Black Adam Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Heavy computer effects, a surprising amount of violent kills & an anti-hero with sass. The Rock’s new comic book flick from DC is nothing special.
Genre: Action / Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Sarah Shahi, Bodhi Sabongui, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Quintessa Swindell, Noah Centino, Marwan Kenzari & Mohammed Amer.
Run Time: 125 min.
US Release: 21 October 2022
UK Release: 21 October 2022
German Release: 20 October 2022
The production cycle of Black Adam is an interesting story by itself, if not more intriguing than the final product we obtained! With a Shazam! feature being planned as early as 2000, it took further six years to find a director, with the studio approaching The Rock to portray the hero. However, Johnson showed more interest in the hero’s arch-nemesis, being backed up by fans that it would be a better fit for him. Since then, development on a film had begun several times, yet was put on hold again, shortly after. Finally, after sixteen years of baiting, rumours and talks, the comic book adaptation made it to cinemas. Is it any good though?
Bestowed with the almighty powers of the ancient gods, Black Adam is released from his earthly tomb, 5.000 years after being imprisoned by the council of wizards. Mistaken as the champion of Kahndaq, Adam prepares to dish out his unique form of justice.
This anti-hero blockbuster is way too crowded for its good! While Shazam! was a contained origin story, with nudges towards better-known heroes, Black Adam spreads its metaphorical wings too far, trying to mingle in way too many accounts. This ultimately makes for an incohesive narrative structure, with some severe pacing issues! The decision to make a larger-than-life origin flick is probably rooted in Johnson’s wish, to become the centre face of the DCEU. However, with so many incidents happening on screen, it becomes hard for audiences to feel emotionally attached to any of the characters, let alone the main one.
Then there is also the fact that this movie has an identity crisis, not knowing where it fits inside DC’s fractured cinematic continuity. The city of Kahndaq looks more like an exploited version of Marvel’s Wakanda, where an international terrorist organization known as Intergang (in the comics completely different), is mining for a special metal. Sounds familiar? If so, it's because we already obtained that in the MCU!
Finally, the introduction of the JSA left me personally baffled, as it was made clear in previous instalments, that it was Superman who changed the world of men forever, with his outing. Suddenly we have an organisation of superheroes and wizards, which has been working for centuries to resolve global conflict, now answering to Amanda Waller. What is happening?
That said, I have to admit that the narrative does have its moments of absolute entertainment. Those are best when focused solely on Dwayne Johnson, who is obviously having fun at being the titular character! The Dirty Harry-esque plot, to portray him not as an absolute villain, but as an anti-hero with a darker edge, was for the largest part well handled. Included is also a fair statement about organisations that are meant to maintain order in countries around the world. Sadly, the subject is only touched upon lightly.
Conversations are qualitywise what you would expect from a blockbuster featuring Dwayne Johnson; full of cheesy, hardcore macho one-liners. That said, due to whatever reason, after having been imprisoned for five millennia, Teth-Adam can speak plus understand perfect English, a fairly new language.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, is an incredibly charismatic and friendly guy, though I never believed him to be an actor with much profoundness. This is also true about his portrayal of Teth-Adam, a.k.a. Black Adam, who has very little depth. Barely anything is revealed about this anti-hero, including why he was banished by the council of wizards, until the beginning of the third act. Even then it is just briefly mentioned, although it doesn’t really matter, as by then audiences don’t care anymore.
Aldis Hodge as Carter Hall / Hawkman, leader of the Justice Society of America, is kept at a very superficial level. Other than having worked together with Doctor Fate years earlier, viewers are kept in the dark about the persona. Hall comes off as arrogant, not listening to the complaints of the people who need actual help, underlining the argument that his organisation only helps people or countries that are valuable to them.
Pierce Brosnan was the perfect casting decision as Doctor Fate! The actor has the experience, including a face that has seen or witnessed events in life; perfect for the character of Kent Nelson, who thanks to his magical helmet, can look into the feature. Brosnan gave Kent a likeability that was missing from most Justice Society members and has good chemistry with Hodge. Doctor Fate, on the other hand, is treated rather like a cheaper version of Doctor Strange.
Cyclone and Atom Smasher, portrayed by Quintessa Swindell and Noah Centino respectively, are only side notes. Their characters are barely explored, using heavy exposition dumps to tell their backstories.
Sarah Shahi, as political freedom fighter Adrianna and mother to Amon, her teenage boy who looks up to Black Adam. Shahi gave, next to Brosnan, the best performance! Adrianna is trying to liberate her country from the oppression of Intergang, releasing Black Adam from his tomb to help them. Once the JSA makes an appearance, she is the vocal vessel that starts asking important questions like - where have the heroes been before the release of Teth-Adam? Sadly, here queries are left unexplored.
The villain is completely one-dimensional, with no explanation as to his motives, as well as barely on screen. He disappears for half of the movie, to simply pop up again, at the end of the second act.
The cinematography is very mediocre! The digital look, paired with the extremely bright lighting, was often painful for the eyes. It became an entertaining blockbuster experience, once the action started, which was surprisingly violent, although could have been a tad more bloody! That said, a lot of the action segments are rendered through CG effects, which are mostly very obvious to spot! Be it the bubble bodies of people flying through the air, or the ridiculous-looking villain. The best-looking effects were used on Doctor Fate’s powers!
Verdict: DC’s newest superhero flick isn’t as groundbreaking, as its lead promised it would be. With a generic screenplay, that simply tangles up this shared cinematic universe even more! The story is lazily structured, skipping over vital dramatic points that could have made for a richer tale, leaving fans with a shallow account of one of DC’s most prominent villains/anti-heroes. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is charismatic as usual, yet apart from looking grim, there is not much depth in his acting. Aldis Hodge, who plays Hawkman, comes off as a pretentious douche, leaving Pierce Brosnan giving a very entertaining and heartwarming portrayal of Doctor Fate. How, when, or where the JSA was included in the DCEU is also left unclear. The cinematography plus effects are mediocre, however, it is still more entertaining than Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey. It garners a 6.0 out of 10.
Did you go see The Rock as the titular anti-hero this weekend? If so, what are your thoughts? Did you like it, or were you left disappointed? Thanks for reading!