Shazam! Fury Of The Gods Trailer Breakdown: A Superhero Adventure For The Whole Family

While the talk of this year's San Diego Comic-Con most focused on Marvel announcing Phases 5 and 6 of its neverending cultural saturation (plus releasing a trailer for a little movie called "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" that I hear folks are excited for), we also got to see some stuff from Warner Bros. and DC Films. 

To me, the most exciting thing to come out of Comic-Con was the trailer for the upcoming "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," which is set to be released December 21, 2022. The first "Shazam!" was such a breath of fresh air when it came out back in 2019: a superhero movie made by a major studio that actually had a lot of personality and an emotional core that was genuinely moving. It wasn't about serving the greater franchise narrative — David F. Sandberg made a singular film that anyone could walk in and out of and experience something entirely satisfying regardless of their relationship to the greater DCEU.

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" has a lot to live up to in my eyes, and while I have gotten to the point where I no longer let trailers affect my excitement or disinterest in a particular motion picture (because I end up seeing just about everything anyway), there was quite a bit in this to enjoy and dig into. And that is precisely what we are going to be doing today, kids. So, buckle up, because we are breaking down the trailer for "Shazam! Fury of the Gods."

Billy's in therapy

Obviously what makes Shazam stand apart from the majority of the superheroes out there is he is a kid. He doesn't look like Zachary Levi all the time, but instaead like Asher Angel as Shazam's teenage alter ego, Billy Batson. Being that young and being able to transform into an entirely different body with superpowers will mess with anybody's head, not to mention the added responsibility of being a protector of the community or even the world. While most superheroes would let that inner turmoil haunt them, we see in the "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" trailer that Billy is actually trying to deal with his emotions by seeking out therapy.

As our society becomes more acceptable of people seeking out help to manage their mental health, it makes sense that a Gen Z superhero would be one to take that step. Now, he goes about it all wrong by just going to a regular pediatrician, played by P.J. Byrne, which is clearly meant to be played for straight laughs, but he at least knows that he needs to make the effort to better himself. And with all the trauma we see Billy go through in the first film, seeing a licensed professional is exactly what he needs.

Still learning to be a hero

What is also refreshing about having a young person be a superhero is that they are not great at it. Sure, Shazam and the Shazam Family have been figuring out this superhero stuff for a few years now after the events of the first movie, but all of them are still quite young people. They haven't even figured out how to be proper humans in society, let alone fully fledged, flawless gods for all to admire. So, Shazam can still be flying and get clocked by an oncoming elevated train. Superheroes who quickly figure out their power sets and can don't make mistakes are not as interesting. You need to fail if you want the success to really hit.

I guess the Snyder stuff is still canon?

In the trailer we see shots from the 2017 "Justice League" film, directed by Zack Snyder (and Joss Whedon), featuring Ben Affleck as Batman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and even Ezra Miller as The Flash (a fact that's becoming increasingly awkward for Warner Bros.). Now, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the whole Snyder element of the DCEU from just about every direction, and WB has had pretty decent success distancing the DC franchise from those movies. James Wan has taken Aquaman in his own weird, wild direction, and "The Batman" and "Joker" don't have anything to do with that world.

So, including these shots in the trailer is ... a choice. I'm sure it adds even more fuel to the fire of the Snyder-heads online, who will continue to tweet out hashtags ad infinitum. It disappoints people like me who wish to forget those movies ever happened. Maybe these characters will end up appearing in the film, as opposed to just using footage from an old movie, and therefore the trailer inclusion is justified. But right now, I don't see much of a benefit in doing so.

The true villain of the DCEU

Prior to David F. Sandberg hopping aboard the "Shazam!" films, he directed "Annabelle: Creation," the prequel to the spin-off of "The Conjuring." As a fun nod to his horror roots, Sandberg made a little space for that cursed doll to make a cameo in "Shazam! Fury of the Gods." Strangely, that cameo occurs in the aforementioned pediatrician's office, where it sits amongst some toys for little kids. 

This is not the first time the Annabelle doll has shown up in the DCEU though. Sandberg also included it in the first "Shazam!" movie, but it made its debut in the franchise with "Aquaman" in 2018. James Wan directed the first two "The Conjuring" movies, which introduced the doll, and he also felt the need to put it in his ocean epic.

Now, this brings up a very important question: Is Annabelle to blame for all the evil that occurs within the DCEU? It is obviously a cursed object that brings nothing but pain to the people it is near. Annabelle very well could be the true puppet master of every villain we see in the series, from the Joker to Darkseid. Yes, that would probably make a lot of comic book nerds angry, but it is fun to think about.

What kind of pediatrician office is this?

