The reasons given by some people for avoiding Shazam! Fury of the Gods illustrate how franchise filmmaking has broken our collective brains. The main characters might – emphasis on might – not show up in future films! DC Films’ James Gunn (hired after production was finished) baits with a Gal Gadot cameo even as he plans to fire her! (Gunn has denied this.) Zachary Levi said a mean thing about some of the excesses of online Snyder fans!
Whatever happened to judging a movie on its own merits? Liking or disliking it as its own thing, regardless of whether or not there’s a sequel? Seeing the second one because the first one was pretty universally hailed as good — and it’s mostly the same people making part 2? In the world outside of fandom – one that seems to be shrinking – moviegoers used to pick and choose individual films to watch, rather than pledging blind allegiance to brands.
That’s not to say Fury of the Gods is without its flaws. In fact, many may agree it’s at least mildly inferior to its predecessor. But on the whole it’s a decent sequel – and the 4K Blu-ray, in terms of extras, is one of the DCEU’s best.
Sleight of Hand and Twist of Fate
Anyone who follows director David F. Sandberg on social media knows he has a kind of Penn and Teller attitude to film-making. He’s making illusions, knows you know he’s making illusions, and wants to show you how he pulled off the trick. To some viewers, this may devalue the experience – if you know where to look on this disc, you’re more likely to see the digital seams once Sandberg’s told you where to look. For those who love the whole process, and want to know more – and by definition, that includes most people who watch DVD extras – it’s an invaluable look behind the curtain.
As such, it would be a damn shame if DC didn’t let him do a commentary. Sandberg not only does a commentary, but it’s on the Fury of the Gods 4K disc itself. This is a boon to reviewers, who frequently have to watch a bonus-less 4K disc to assess quality, and then the included Blu-ray for the commentary track. The 4K itself doesn’t deliver new visual revelations – it reproduces the golden-bronze sheen of the film accurately. The CG Harpies, noticeably weak onscreen, look a little better on disc but still superimposed. Ironically, as “fake” as a cameo which tosses Sandberg into the air may look, the director insists he did the stunt himself and took the harness bumps.
What to Look for
Sandberg’s initial “final” cut came in about 30 minutes longer, and all of those extra minutes appear here as a separate feature. Mostly, they extend what we know with more character beats; sometimes they trim effects. (The dome is revealed to be a full sphere that extends underground.) A longer scene in which Pedro worries he’s been outed as gay makes his subplot a bit more on the nose, though the fact that Darla’s wearing a Harry Potter shirt in it feels ironic. The goddesses get a bit more violent – Helen Mirren’s Hespera does a lava spike fatality, and Lucy Liu impales some poor guy in a porta-potty. An extended bit with Mary using her powers for DoorDash is fun, and explains her hangover.
Presumably not knowing if they’d be included, Sandberg also shouts out to these scenes in his full commentary. He’s proud of his handiwork and the tricks he used to get around certain issues, so he’s always happy to point out when a body double was used, or a shot is a composite, or when he remote directed Gal Gadot in London opposite a tennis ball. Unlike Jeff Loveness on the Quantumania commentary, it never sounds like he’s trying to be an endearing screwup, but rather a proud parent showing you how his kid narrowly skated by on some things by improvising. (Keep an eye out for multiple Italian horror Easter eggs.)
Who’s the Real Villain?
As far as the larger DCEU, Sandberg acknowledges he forgot to put the DC logo in front of the first film, but there’s no conspiracy – he made sure to do it this time just to be clear. As for elephant-in-the-room Black Adam, he merits but a single mention, when it’s suggested that burning Shazam’s costume will make it look too similar. Retorts the director, “So what? I just want to see him in a black, burned suit, before he dies.”
The movie’s biggest weakness as a movie is that despite Sandberg’s obvious knowledge of Shazam lore, he invented a lackluster trio of adversaries – two of whom make babyface turns – rather than use any villains from the comics. At one point, he was going to have Mr. Mind and Sivana unleash them, but it got too complicated. Dwayne Johnson may have thrown a wrench in the works with his control over Black Adam, but the one thing Sandberg really fails to do is justify the daughters of Atlas. One expects a featurette on them to go into the mythological roots, but nope. Basically, he just felt he needed a family to fight a family. And as fun as the monsters are, and as game as Helen Mirren clearly is (she has a ball in all the behind-the-scenes stuff), the Daughters of Atlas are anemic adversaries.
The Total Package
Extra featurettes focus on the difference between production visuals and post, the alleged kindness of Zachary Levi, the production design, and much more. See how augmented reality allows them to pre-visualize the final CG live and on set, or how the Volume screen gives golden hour as long as you want it (but how reverse shots don’t quite match the lighting!). Find out that he wooden dragon was designed for darkness and night fights, but the location of mid-summer Atlanta forced a change of plan. There’s some scene repetition, as is the norm with these things, but not much. And the knowledge you get is worth it.
Detached from overall DCEU continuity concerns, Shazam! Fury of the Gods 4K may not be the greatest superhero movie ever. But it’s a fun family flick in the best way, scary enough for the braver tots, and refusing to pander to viewers who don’t pick up on things right away. As for the total package, it might just be the best superhero Blu-ray overall in a good long time. As far as recent releases go, it gives the rest a standard to live up to.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods 4K comes out on May 23.