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Why Shazam! Fury Of The Gods Bombed At The Box Office

It now seems clear that "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is yet another commercial disappointment in the DC superhero blockbuster realm. Its opening weekend box office take in the neighborhood of $30 million falls well short of its reported $125 million budget, and some of the film's cast and crew seem to be assuming a defensive posture online. Star Rachel Zegler recently took to Twitter to decry "senselessly mean" responses to the movie and called it, "Actually very good." Meanwhile, in a comment on Reddit that was since deleted (via ComicBook.com), "Fury of the Gods" director David F. Sandberg made this intriguing statement: "I saw where this was heading a long time ago. I'll be alright though. I got paid all my money upfront."

You don't need to be a box office analyst to see that "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" has experienced a softer-than-expected opening weekend and has been met with a collective shrug by much of the viewing public. Why'd it happen? It's not something that can be pinned definitively on one factor, but there are several possibilities as to why the "Fury of the Gods" opening weekend ended up being more like a minor tantrum.

DCEU shakeups damaging the franchise in the short-term

Everyone knows by now that the DC Extended Universe is in a transitional period, with the projects already in the pipeline when James Gunn and Peter Safran took the creative reins of the live-action DC Comics franchise making their way onto screens. The future of every big-screen DC superhero is now in doubt, with the upcoming "The Flash" purportedly serving as a "reset" to the DC cinematic universe as we know it.

That means that a movie like "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is caught in the middle, with no clear indication whether its plot or characters will be part of the larger DC tapestry. In a perfect world, a comedy-adventure blockbuster like this would stand on its own, but with the cinematic ecosystem being the way it is now, those connections to a larger saga tend to be significant. You can see just how significant this factor is by comparing and contrasting the commercial performance of films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe to those in the DCEU.

Shazam is a very important character in DC Comics, and it's possible that there will be someplace for him in future DC cinematic projects, but that place seems currently up in the air. And the film might be suffering commercially as a result. Not even the last-minute pitch revealing an appearance by Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) in the movie could neutralize this threat.

Audiences suffering from DC fatigue?

Part and parcel with behind-the-scenes shakeups at DC HQ (better known as Warner Bros. Discovery) is the fact that audiences have grown weary of what big-screen DC Comics adaptations have to offer. "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is not the first DC movie to get a tepid response: "Black Adam" also qualifies by some measures as a box office bomb, and even James Gunn's take on "The Suicide Squad" managed to earn that designation as well.

There's a reason that the Warner Bros. chiefs have decided to reset the DCEU and take it in a new direction. Fan enthusiasm and dependable box office receipts just aren't there, and the dismal opening weekend for "Fury of the Gods" is only the latest example of that in action.

There does seem to be some positive buzz building around "The Flash," and its twin Batmen of Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton are a good not-so-secret weapon to have in its arsenal. So it's definitely possible that audiences and fans can be energized about these characters again. But "Fury of the Gods" isn't the project to make that happen.

The public is desperate for Mister Mind

Perhaps it would be a different story if "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" had actually delivered on the promise of the post-credits scene in the first movie. In what has been called the biggest failure of "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," the prospect of a film featuring the menacing Mister Mind as its chief antagonist was once again punted down the road.

No offense to Helen Mirren or Lucy Liu, but the supervillains in "Fury of the Gods" have a generic, monotonous quality compared to the quirky threat that a super-intelligent criminal worm like Mister Mind can provide. Concepts like an evil telepathic worm are a big part of what makes superhero comics special, but it all too often feels like their big-screen counterparts tend to shy away from anything too off-beat or "weird." However, love it or hate it, you have to admit "Ant-Man: Quantumania" is an exception to that phenomenon.

A "Shazam!" sequel featuring Mister Mind could have been just the creative shot in the arm the franchise needed for box office success.

Poor critical response

The days of film critics being able to make or break a movie's box office fortunes are probably long gone, but critical consensus can still matter to the public, especially when a film like "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is on otherwise shaky ground.

"Fury of the Gods" currently sports an emerald green 53% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes, as critics have taken aim at the film's purported weaknesses, its lack of focus, and its failure to recapture the lighting-in-a-bottle success of its predecessor.

Some viewers will disagree, of course, and the film is scoring much better on the audience side, but it's still tough to discount a poor critical consensus for a film that many prospective viewers were probably already on the fence about going to see anyway. For them, enough bad reviews just might have pushed "Fury of the Gods" from "check out in the theaters" to "I'll just wait for streaming."

Star Zachary Levi courted anti-vax controversy

While it probably wasn't a major factor in the box office fortunes of "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," star Zachary Levi probably didn't help matters with statements on Twitter that some interpreted as revealing opposition to COVID vaccinations (via Variety).

DC's new architect, James Gunn, chimed in on the controversy on Twitter (it's now been deleted as the filmmaker regularly deletes all his tweets as a matter of course): "Just real simply: Actors and filmmakers that I work with are going to say things that I agree with and things that I don't agree with ... I can't be changing my plans all the time because an actor says something that I don't agree with."

That kerfuffle happened in January, and that feels like a lifetime in a news cycle accelerated by social media, but it's possible that it could have turned off a few potential viewers.

It wasn't a major controversy as these things go, and Levi has been able to participate in the promotion of the film without incident. But when thinking about the poor box office performance of "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," it can't be completely discounted, either.