If you look above the scary doll in that pediatrician's office, you will see a fun children's wallpaper designed to help kids learn the alphabet. O is for owl. Y is for yak. V is for ... vampire bat? Anyway, buried within all the fun spelling lessons are references to three different characters from the DC universe. One of them we already know: The letter S has been designated for Starro, the giant starfish kaiju the brought chaos in the climax of James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad." But there are two more up there as well.

First is Karaqan, which is an ancient sea monster. Obviously, Karaqan tends to pop up in stories about Aquaman. Now, you may be thinking, "Wait. Isn't that who Julie Andrews voiced in the first movie?" Well, you would be close but not exact. Andrews plays Karathen, which is an adaptation of Karaqan for that specific movie. They share many of the same characteristics but are distinctly different. It is neat to know that they exist together and not one being a replacement for the other.

Next is a character we have not seen, and that is who represents the letter T: Titano the Super-Ape. For those who don't know, Titano is a Superman villain. More importantly, he is a gigantic ape with Kryptonite powers. Well, he is in some iterations of the character. In the New 52 reboot from 2011, he was a big chimp robot. Obviously, we have not seen Titano on film, but if he ever does appear, I wonder which direction they will go with it. My guess is classic monster movie to fit alongside Starro and Karaqan.

The Hesperides are coming

Both DC and Marvel have implemented various mythologies within their superhero universes beyond the characters they make up, with Greek mythology being particularly important. Obviously, the post-credits scene of "Thor: Love and Thunder" involving Russell Crowe as Zeus and Brett Goldstein as Hercules shows this. But DC is just as much indebted to Greek mythology as Marvel, if not more so. Wonder Woman's entire origin is wrapped up in its connection to that mythology, and Patty Jenkins' first film even had Ares as the primary villain.

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods," as the title would suggest, is also drawing from the Greek myths, but unlike Ares, the characters we are getting here have not appeared in the comics before. Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu) are two of the many daughters of Atlas, the Titan who served as an adversary for both Heracles and Perseus. Hespera is one of the Hesperides, who foster the garden that contains Hera's tree of golden apples that is the object of one of Heracles' labours. Kalypso, or Calypso as she is called in the mythology, appears most famously in Homer's "Odyssey." She desires for Odysseus to remain on her island, after their seven years together, with her as her immortal husband forever, but Odysseus has other plans and wishes to return to his wife Penelope.

As to why these two women from Greek mythology have been enlisted as the villains for "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," we do not know. We at least know they are after the magic Shazam staff, but to what end? Immortality? Perhaps. Just power? Certainly not impossible. To find the golden apples? Wouldn't put it past them. Whatever they do, I am sure Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu will have a ball doing it.

The complicated layers of referencing the Fast Family

One of the big laugh moments in the trailer is when Zachary Levi's Shazam sits across from Helen Mirren's Hespera at a Philly sandwich shop and says, "I've seen all of the 'Fast and the Furious' movies, lady, and it's all about family," attempting to beckon the rest of his Shazam Family at that moment (but failing). It's a funny line, sure, but it brings up A LOT of questions.

First and foremost, look who he is talking to. Helen Mirren is in those movies as Magdalene Shaw, the mother of two key antagonists in the series played by Jason Statham and Luke Evans. If Billy has indeed seen all these movies, you'd think he would notice that the woman sitting directly in front of him looks identical to that woman in the movies, just with some gold armor on. 

This line being delivered to Mirren was surely a deliberate wink to the audience, but Mirren isn't even the first "Fast" cast member he has encountered in this world. Djimon Hounsou, who plays the wizard Shazam, appeared in "Furious 7." Either Billy Batson suffers from serious face blindness, or he hasn't actually seen those movies. For the record, I am applying "Ocean's Twelve" rules to "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" in how regular people do look exactly like real famous people.

Also, the joke becomes a little less funny when you realize that one of the writers of this picture is Chris Morgan, who also wrote on all the "Fast" movies from "Tokyo Drift" up through "Hobbs and Shaw." Makes the gag feel a bit more self-aggrandizing than it otherwise would.

A new Mary Marvel ... kind of

One of the most exciting moments in the first "Shazam!" was when the entire foster family transformed into superheroes for the first time, bringing in a whole host of fun actors to play the older versions of the kid characters such as Adam Brody and Meagan Good. "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" implements the same device, so we will certainly be treated to more of their antics. What you may notice from the trailer, though, is one of the actors does not change. The eldest of the bunch Mary, played by Grace Fulton, remains the same actor when she transforms into her Shazam form (called Mary Marvel).

