Shazam! Fury of the Gods was supposed to be a success. The first film in the series was a surprise hit for DC in 2019 and received warmly by audiences and critics so a sequel was promptly greenlit.
Fast forward four years and a lot has changed in the DC universe. Dwayne Johnson tried and failed to change the hierarchy of power at DC with Black Adam (another flop), old executives were fired and new ones hired and Henry Cavill spent about three weeks back in the blue and red of Superman before being let go (again) by new head honcho James Gunn.
So Shazam 2 is a holdover from the previous regime and one of the last movies the studio will release before starting afresh though Gunn has suggested there would be space going forward for the likes of Shazam and The Flash.
So what went wrong with Shazam 2?
The problems started to become public when — as part of Warner Bros' marketing strategy — they spoiled the Wonder Woman cameo in the film and included it in a trailer released shortly before the premiere.
It was a similar tactic to what they tried with Black Adam and Superman, but director David F Sandberg was not told about it ahead of time.
He told The Hollywood Reporter: "I was surprised. I was just getting back from the press tour, and I got a text, asking, 'Hey, why spoil Wonder Woman?' And I was like, 'What are you talking about?' So I didn’t know, and they did apologise for not keeping me in the loop.
"But I understand why they did it, because they wanted to get people to see the movie. So, of course, I understand, but it’s a shame because these days, the only audiences who get to see these movies as intended are test audiences."
How did Shazam 2 fare at the box office?
The film's first reviews and opening weekend box office then came in and neither were positive. The first Shazam was well received and finished with a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and it also grossed $53.5m in its first weekend.
Read more: Why did Shazam 2 bomb? We asked an AI bot
Fury of the Gods did not fair as well with a 51% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a below expected opening weekend total of $30 million that could leave the $125 million film significantly in the red.
What have the Shazam 2 cast said?
Star Zachary Levi has gone on record to blame Warner Bros. and the marketing for the poor box-office. He said: “I think the biggest issue we’re having is marketing. This is a perfect family movie, and yet a lot of families aren’t aware of that. Which is just a shame.”
Director Sandberg also posted a lengthy Twitter thread about the film's negative reception, writing: "On Rotten Tomatoes I just got my lowest critic score and my highest audience score on the same film 🤷♂️ I wasn’t expecting a repeat of the first movie critically but I was still a little surprised because I think it’s a good film. Oh well."
He's now sworn off superhero movies, and is plotting a return to the world of horror where he made his name with films like Lights Out and Annabelle Creation.
Rachel Zegler, who plays Anthea in the film, also defended Shazam on Twitter: "Some people out there and just being… senselessly mean. and it’s unnecessary. and i know, i know, 'if you can’t handle the heat…' and all that nonsense, and you’re right. but our film is actually very good. it’s just cool to hate on fun nowadays. that’s okay. we’re good."
How was Dwayne Johnson involved with Shazam 2?
Events took another twist following the publication of a report in The Wrap about Dwayne Johnson's behind the scenes involvement with the film.
The report suggests Johnson vetoed a Shazam cameo in Black Adam – who are arch enemies in the comic books – in favour of a confrontation with the much better known Superman.
The article accused Johnson of "kneecapping" both franchises in a bid to become central to the DC universe.
Levi then shared the post on his Instagram Stories along with the comment "The truth will set you free."
A few days later, during an Instagram live, Levi explained why he shared the story with his fans.
“I may or may not have, you know, reposted something in my Stories about a story that I had nothing to do with, that The Wrap had reported on.
"And then I got flak about it because people were saying ‘Oh, What are you doing? You’re trying to blame this guy because your movie’s not doing well,’” he said.
“Listen, I haven’t blamed anybody. There’s not one single person that I have blamed for anything about the way that our movie has performed.”
The reason I decided to share that was not because I wanna blame anybody for anything. It’s because I do not want to be blamed for things that are not on me. And as a leader, and I believe, a protector of my family, my Shazam-ly and everyone who worked so hard on these movies, we have been doing everything we can to fight for you, the fans.”
It's the latest episode in the never-ending DC saga and The Flash starring controversial lead Ezra Miller is still months away from release.
Watch below: Rachel Zegler slams 'senselessly mean' Shazam criticism