While DC is in a strange state as of late, there seemed to be some idea that Shazam and its star Zachary Levi might be one character/actor pair to survive the transition from the DCEU, as the actor hinted as much ahead of the release of the sequel, Fury of the Gods.
But now that both reviews and box office returns are in, that’s looking less and less likely to be the case, and Shazam may go the way of his rival, Black Adam.
Review scores, first off, are poor. The original Shazam was the third highest reviewed film in the DCEU with a 90%. The sequel, same star, same director, is a 53%, only above the original Suicide Squad, Batman V Superman, Justice League and Black Adam itself, which had a 39%. Audience scores are better at a very solid 87% and B+ Cinemascore, but what matters most, the box office, is where the film appears to be performing the worst.
The film is tracking to open extremely poorly at $30 million for the weekend, below its own projections, well below the first film’s $53.5 million opening, and just outright terrible for a PG-13 mainstream superhero movie in either the Marvel or DC universes. James Gunn’s Suicide Squad, despite good reviews, opened poorly with $26 million its opening weekend, but that film had two additional factors working against it, its R-rating and a nearly identical name previously terrible Suicide Squad movie.
The original Shazam, in contrast, reviewed well and performed well enough to warrant a sequel, and ended up grossing $366 million globally. Not incredible by most superhero standards, but solid enough in the DCEU at the time. This sequel, Fury of the Gods, looks to dramatically underperform that.
Why is the film doing so badly? First, I think we’re in a weird transitory time in DC, where there’s some confusion about the destruction of the current canon and where things are going. Second, Shazam is still not quite an A-lister compared to Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or even Aquaman. Third, the movie just…didn’t look terribly appealing. With the arrival of Black Adam, everyone thought that a Shazam sequel would obviously have the two rivals square off, but The Rock refused to do that, setting his sights on Superman instead, a gamble which backfired spectacularly. So instead Shazam was forced to fight lesser tier villains, the Daughters of Atlas (albeit with good actresses, Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu) in a movie that just…didn’t look great in previews.
Black Adam, for its own misses, still did more than double Shazam: Fury of the Gods in its opening weekend with $67 million, and if that film still “underperformed” enough to kill off The Rock’s elaborate future plans for the character, you have to wonder if this iteration of Shazam has any future in the new DC film/TV era.
The saving grace here is…James Gunn can essentially do whatever he wants. He is a personal friend of Zach Levi and has praised the new film online. Though even with that said, I would be surprised to see a third new Shazam movie greenlit rather than say, Gunn calling up Levi to guest star in some other production as Shazam down the road. But we’ll have to see. Regardless, the news overall here is not good at all.
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