(L-r) ROSS BUTLER as Super Hero Eugene, ADAM BRODY as Super Hero Freddy, GRACE CAROLINE CURREY as Super Hero Mary, ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam, MEAGAN GOOD as Super Hero Darla and D.J. COTRONA as Super Hero Pedro in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS,”
(L-r) ROSS BUTLER as Super Hero Eugene, ADAM BRODY as Super Hero Freddy, GRACE CAROLINE CURREY as Super Hero Mary, ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam, MEAGAN GOOD as Super Hero Darla and D.J. COTRONA as Super Hero Pedro in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS,”

Kicking off a precarious year for DC films, Shazam: Fury of the Gods was more like Shazam: Mildly Vexed of the Kittens at the box office, with a $30 domestic million opening, the lowest ever for a DCEU film. According to Deadline the film made only $655 million worldwide, down from a projection of $85m.

Deadline offers all kinds of analysis of why it missed the mark, but suggests it being a lame duck unconnected to larger DC cinematic narrative is part of the problem:

Shazam’s inability to fly at the box office has largely to do with the fact that there’s no want-to-see among core DC fans in regards to this sequel. It’s not part of a connective tissue in the DC universe, nor was it ever, and that’s a problem that DC Bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran are looking to fix. They’ve been very public about laying out their new multiverse, and it was never made certain that Shazam would be a definite part of their “Chapter One, Gods and Monsters,”

The exclusion of Shazam has taken away the sheen from what should be a standalone, crowd-pleasing movie. 

Indeed, the first Shazam, based on C.C. Beck’s delightfully comedic superhero masterpiece Captain Marvel,  landed as a lighthearted comedy amid the studio stress and underlit sets of the Snyder years. Four years later, without a weighty slate to balance it out, Shazam 2 is just light. (I’ve seen neither film, BTW.)

Still, Shazam 2 wasn’t a very expensive movie – a mere $125 million budget –  so maybe it will still earn out? According to Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro, due to marketing costs, “I’m told by those in the know that it will be pretty tough to get Shazam! Fury of the Gods in the black.”

And of course, this wouldn’t be a DC film without some behind the scenes drama, in this case, whether the Shazam franchise was dealt a mortal blow by Duane Johnson’s Ahab-like quest to make a standalone Black Adam movie.

You see, Black Adam was the main villain of the Shazam/Captain Marvel comics, debuting all the way back in the first issue of The Marvel Family back in 1945. You’d think maybe tying the films together might make some kind of sense? I mean, what would Kevin Feige do? And yet Black Adam had nary a connection to any of the Shazam stuff, with the films developed separately. And thus we ended up with TWO separate movies with two SEPARATE characters with lightning bolts on their chests and vaguely mythological backgrounds…and no crossover. 

Now granted, this charge that insisting on a standalone Black Adam killed everything, is mostly from twitter, but Heroic Hollywood has an excellent rundown of the mean tweets in a story called “Dwayne Johnson Accused of Killing Both ‘Shazam’ & ‘Black Adam’ Franchises: ‘Blame Dwayne’s Big A– Ego’”

The title says it all, really, but a few choice bits. The #1 witness for the prosecution? Johnson himself, in a tweet confirming a story that he had blocked Black Adam’s appearance in Shazam!

Original script had both #BlackAdam #Shazam establishing their origin stories in one film,” he wrote back in ’22. “I fought hard for both characters (+ JSA) to have their own stand alone films for the fans to enjoy. And protect Black Adam’s ruthless & extremely violent tone as we build out #DCEU”

Again I haven’t seen Black Adam either (disclosure: I’m not on WBD’s screening list), but it did seem to have a more adult tone so maybe spinning that out of Shazam would have scared children. But, again, cinematic superhero crossovers are one of THE hottest trends of the 21st century, so maybe it could have worked. You’ll recall that Johnson’s dream to make the Black Adam film lasted 15 years, and bridged all of the headspinning changes at the DCEU with a single minded mission. He often called it his passion project.

Despite the ties to the characters history,  Johnson is said to have had “disdain”, for Shazam, though even director David F. Sandberg (who made both Shazams) had his doubts that keeping the two separate was the right idea.

The thing about Black Adam is that he has the same powers as Shazam, and we did that in the first movie where we gave Sivana [Mark Strong] the same power. So I don’t think the fight itself would’ve been super interesting, but I do think it’s a missed opportunity. What makes the most sense is to have them fight each other, so it’s money left on the table. But it’s how it is.

Now curiously, in the same interview, Sandberg reveals that some JSA characters from Black Adam WERE to have appeared in Shazam 2, but that didn’t happen. Instead [SPOILERS] Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) and John Economos (Steve Agee) from  THE Suicide Squad show up – as does Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and a headless Superman.

You’ll recall that the Superman cameo in Black Adam did have a head – Henry Cavill’s, in a surprise appearance that the studio fought all the way, only to have Johnson basically force it in. 

So yeah. Just another day at the DCEU.

If anything, Shazam 2’s lackluster performance shows just how unpredictable 2023 is going to be for WBD, with three more films coming out, two of them long ago shot and delayed by a year. Blue Beetle (August 18th) will almost certainly be a smallish opening, but The Flash could go either way – advance buzz for the film is very good – and Aquaman 2 is a Holiday tentpole (but advance word on that is not great.) A lot is riding on how The Flash can set up the new “Gods and Monsters” film slate. And Zachary Levi’s Shazam is not entirely out of the question for future appearances. Sandberg again:

What [DC Studio’s co-heads James Gunn and Peter Safran have] said is that what we’ve done in these two Shazam movies doesn’t contradict anything they’re doing with their new plans, which is great. It means that you could do Shazam movies if you wanted to. We’ll see how that all works out.

