‘Shazam!’ Fury of the Gods can't repeatedly bottle lightning.                                        

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is a lightning-bolt-shaped exclamation point on the idea that this humorous superhero franchise was a one-trick pony, good for a lighthearted origin story but not enough for an encore. This mediocre sequel weakens everything from the original, even its famous villains.

The main draw of the 2019 introduction to the character was watching teenage Billy Batson transform into a muscular superhero and experience “Big”-like exultation in discovering and exploring his powers, helped by his foster brother Freddy's first-in-line-at-Comic-Con knowledge.

By the end of that movie, all the foster kids had comparable talents, thus “Fury of the Gods” begins with Billy fearing desertion at 18 and being forced to go out alone.

However, the daughters of Atlas invade the Earth with a magical staff and a mission to reclaim their lost realm, no matter how many background actors must flee for their lives.

The daughters, Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu, bring seriousness and gravitas to their interactions with Billy/Captain Whoever (the lack of a superhero name is a running gag), whom Levi invests with a goofiness that, like everything else here, yields diminishing returns.

Pyrotechnics, fascinating creatures, and a pretty dragon make for a good “Game of Thrones” joke. Without spoiling anything, the two closing-credit sequences nearly perfectly sum up how the movie fails, both feeling too charming for its own good in slightly different ways.

The picture, directed by David F. Sandberg from a script by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan, shares its love of comics and the DC universe like its predecessor. Michael Gray, who portrayed Billy on the 1970s Saturday-morning TV comedy, makes a fleeting appearance inside.

Mirren plays pop-culture classics like the “Fast & Furious” series alongside her more Dame-like parts. Her character flashes the smart-alecky hero a steely glance and sneers, “You’re wasting my time.”

That's harsh, but once you get past the smoke and lightning, it's reasonable for a fast-moving, non-Fury movie.

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