Home > Reviews > SHAZAM: FURY OF THE GODS – Christophe Beck

SHAZAM: FURY OF THE GODS – Christophe Beck

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 2019 superhero film Shazam remains, for me, the best entry into the DC Extended Universe to date. At the time, I wrote that “its playful tone is a far cry from the grim seriousness of the previous Ben Affleck Batman and Henry Cavill Superman movies, it’s much more intelligent and nuanced than Aquaman, and the less said about Suicide Squad the better. What I love about it the most is how it captures the excitement and eagerness of how an actual kid would behave when given super powers, and much of that is down to Zachary Levi’s central performance, which appears to me to be a combination of Christopher Reeve and Tom Hanks from Big.” Unfortunately the response to this sequel, Shazam: Fury of the Gods, has been less effusive, with some critics calling it “more unfocused and less satisfying than its predecessor,” despite it still retaining much of the source material’s “silly charm”. The film again stars Levi as 17-year old Billy Batson, who transforms into a super hero when he utters the titular magic word; this time, Billy/Shazam finds himself in conflict with the three daughters of the Titan Atlas, played by Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler, who want to re-claim the staff that gives Shazam his power, saying it was stolen from them eons ago.

In June 2022 director David F. Sandberg revealed that the original film’s composer, Benjamin Wallfisch, was unable to return due to scheduling conflicts with him scoring The Flash, and that Christophe Beck was replacing him on Fury of the Gods. Having recently scored all three Ant-Man movies, as well as the TV series Wandavision and Hawkeye, Beck is clearly becoming the go-to-guy for super hero stories with a more light-hearted attitude. Shazam: Fury of the Gods is a score cut very much from the same cloth as those previous works; it’s a fun, exciting, energetic fantasy-action score that will appeal to anyone who enjoyed those earlier efforts.

I will say, though, that on a purely personal level, I miss Benjamin Wallfisch’s theme from the first film immensely. His theme was an absolute delight – an intentional throwback to the Golden Age of 1980s classic super hero themes – and, for me, it was one the best things about the film. Beck’s new theme for Fury of the Gods is decent, and had this been the theme for the character all along, I daresay I would have been singing its praises highly too. But, honestly, Wallfisch’s theme over-achieved to such an enormous extent that Beck’s theme feels like a pale imitation by comparison, and that may have affected my appreciation of this score as a whole. But with that caveat out of the way, there are still some fun times to be had.

Beck’s new main theme, for Billy and his extended ‘Shazamily’ of teenage super-heroes, is presented in full in the opening cue, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods – Main Title Theme”. It’s a fun and upbeat six-note idea (one note for each family member, perhaps?) rendered variously on noble horns, backed by swirling heroic strings, militaristic rampaging drum patterns, and sometimes enhanced by magical ‘sparkling’ chimes and light choral affects to increase the sense of wonderment.

Standing in direct opposition to this main theme is the recurring idea for the Daughters of Atlas, which is introduced in the second cue “Introduction – Fright at the Museum,” and is initially rendered on some appropriately ancient-sounding ethnic woodwinds, before eventually switching to more dominant and powerful orchestral forces, again usually augmented by a choir and chopping, rhythmic percussive pulses. Related to this theme is a more menacing descending motif that appears to relate to Kalypso, Lucy Liu’s character, the most ruthless of the Daughters of Atlas, and the more destructive actions she commits in trying to reclaim the Staff of Power. Her motif is especially prominent in cues like “Daughters of Atlas” and the dark and imposing “Dome and Gloom,” where it comes across as a sort of modern variation on the menacing themes Jerry Goldsmith often applied to scores like The Mummy and The Thirteenth Warrior.

The rest of the score is, essentially, a series of extended variations on these themes in a variety of settings, including some outstanding action arrangements which often see both themes playing contrapuntally against each other to illustrate the elevated stakes of the conflict. Cues like “Act of Violins,” “The Guardian,” the darkly grandiose “A Family Affair,” “Dragon Drop,” the guttural and masculine-sounding “Philly Tree’s Take,” and the more poignant and emotional “I Chose Right,” are very impressive in terms of scale, and contain numerous satisfying outbursts of one or more of the themes.