And of course, the actual movie, box office aside, has gotten generally positive reactions. In the comics crowd, Gail Simone liked it, and so did Jerry Ordway.  And surprisingly, Mark Millar has been a big supporter.

When all is said and done though, perhaps Shazam: Fury of the Gods will be remembered for one thing: it left Helen Mirren with a crooked pinkie. 

Shazam finger. C.C. Beck would have loved that.


  1. Based on only my own experience, I’m going to say that The Rock is not to blame. I saw the first movie and it was ‘generic’ and ‘fine’. But the ‘generic’ won out over ‘fine’ and there was no real excitement to see the sequel.

    On the generic point:
    In the comic, Shazam is the story of an idealistic boy who has 6 mythical figures helping him to be a hero. His villains involve a telepathic worm that communicates by a little speaker around his neck, a scientist who uses inventions and robots and flying cars to fight our hero, and Black Adam, an old Pharoh who was an adult when he got his powers and was already corrupted by the world. His supporting cast are two more kid Marvels and a talking tiger in a suit.
    In the movie, Shazam is a bit of a punk who gets Superman-like powers plus something about lightning. His villain is a scientist(?) who gives himself the same Superman-like powers so he can punch our hero. His supporting cast is 5 or 6 more kids who also have Superman-like powers.

    Once you’ve wrung out all the originality and joy from the core concept, there’s nothing to support more than one movie.

  2. @Carter
    I was writing something along those lines as well then I saw you did it more eloquently than I would.
    One would note though that destroying the innocent comedic Captain Marvel of the Golden Age is mostly due to Roy Thomas who revamped him into still being the personality of a teenager when transformed, so gone is the wisdom of Solomon (somewhat addressed in this new movie but not really), then plagued him with an abused childhood, making it a lot darker, that Geoff Johns doubled down on and imbued with more wokeness than anyone can bear, hence the rainbow family and the stupid lightning thing. So, in a sense, the take of the first movie is bad because it aligns to the “modern” comics version, sadly.
    I’m sad that DC discontinued the Golden Age comics archives because that’s where the real Marvel Family is for me.
    This being said, this second movie somehow distances itself from all that, focuses on the story and is much funnier than the previous one, so this middle-aged Golden Age fan enjoyed it.
    Yet the best take for me is still the 1940s movie serial, still available on DVD. ’nuff said.

  3. @JC Lebourdaisj You lost me with the “wokeness” reference. Don’t get me wrong. I think the idea of Billy splitting his powers with his family is one of the dumbest things ever. (It should be Billy, Mary, and Freddy, and that’s it. If everyone has those powers, there’s nothing special about Captain Marvel.) But “wokeness?” What the hell does that mean? Diversity? An awareness that there are people of color on the planet? That maybe they can have some representation?

    The movie fails for me because it’s so badly written. I don’t mind jokes in a movie like this, but they’d better be damn good ones. If everything is jokey and low-stakes, there are no consequences. (This is what sunk “Thor: Armageddon” for me, too. I’m done with both that franchise and Waititi.) As well, none of the characters — especially Billy — would ever shut up. It’s just an endless stream of ignorant blather. Levi is barely tolerable. I know teenagers and none of them talk or act like Billy, so I have no idea where the writers got their models.

    The best part of the movie? Sivana and Mr. Mind. There was genuine wit and purpose to that scene, which probably made it just as well it came at the very end of the movie, since everything else would have paled in comparison.

  4. @Dave
    Diversity is fine as long as it’s not constantly hammered to the point of indoctrination and susbstitutes for a proper story (I’m looking at you, National Treasure: Edge of Something). My point was that in the first movie they spend an awful lot of time whining about their social situation, the foster home where everyone is nice (just like reality then) and that final scene with Billy’s mother is just awful. Compare to the comics, it’s alluded in the first panel of the first issue that Billy was homeless, then never addressed again.

  5. @JC.

    I’ll agree that Billy is completely mishandled by both the film and the current writers of the book. I understand what they’re trying to do, and that the idea of a 12-year-old radio reporter living independently needed revision, but (as I said) splitting up the SHAZAM powers among a whole group of people (of any ethnicity or gender) makes Cap that much less unique.

    To be honest, DC hasn’t known what to do with the character since they brought him back in the 70s. But, to be fair, he really is like the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents or Herbie or Nancy or Little Lulu or Plastic Man or the Metal Men or The Spirit; he’s a character who was created in a specific period by a specific group of people and anyone else who’s tried to revive them is doomed to failure.

  6. The biggest issue I had with the film is that none of the jokes were funny. In a large part, this is due to the use of the same one over and over: Captain Marvel acting like a 6 year old kid. That gets old.

    There’s a lot I did like in the film. The actions scenes were fantastic! (The film is worth seeing for the Captain Marvel – dragon fight alone!). And there were some very good character arcs. In fact, I think Freddie Freeman stole the film. I wouldn’t mind seeing a film just about him.

    In many ways, the film is very similar to the Black Adam film: there is lots of good pieces, but it just does not jell together into a coherent film.

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