In the first film she transformed into the actor Michelle Borth, but enough time has passed between the two films that the actually physical change between the two actors is basically nonexistent. I happen to like that Grace Fulton will be playing the character in and out of the suit, giving us no divide between the two sides of Mary. In the first film, I found her to be an immensely charming performer who really helped place the story in an emotionally tangible place. She has a number of spotlight moments in the trailer, and I hope she gets a lot to do in the movie.

The most beautiful sound I ever heard: Athena

Okay, y'all. We need to go back to Greek mythology for this one. After delivering what should have been an Oscar-winning performance in Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story," Rachel Zegler begins her run of dominating Hollywood by playing Athena in "Shazam! Fury of the Gods." Unlike Hespera and Kalypso, Athena has appeared in DC Comics before. However, she has much more of a connection to Wonder Woman than Shazam. Athena, who is one of the daughters of Zeus, was one of the five gods who created the Amazons, which is a rather important development in the DC universe.

In the Greek myths, Athena is often used as a guide or counselor to many of the great heroes. She is also the guardian of Athens, an honor she rightfully won from Poseidon by planting an olive tree (myths are weird). As an Olympian, Athena is an incredibly powerful being. It will be interesting to see how much of this iteration of the character is derived from the comic book version and classic Greek one. I expect the reason she is used so sparingly in the trailer is that they are trying to hide just how much she is going to be doing in the movie. I am sure her alliances will be divided between the Greek mythic figures and the humans but will ultimately side with humanity. Either way, I am very excited for Rachel Zegler's Hollywood takeover (or at least getting a green light for "Zed Zasso" on Disney+).

Who doesn't love a magic records hall?

I just wanted to point out this shot for two quick reasons. One, I think it is a beautifully lit shot, which is not something you can say about a lot of superhero movies nowadays. The other is that I absolutely love a records hall. When characters in a movie are looking through books, scrolls, letters, and uncover a key piece of information, it is a pure thrill. From the very serious tenor of "All the President's Men" to ultra-goofy sleuthing of "National Treasure," I am sucker for this kind of stuff. So, I see a room like this with a bunch of scrolls and papers all over the place, and I am a happy man.

The city's going all Doctor Strange on us

In terms of visuals, "Doctor Strange" had one big idea, and that was the image of New York City folding in and around itself as we entered into the mirror dimension. The superhero genre can feel quite homogeneous in its visual presentation, particularly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so those sequences have always managed to stay in my mind. Well, "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" looks to be taking inspiration from "Doctor Strange" based on a couple of shots we see in the trailer. As Shazam flies through Philadelphia, we see skyscrapers warping and twisting on themselves.

Hespera and Kalypso are the ones at the heart of this reality warping, but I wonder what the motivation for it is. In "Doctor Strange," going into the mirror dimension was utilizing a defense mechanism of mastering your own reality to escape the someone pursuing you. It feeds into the psychological side that character. As for why this is something done in a "Shazam!" movie, I don't know, but I want to find out. It will certainly be disappointing if it's just to have the visual of it.

We got unicorns

When was the last time we had a good unicorn on screen? My guess is that it was the murderous unicorn in "The Cabin in the Woods," but that was played as a joke. As for proper, majestic, cool unicorns? I can't think of a recent example. Unicorns are not frequent within the Dc Universe, but there have been instances of Superman, Wonder Woman, and even Batman riding unicorns in the comics. Batman had one named Stormrunner, which Robert Pattinson should definitely lobby to include in his next outing as the Caped Crusader. We shall see where these unicorns come from for "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," but I bet they are not too far away from that magical records hall we talked about earlier.

Oh, and there's a dragon too

Look, if you are going to have all of this magic and fantasy elements, not including a dragon just seems like a massive oversight at this point. This dragon looks to come from within the Earth, as we see Lucy Liu's Kalypso absolutely destroying a stadium to have something gigantic emerge. Now, this could just be some dragon, or we could be going back to Greek mythology for this one as well.

Now, remember when I said that Hespera and the other nymphs tended to the garden that housed Hera's tree of golden apples? Well, they may tend it, but they are not the sole protectors of it. Hera placed the dragon Ladon to be the ultimate protector of the golden apples, meant to thwart Heracles from accomplishing his eleventh labour. Now, the main reason I say this may not be Ladon is that the dragon we see in the trailer only has one head. Ladon traditionally has quite a few, and in one telling, even 100. Now, this could be some visual effects editing for the trailer to fool us, but I doubt they would paint out heads off this dragon. I also am not entirely sure where they could fit on its neck.

I just bring up Ladon because the connection to Hespera is too clear to pass up. The dragon is probably just some manifestation of dark magic, but it would be cool if this major blockbuster superhero movie decided to get really nerdy about Greek mythology. After all, these movies are supposed to be for nerds, right?

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" will be released December 21, 2022.