One or two cues do offer something different. There is an almost Harry Potter-esque magic and cham in “Steve,” which represents the eponymous sentient pen that Shazam uses to write a letter to Helen Mirren’s character Hespera as a negotiation for Freddy’s release. “Freddy Over Heels” presents a light, major key performance of the Daughters of Atlas theme for harps, flutes, and warm strings that represents Freddy’s youthful puppydog affections for Rachel Zegler’s character Anthea, the most sympathetic of the Daughters of Atlas.

The final third of the score sees the music become more traditionally heroic, as the battle between Shazam and the Daughters of Atlas intensifies to sometimes quite epic proportions. The one-two-three punch comprising “Before You Go,” “Dragon Chase,” and “You Disobeyed Me” is terrifically exciting. The fading, groaning brass effects in “Lightning in a Bottle“ sometimes remind me of Don Davis’s score for The Matrix, in a good way. “Taste the Rainbow” has a tremendous sense of scope and good-natured valor. There are moments of piano-led introspection in “All or None,” before the big finish comprising “We End This Now,” “A True God After All,” “Restoration,” the superbly bombastic “Hero,” and the final major-key flourish of the Daughters of Atlas theme in the conclusive “Changing of the Garden” that represents Anthea’s fate.

Throughout all this, Beck’s strings saw away relentlessly, the percussion rumbles and roars, the brass sparkles, the choir intones… but despite the impressive scale of it all, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that it’s all a little bit anonymous. As prominent as the two main themes are, neither of them have much of a real individual personality, and on balance there isn’t much going on here that makes it stand out from the six billion other super hero films on the market. Perhaps I’m missing Benjamin Wallfisch’s theme more than I realized? Who knows.

What’s true is that Christophe Beck and his team have written an earnest, fitting, tonally appropriate score for Shazam: Fury of the Gods, which hits all the right buttons, occasionally soars, and will certainly appeal to fans of the franchise in general and this film in particular, but also somehow it feels curiously subdued and run of the mill, and is likely destined to get lost in 2023’s over-crowded superhero extravaganza market.

Buy the Shazam: Fury of the Gods soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Shazam! Fury of the Gods – Main Title Theme (3:06)
  • Introduction – Fright at the Museum (4:32)
  • Daughters of Atlas (3:20)
  • Steve (1:14)
  • Freddy Over Heels (1:50)
  • Dome and Gloom (4:17)
  • Freddy Sneaks In (1:21)
  • Act of Violins (1:04)
  • The Guardian (2:57)
  • A Family Affair (2:42)
  • Dragon Drop (2:09)
  • Philly Tree’s Take (2:08)
  • I Chose Right (3:22)
  • Before You Go (1:41)
  • Dragon Chase (0:57)
  • You Disobeyed Me (2:30)
  • Lightning in a Bottle (1:49)
  • Unicorn Act (2:21)
  • Taste the Rainbow (1:19)
  • Garage Showdown (1:32)
  • Freddy Resists (1:15)
  • Crack of Dome (1:59)
  • All or None (2:24)
  • We End This Now (2:13)
  • A True God After All (1:18)
  • Restoration (1:13)
  • Hero (2:36)
  • Changing of the Garden (1:16)

Running Time: 60 minutes 23 seconds

Watertower Music (2023)

Music composed by Christophe Beck. Conducted by Tim Davies and Ian Fuentes. Orchestrations by Tim Davies, Bobby Brader, Lorenzo Carrano, Ryan Humphrey, Jeremy Levy, Sarah Lynch and Jordan Siegel. Additional music by Carlos Garcia and Michael Paraskevas. Recorded and mixed by Casey Stone. Edited by Darrell Hall. Album produced by Christophe Beck.

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