David F. Sandberg breaks down the latest DC trailer, featuring Zachary Levi as Billy Batson
Zachary Levi in 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'

The Shazamily is back in action.

When the first Shazam! debuted in April 2019, it struck theaters like a bolt of lightning. Even in a crowded sea of superhero flicks, David F. Sandberg's charming DC film stood out for being funny, fresh, and full of heart. Now, Zachary Levi is once again suiting up as teenager-turned-superhero Billy Batson, donning that familiar red spandex and white cape for the sequel Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

With the film hitting theaters March 17, Warner Bros. has shared a new trailer for Fury of the Gods, teasing Levi's return and the introduction of some very starry villains. It's also the first DC release since the studio's recent shakeup: James Gunn and Peter Safran were tapped as co-CEOs late last year, and since then, the studio has undergone some major changes, including the cancellation of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman 3 and a planned recasting of Henry Cavill as Superman.

But even as other superheroes face uncertainty, Levi's Shazam is ready to take flight once more — and this time, he's facing off against some very formidable foes.

To break down the new trailer, EW caught up with Sandberg to talk about Shazam's return to the screen. Here, the returning director opens up about some of the trailer's biggest moments — from Helen Mirren's villainous turn to Lucy Liu riding a dragon(!).

A hero's return

Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Zachary Levi and Helen Mirren in 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Levi starred in the original 2019 film, which followed foster kid Billy Batson (played in kid form by Asher Angel) as he gains superpowers from a wizard (Djimon Hounsou). This time around, Billy is settling into his new role as one of Philadelphia's resident heroes. Still, heroism can have its ups and downs — especially when he has to juggle his newfound responsibilities with family drama. (His foster siblings also gained powers at the end of the first film, and together they've formed a not-so-cohesive crime-fighting unit.)

"It's sort of an extension of the first movie," Sandberg tells EW. "He finally found a family in that movie. But now, we see him struggling a bit now that they're growing up. He's holding on very tightly to his family because he doesn't want everyone to just scatter and go do their own thing. He just found his family, and he wants to have them all together."

Say the magic word

Zachary Levi in 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

In addition to Levi, Fury of the Gods also sees the return of Billy's family — including Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer as a kid/Adam Brody in superhero form), Eugene (Ian Chen/Ross Butler), Darla (Faithe Herman/Meagan Good), Pedro (Jovan Armand/D.J. Cotrona), and Mary (Grace Fulton). Billy's siblings get their powers in the final minutes of the first Shazam!, so Sandberg wanted to give them time to shine in the sequel. "The kids are older now," he adds. "I mean, they grew up super fast! So, we can't play them quite as young as we did in the first one. We have to sort of lean into that."

The first Shazam! was considerably lighter than many of its DC counterparts, and Sandberg says the sequel will continue that same playful tone. But Fury of the Gods has its fair share of heavy moments, and the director praised Levi for being able to land punches both physical and emotional.

"Zach is so good because he is that kid at heart in real life," Sandberg says. "But he also has serious range, and I think it's nice he gets to show some of that in this one. It's not just like, 'Wow, I get to be a superhero!' He actually has to take some responsibility and save the world this time."

Introducing the Daughters of Atlas

Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren in 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Every superhero film needs a villain — and Fury of the Gods has several. The sequel introduces the nefarious Daughters of Atlas, who are, as the title suggests, not too happy that Shazam has acquired their dad's abilities. (If you'll remember, the acrostic-loving Wizard blessed Billy with "the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury.")

To play these devious daughters, Sandberg recruited some big names: Lucy Liu plays Kalypso, while Oscar winner Helen Mirren stars as her sister Hespera. "It was a dream to work with them," the director says. "We aimed high when we cast the movie, and we got exactly what we wanted. They're both so kickass."

