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David F. Sandberg Talks ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ – Interview

Throughout his storied comic book history, I believe the core of Billy Batson/Shazam’s charm has always been about vicarious wish fulfillment. With a single magic word, Billy gains the powers of six gods which he uses to save the day. One second, he’s got the power, authority and freedom of adulthood and the next he’s back to enjoying the relatively carefree innocence of childhood.

The 2019 film adaptation of the DC hero perfectly captured the wholesome, goofy joy of the source material, and now, director David F. Sandberg returns to helm the sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

“[My favorite thing about Shazam] is the whole concept of a kid who gets to be an adult superhero,” Sandberg said. “Wish fulfillment. I like the fact that his power stems from magic, which is different from Superman, plus the whole family dynamic.” 

David F. Sandberg - Shazam
Zachary Levi and David F. Sandberg on the set of the first Shazam! film. (©Warner Bros/Everett Collection)

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is Sandberg’s first project since the first Shazam! film and is the first time he has directed a sequel.

“It’s a marathon. It’s big and it’s complicated, so to do two in a row takes a long time,” the director said. “I started working on the first one in 2017, and it’s been nothing but Shazam since then. It’s a lot, but we get to do some cool things. Blow stuff up. Crush cars.” 

Aside from the normal challenges of directing, COVID-19 protocols presented a new set of obstacles and made for an overall “weird” experience.

“Towards the end of the shoot, they changed the rules so that if you were shooting outside and you were vaccinated you didn’t have to wear a mask anymore,” Sandberg said. “And I remember on that day the mood was so great and I actually realized I had not seen the faces of people I have worked with for months now, and you didn’t recognize people, like ‘Wait, who are you?’”

Where the first Shazam! film stays quite faithful to the “New 52” DC comic series by Geoff Johns, Fury of the Gods tells an original story. Though Sandberg and the writing team initially looked once again to the modern comics for inspiration, they felt that the comics strayed too large in scale from the story they wanted to tell.

“We started down the path of ‘let’s follow the comics.’ We even talked about, ‘Oh they go to Animal Land and that’s how we bring in Tawky Tawny,’ and things like that,” Sandberg explained. “But it didn’t feel right because I think what’s so good about the first one is that it’s a fantastical thing happening in a pretty grounded world, and if you have something fantastical happening in a fantastical place it all becomes fantasy, and I’m not a fan of that.”

(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

With Fury of the Gods being a sequel, the natural step was to pit the heroes against a bigger threat. While the lighthearted and comedic core that fans expect remains intact, the higher stakes did cause Sandberg to shift to a more mature tone.

“It was a bit of a conscious decision in that they have to face a bigger danger and that makes it more serious, but still trying to balance that tone of fun,” he said. “We did have a bit of that in the first one as well. The boardroom scene gets pretty intense, and I think you need that sense of real danger.”

 A burning question in many fans’ minds is how the new leadership of James Gunn and Peter Safran will affect the current heroes of the DC Extended Universe. In the case of Shazam, there may be some hope. Fans who have kept up with DC’s streaming title Peacemaker (another Safran-produced title) may notice some familiar faces. However, if this was simply a fun nod to the series or an actual promise of future Shazam sightings in upcoming DC films remains to be seen. 

Gunn has previously stated that due to Shazam’s relative isolation from other DCEU projects, “he connects very well” with the upcoming The Flash film. According to a recent Twitter post by Sandberg, he has not received an official “no” from the new DC regime, and while “there’s nothing in the Shazam films that contradict the future plans for DC,” it may depend largely on the box office returns of Fury of the Gods.

In terms of a third installment in the series, titular star Zachary Levi recently expressed in an interview with Fandango that he would love to see a zombie superhero film featuring the Shazamily facing off against “hordes of the undead.” Sandberg’s thoughts?

(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Right on, zombies are cool,” the director said with a chuckle. “That’s one thing I loved about Multiverse of Madness and the zombified Doctor Strange. Yeah, more zombies in superhero movies.”

However, if he does get a third round with Shazam, he’s already got a plan in mind. 

“I really like Mister Mind, and not just because I’m the voice,” Sandberg said. “He’s really interesting because he’s such a unique character, this tiny worm, but in the comics, he has different forms. I don’t really know what the plans are [for future DC films], but it’s cool if Shazam can be around. I think he’s a really great character, and there’s certainly more you can do with him.”

And what else is in the future for Sandberg? If a third Shazam! film is not in the cards, Sandberg said that he’d like to take on a new horror project. 

“I want to do more horror in general. It’s been two Shazam! movies in a row now, so I’m dying to do something to bring the edge back.”

David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods is now playing in theaters.

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