There's a lot to love about Shazam! Fury of the Gods: seeing the Shazamily take flight at the center of their own adventure, getting to watch Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren craft brand new antagonists in the guise of the Daughters of Atlas, and falling for the sweet-hearted heroics of newcomer Rachel Zegler as their sister, Anthea. But one of the most magical things about the second Shazam film is also one of the most unexpected. While all superhero movies are technically within the realm of the fantastic, Shazam! Fury of the Gods leans hard into the fantasy of it all in a way that we rarely see in comic book cinema.
In case you don't remember where we left Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and his super-powered siblings at the end of the last movie, the film drops us right back into the action. The Shazamily are now near-fulltime superheroes (although their heroic escapades are not always successful). As you can imagine, living a double life isn't easy. But lucky for them, the crew has a secret hideout that leads to much of the film's delightful fantasy elements. After defeating the evil Sivana in the first Shazam! film, the Shazamily gained control over the Rock of Eternity and made it into a super cool hideout.
While there is plenty of out-of-this-world action in the superhero adventure flick—the villains are literally goddesses, after all—some of my favorite moments came from the repurposing of the Rock of Eternity. Not only is this a space where we get to see our family come together, but it's also a truly magical arena which opens the door to some of Shazam's most fantastical moments. When we rejoin the kids, we learn that while Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) is most concerned with being a solo superhero and Billy wants the team to stick together, Eugene (Ian Chen) has been spending his time exploring and cataloging the mysteries of the Rock of Eternity. And one of its biggest, strangest, and most important locations is the Room of Doors.
The echoing hall is filled with floating doors, each of which leads to a different universe. It's an extremely cool device that will later play a key part in the narrative of Fury of the Gods. But for the case of this piece—and to save you from spoilers—we're just highlighting what it adds to the DC movie canon. As Eugene discovers, there are all kinds of eerie, exciting, beautiful and powerful worlds behind the doors. And in his more mature superhero guise, he's making sure to find out what's behind each and every one.
It's rare in the action-packed world of superheroes that we get quiet moments or learn what drives the heroes at their center. But Shazam! has always stood apart in that way. The duality between the adult superheroes and the children at their core offers up far more space for fun, hobbies, and slice-of-life storytelling. It’s been true in the comics and it’s true in this latest film too. While the enchantment of the Rock of Eternity is far from everyday stuff, Fury of the Gods utilizes it as a place for adventure and fun, as well as vital discoveries in both the Room of Doors and another awesome new location: the Rock's Library.
Eugene is clearly the kid who knows the Rock of Eternity the best, as we discover when he reveals this other fantastical space to his siblings. The hallowed halls of the Rock of Eternity's Library look like something from a fairytale. Fairy-lit bookshelves filled with yellowed tomes, historical papers and unusual academic stacks. It's a magical space, but it hides an even more powerful secret in the character who oversees it all: an enchanted quill named Steve. Full of joy, quips and unquantifiable knowledge, Steve is a joyous new addition to the Shazamily.
Though the Rock of Eternity is at the heart of the more fantasy-leaning elements of the film, director David F. Sandberg once again brings his genre chops to the superhero romp. In the first film, he introduced family-friendly horror in the Seven Deadly Sins. But here he throws back to the fantasy movies of Ray Harryhausen, pitting the kids against classic monsters of Greek mythology like Cyclops and Minotaurs. And the way that they fight back against them is unforgettable as Darla (Faithe Herman) gets to have her dream come true, utilizing a heard of her beloved unicorns to save the day. It's a far cry from the often dark and gritty realism of superhero cinema and, at every fantasy-drenched step, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is all the better for it.
Rosie Knight is an award-winning journalist and author who loves Swamp Thing, the DC Cosmic and writing about those and more here at DC.com. You can listen to her waxing lyrical about comics, movies and more each week as she co-hosts Crooked Media's pop-culture podcast, X-Ray Vision.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Rosie Knight and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.