Where was this from DC five or even ten years ago?
In the fictional city of Kahndaq, the repressed people believe in a mythical hero from before even Babylonian times, a hero who stood up against slavery and oppression.
With no sign of this hero returning, explorers uncover a tomb, as well as an artefact of intense power. But they unleash something no one expected…
Black Adam is, in star/producer Dwayne Johnson’s words, the beginning of “their own DC universe”… Another one? We have the Synder-verse, whatever Geoff Johns attempt was, Walter Yamada’s tenure, and now new management again.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (director of several Liam Neeson action movies, you know the type) and heavily influenced by Johnson’s fandom of the titular DC character. Yet despite Johnson’s aforementioned claims, the film has ties to multiple previous DC instalments. Most notably Shazam!, but also Suicide Squad, and Justice League.
So what is it?
Well, what can be agreed upon, is that the film is pretty decent.
The film’s pacing makes for a strong start, and a rather messy final act. It would seem that DC/Warner Brothers still haven’t cracked the formula for their films’ villains, with Black Adam not really treading any new ground in this regard.
What it does do, early doors, is introduce an anti-hero. In fact, Johnson does not play his usual quipping, eyebrow-raising, bubbly self here, when he arrives in the story he is basically a villain. He is destroying everything in sight, wrecking havoc on anyone who opposes him, and very… very much kills his enemies. One faceless goon is literally melted from the neck down before his skull collapses.
All of this death and chaos is juxtaposed with locals seeking the legendary “Champion” of their people, to fight the (rather unexplored) tyrannical regime that controls their city. This becomes an important theme throughout the film, as Teth Adam (his original name) is destructive, but the people still believe he is their salvation.
This brings in our other element… The (sigh) Justice Society. They are called in to contain Adam’s destructive powers, and include in their number: Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan). The film gets decidedly Avengers vibes here; Hawkman and Dr. Fate have history and experience, while Cyclone and Atom Smasher are younger newcomers. They have decent raport, and are representing a sort of Iron Man from Civil War perspective of “control and keep people safe”, compared to Black Adam’s stance of offense is the best defense.
This makes up for the majority of the film’s middle act, which is a lot of fun and looks amazing.
The flaws only really come up after a fake “conclusion”, which to anyone with a working brain is not the conclusion. The screenplay chugs after this point; feeling a like it has laboured itself with more to do (there is a Chekov’s gun sitting in the corner of the room) and so we have an exciting conclusion that… didn’t feel entirely relevant to what led up to it (Suicide Squad, cough) That, and the film’s dip into comedic writing really falls flat 90% of the time. Although Pierce Brosnan has some pretty great line deliveries.
But overall the film is effective. The cast are strong in their roles. Our human characters are meaningful (especially Sarah Shahi’s character) the production value is good, with good set design, costumes and CG effects. Of course, a review of Black Adam wouldn’t be complete without complimenting Dwayne Johnson’s insane physique. The man really went all out, and famously didn’t want a padded suit… He certainly looks like a real-life comic book character.
If you aren’t completely sick of comic book adaptations, Black Adam is worth your time. Marvel Studios are on the back foot at the moment, and if DC can pick up the ball with more solid efforts like this… we could see something better come from the studio.
Maybe. Their decisions change like the wind, so who knows.
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