tells him that he “will never age out of [his] home—never.”
And, of course, there’s the positive of the six supers putting their lives on the line in order to save countless citizens. To that point, we hear a couple sentiments that it’s not the powers that make someone a hero or brave; it’s who they are as a person. Case in point: Even when Freddy isn’t in his Shazam form, he still stands up against evil.
[The following section contains a few plot-specific spoilers]
Shazam! came bolting out of the spiritual gate in its first film, having Shazam (whose name is itself an acronym that includes some pagan gods) battle the Seven Deadly Sins—demons based on both Christian and pagan influences. With that in mind, and with the sequel’s title being Fury of the Gods, you might expect this second movie to follow suit.
You’d be right—and more so.
Fury of the Gods almost immediately stipulates that the Greek gods are the real deal. Several characters seem to suggest that every other religion got it completely wrong, Christianity included. (And speaking of, Victor’s signature dinner prayers from the first movie are entirely absent in this film). We hear mocking comments such as “A god has answered their prayers at last” and “they pray to the gods to absolve them.” Indeed, when people contemplate whether someone can be brought back to life, someone laments that “there are no gods left.”
The mythology of Fury of the Gods goes as follows: long ago, the Greek gods ruled the world, thinking of humans as nothing more than servants. One of these gods used wood from a mythic “Tree of Life” in order to create a magical staff with the ability to bestow and take away gods’ powers. Then, some human wizards managed to steal the staff, take the powers of a few of the gods (and Solomon, I guess?) and sealed the gods away in their own realm.
Because Billy broke the staff, however, the seal was broken, and the Daughters of Atlas have managed to squeeze through (why none of the other gods came with them is unknown—though there are a couple unclear indicators that they perhaps all died while locked away). These three daughters each have a different power: Hespera has the Power of Elements, primarily using her powers to heat things up and create a forcefield. Anthea has the Power of Axis, meaning she can rotate things really well. Kalypso has the Power of Chaos, and she uses it to compel people to speak and act against their will—which the movie depicts to be a quite painful and frightening endeavor for the victim.
And back to that “Tree of Life,” which has similarities to Christianity other than its name. For instance, the tree is guarded by a dragon, similar to how the Garden of Eden was guarded by cherubim (Genesis 3:24). It also produces apples (the typical depiction of the “forbidden fruit”). These golden apples have the Seed of Life and are used to plant more trees of life, which (on this world at least) sprout forth various Greek monsters, including minotaurs, cyclopses, harpies and manticores.
Furthermore, we’ll see some magical powers used. Kalypso’s Power of Chaos causes people to turn into zombie-like creatures, spreading the chaos to others. A man casts an incantation on a splinter of wood. There’s also a sentient pen and books that flap around like birds. The dragon is said to “emanate fear from its body.”
Additionally, because of his courage and powers, Billy is referred to as a “true god” by a few people—including another god. People talk about ambrosia. People lose their powers through magic.
Pedro, one of Billy’s foster brothers, comes out as gay. We see him looking at a magazine that contains a man in his underwear, and he later admits his homosexual attractions to his family, who tell him they were already aware.
Billy’s mother, Rosa, is seen in a revealing nightgown. His father, Victor, is seen in boxers. A marble statue in a museum is of a nude man, and his genitals are very briefly visible.
Billy has a dream that he’s on a date with Wonder Woman, and he calls the himself and Wonder Woman the “hottie goddies.” Later, he tells Wonder Woman that he’s about to turn 18 if she can wait for him. Billy says that “the City of Brotherly Love is getting a little moist,” and others tell him that he needs to work on his word choice. Freddy makes a remark that one of his bullies has chlamydia.
[Spoiler Warning] Freddy shares a kiss with a girl. Just before they kiss, she tells him that she’s actually about “6,000 years old.” Because of that fact, Victor comments on the kiss, calling it a bit inappropriate.
The crew of Shazam siblings and the Daughters of Atlas face off in many battles, typically resulting in the near-invulnerable people being slammed through concrete. Plenty of people die, including a museum full of people who are turned into chaos zombies. The change causes their bodies to convulse before they transform. Eventually, they’re turned into statues by the Daughters, and one of them is tipped over and shattered. During that scene, one man is thrown into a glass display, and another is thrown headfirst into a marble wall with a force strong enough to cause a heavy indent in the wall.
A man, possessed by the chaos magic, is compelled against his will to commit suicide by jumping off the side of a building. We hear the resulting thump as he hits the ground. A woman is impaled by the scorpion tail of a manticore. Harpies lift people high into the sky and drop them to their assumed demise. Someone is stabbed through the chest. A man is choked to death. A cyclops is pierced by a unicorn horn. A dragon destroys many buildings. Someone is killed, and we see the badly bruised and beaten corpse.
A man pulls a long thick splinter of wood that’s wedged under his fingernail in one scene that caused our viewing audience to collectively grimace. Bullies hit Freddy in the head with a football and knock him to the ground with a punch. Freddy’s face is additionally slammed into the ground.
A bridge collapses, and general peril ensues, though people seem generally unharmed (some cars are crushed, but they appear to be empty). Cars slam into a forcefield at high speed. Tree roots tear up a city. Beings and creatures sometimes “die,” with their bodies turning to dust and blowing away.
The young Darla nearly uses the f-word, preceded by “mother,” once. (The full word is drowned out by the surrounding chaos.) The s-word is heard five times. “D-ck” is used once. We also hear a handful of instances of “a–” and “h—.” God’s name is used in vain 13 times, including three times where someone says “g-dd–n”. Characters say variations of “suck balls” a handful of times.
Mary, the oldest of the foster siblings, is visibly suffering the effects of a hangover in one scene. When Victor asks what the kids are doing, Freddy sarcastically responds “probably drugs.”
Someone talks about using magic to turn into a gaseous form so they can “fly out of here like a fart.” A woman walks in on a man while he’s using the toilet. The odor from a portable toilet becomes both a plot point and a running joke.
I’ll be honest, the pagan (and specifically, Greek) gods make up perhaps the least believable religion humans have ever seriously come up with. And yet, those are the deities Shazam! Fury of the Gods tells its audience to accept.
As it turns out, the reason why you haven’t been struck down by Zeus’ lightning bolt is because some human wizards locked him and every other deity living on or near Mount Olympus into their own realm, making them no longer able to interfere in the lives of humans. But when that seal is broken, Atlas’ daughters return to punish humanity and bring the gods back to their former glory.
That spiritual side is what’s going to be the biggest pill to swallow if you’re thinking about watching this Shazam! sequel. Granted, the first film had some definite spiritual problems, syncretizing some Christian and pagan elements together to create some baddies for Billy Batson to battle. But Fury of the Gods certainly raises those issues a few rungs higher on the content ladder.
Also packaged in this sequel are a few frightening and violent scenes that mimic some of the more violent moments of the first movie, including a man who is compelled by magic to commit suicide and a museum of people who are turned to stone. Further injected into the film are two brief moments where one character indicates his attraction to men—which felt to me like Fury of the Gods wanted to gain some social credit by having a gay character than anything else. And in terms of swearing, you can expect the notch to be turned slightly up on that, too, with a partially-uttered f-word and a similar number of s-words to the previous film—amidst other swears, too.
Yes, Fury of the Gods continues its lovely story of Billy Batson’s family and their unconditional love for one another. It also talks about sacrifice and how it doesn’t take having superpowers to be a hero. But those messages ultimately come second to the film’s deep dive into pagan belief.
Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”