Killer queen

Helen Mirren in Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Helen Mirren in 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Mirren has built her career playing dames, assassins, and multiple members of English royalty. Now, she joins the superhero world as the power-hungry Hespera. Still, Sandberg says, Mirren quickly became part of the "Shazamily," trading quips on set and learning to ride Levi's hoverboard in between takes. (Levi eagerly gave her tips on how to ride, while Sandberg fretted in the background, hoping his two stars wouldn't accidentally break an ankle.)

"You kind of have an expectation, like, 'Oh, it's Dame Helen entering the set!'" Sandberg adds with a laugh. "But the first day she came on, she's like, 'Yeah! We need more p---y power on set! We're here now!' and I was like, 'Oh, okay!'"

West Side starry

Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Rachel Zegler in 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Mirren and Liu aren't the only Daughters of Atlas. West Side Story breakout Rachel Zegler also appears as their mysterious sister Anthea (in her second film ever). Sandberg is tight-lipped about her exact role in the story — the trailer suggests that she has some kind of magical abilities — but the director teases major chemistry between her and Grazer's Freddy.   

Don't expect Anthea to show off any musical ability, however. "It's funny because I had no idea about her singing, and it seems like in every other movie she sings," Sandberg adds. "In ours, she doesn't because I just didn't know!"

A magical return

Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Djimon Hounsou in 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Speaking of Freddy, Grazer's fast-talking superhero fan was one of the highlights of the first film. Here, he takes on an expanded role as he embraces his own superhero transformation (played by The O.C.'s Adam Brody). Freddy also spends much of the film stuck with Hounsou's resurrected Wizard — much to the Wizard's annoyance. (Yes, the Wizard is back after his apparent death in the first film.)

"One of the things that turned out so great was pairing [Freddy] up with the Wizard," Sandberg says. "In the first one, you had Freddy playing off of Shazam, and now, you have Freddy and the Wizard. The Wizard is the ultimate straight man, just very serious, and then you have this kid who's just annoying and talks the whole time."

Here be monsters

Shazam! Fury of the Gods
'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Swedish Sandberg built his career directing horror films like 2016's Lights Out and 2017's Anabelle: Creation. Fury of the Gods is decidedly less scary, but the film does see Billy and his family facing off against some creepy creatures. Sandberg wanted to populate the film with all sorts of monsters from mythology: minotaurs, cyclops, harpies, and… are those demonic unicorns?  

"I was telling the people cutting the trailers, 'Please, you gotta put some monsters in there,'" Sandberg says with a laugh. "'At least little glimpses of them!'"

Mother of dragons

Shazam! Fury of the Gods
Lucy Liu in 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The trailer saves its (literally) biggest moment for the end, as Billy confronts a giant dragon in the Phillies' baseball stadium. (Between the dragon in Citizens Bank Park and Levi and Mirren squaring off over cheesesteaks, there are a lot of Philadelphia nods in this trailer.) Liu's Kalypso channels her inner Khaleesi, riding on the back of the dragon as she terrorizes the city.

Sandberg says cracking the dragon's design was one of the trickiest elements in Fury of the Gods, and he and his crew obsessed over every tiny detail — from the number of feet to the exact wing placement. He initially thought Liu would ride on the dragon's back, sort of like a horse, but after looking at 3D models, he decided it made more sense to place her right behind the dragon's head. (That way, he says, Kalypso would have maximum visibility as she soared over the city.)  

"It was also trying to figure out, well, how can we do it differently?" Sandberg explains. "We've seen a lot of dragons in Game of Thrones and The Hobbit and everything. But this is from mythology. It's a dragon that's sort of made of wood because he's born from a tree."

Liu herself spent days filming on the back of the dragon, which was actually a programmable robotic arm equipped with a saddle and horns. Sandberg says the technology took some getting used to, but the final result was worth it.

"I just love monsters!" he says. "It was a lot of fun to play with an even bigger toy box on this one."

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is in theaters March 17.

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Zachary Levi in 'Shazam! Fury of the Gods'
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