REVIEW: ‘Black Adam’ Aims For Shock And Awe, But Treads Familiar Ground

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Black Adam - But Why Tho

Throughout the decade-long journey of bringing Black Adam from the comic page to the big screen, Dwayne Johnson would often utter a single sentence: “The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.” That sentence was loaded with promise, especially from one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. But having seen the film, I’d say that promise is still unfilled, even if the film winds up being more entertaining than expected.

Johnson plays Teth Adam, a native of the country of Khandaq. When a king oppressed his people in order to harness the power of a mystical mineral, Teth Adam was empowered by a group of wizards to serve as Khandaq’s champions. But his rage ended up causing massive destruction, as well as his imprisonment. In the present day, Khandaq has been occupied by the criminal syndicate known as Intergang, and its people need a champion. History professor Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) frees Teth Adam from his prison, and he starts dispatching Intergang with extreme violence. This draws the attention of the Justice Society, who attempt to stop Teth Adam’s path of destruction.

This was a passion project for Johnson. He signed on in 2009, long before superheroes were the pillar of pop culture that they are today. Ironically, that also marked the beginning of his career, as he was still growing into the massive superstar that he is today. But time has seen a number of antiheroes from different comic book universes get their shot at the silver screen. Even DC has gotten in on the act, especially where the Suicide Squad is concerned. Seeing Black Adam charbroil Intergang members with lightning bolts and dropping them from terrifyingly high distances gets tiresome after a while. And hearing him proclaim he’s not a hero also gets repetitive, especially when other antiheroes have trodden this well-worn road.

The breakneck pacing doesn’t help matters. Black Adam often feels like a series of action sequences stitched together. And I do mean stitched together, as this has some of the most whiplash edits I’ve seen in a blockbuster film. Action sequences slow down and ramp up, to the point where it feels like director Jaume Collet-Serra is trying to ape 300. And a moment where Adam is attempting to save someone’s life has an unintentionally hilarious effect, with Johnson’s face contorting and stretching like rubber. I’d recommend starting a drinking game based on the number of slo-mo sequences in this movie, but anyone who plays it is probably going to need a new liver by the time the credits roll.

Black Adam eventually picks up when the Justice Society enters the picture. The biggest scene stealers are Aldis Hodge as Hawkman and Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate. Hodge, no stranger to the DC Universe, embraces all of Hawkman’s ferocity and blunt nature. It’s a treat to watch him and Johnson butt heads throughout the film, both metaphorically and literally. And Brosnan brings the gravitas needed to play Fate, as well as sparks of the suave spirit that fueled his tenure as James Bond. Noah Centineo and Quintessa Swindell are sadly underutilized as the size-changing Atom Smasher and the wind-bending Cyclone. But the end, Black Adam promises more Justice Society adventures, and I’d love to see said adventures.

As for the Man in Black himself, Johnson actually has the chance to play against type. Black Adam is more of a stoic, blunt character than the wisecracking badasses with hearts of gold that he usually plays. This winds up working in Johnson’s favor as more of Adam’s backstory is revealed. The world has hardened his heart, and he can’t afford to show mercy. Johnson also cuts an impressive figure in his gold and black super suit, towering over nearly everyone in his path. This imposing presence lends a certain weight to select fight sequences, including Adam’s first battle with Intergang. All I can say is that he finds new and inventive ways to kill people in that sequence, and it’s an energy the rest of the film could have used.

Though Black Adam won’t change the hierarchy of the DC Universe, it’s still an entertaining watch. If anything, it lays the groundwork for a new wave of DC films—most notably the Justice Society. And even though Johnson has expressed his desire for Black Adam and Superman to do battle, I’m still waiting for a film that pits him against his fellow magical champion Shazam, as the two share a lot more than magic powers in common.

Black Adam premieres in theaters on October 21, 2022.


Black Adam
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Though Black Adam won’t change the hierarchy of the DC Universe, it’s still an entertaining watch. If anything, it lays the groundwork for a new wave of DC films—most notably the Justice Society.

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