David F. Sandberg returns to direct Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the second in the superhero franchise about a teenager, Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who turns into the adult superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi) when he says the name. The villains of this sequel are played by Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu who are the daughters of Atlas returning to exact revenge on this realm. Also joining the franchise is Rachel Zegler who plays a classmate and potential love interest for Billy’s adopted brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer).

Those film critics who write about “superhero fatigue” have found the perfect distillation of the term in Shazam! Fury of the Gods. A solid chunk of the film’s action is the same kind of slam! bang! smash! punchy-punch! explosion! excitement! that film-goers have seen so many times before. Super-powered characters are smashed into concrete walls, set afire, catapulted into cars, and assaulted in all possible ways without consequences in CGI spectacle that becomes grating and draining. Not all claims of superhero fatigue are equal; I still think that there is a place for good superhero films like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) or Amazon’s ongoing series The Boys. But Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a massive step backwards in the development of the genre.

There is an awful lot of plot to get through in Shazam! Fury of the Gods. The characters have to find a thing, and then the good guys have to find another thing, but then the baddies get the the second thing, and that second thing ends the world when it is brought to a baseball park. The whole affair is dizzying. All superhero movies have McGuffins and plot devices, but Shazam! Fury of the Gods takes it to a whole new level.

What is sacrificed at the altar of More Stuff is engaging character development. The performances by the young kids are actually quite good, particularly Faithe Herman and her superpowered counterpart played by Meagan Good. But whereas Asher Angel has developed Billy’s character between the first film and this one, Zachary Levi couldn’t be bothered. Levi is doing the schtick that he did in the first film, even though the immature bro act bears little resemblance to Angel’s portrayal of Billy. It’s lazy character work, and there are few central themes that provide an emotional core to the film.

The third act is loud and obnoxious, of course, and it is devoid of the kind of humor that made Shazam! (2019) fun. Aside from a bit with a herd of mythical beings, which is worthy of a chuckle, most of the film’s conclusion is the type of mayhem that makes insurances companies raise their rates.

It is possible that some fans of superhero films will enjoy what Shazam! Fury of the Gods has to offer, but most will leave the theater tired. It is sad that it has come to this, but eventually superhero fatigue had to set in.