‘Black Adam’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Black Adam is an antihero action film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Jungle Cruise) from a screenplay written by Adam Sztykiel (Rampage), Rory Haines (The Mauritanian), and Sohrab Noshirvani (Informer). Featuring Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Mohammed Amer, Bodhi Sabongui, and Pierce Brosnan, it is a spin-off from Shazam! series and the eleventh film in the DC Extended Universe. The story follows Teth-Adam, a former slave who was bestowed with the powers of various Egyptian gods, as he is awakened in present-day Kahndaq after being imprisoned for over 4000 years.

In 2600 BC, Kahndaq is stated to be the first self-governing kingdom on Earth and the center of power and enlightenment. After thriving for centuries Kahndaq came under the rule of the tyrannical King Ahk-Ton (Marwan Kenzari). Obsessed with dark magic, the king wanted to forge the Crown of Sabbac to attain even greater power. He enslaved his people to mine Eternium, the rare magical mineral needed to create the crown. After seeing one of his people murdered by an evil soldier a young boy named Hurut (Jalon Christian) starts a rebellion.

Not wanting the rebellion to gain traction King Ahk-Ton orders that the boy be killed in front of the people. Before he is slain, Hurut is transported to the Rock of Eternity where the Council of Wizards make him their champion and imbue him with the stamina of Shu, the speed of Horus, the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, the power of Aten, and the courage of Mehen. The champion returns to Kahndaq and challenges King Ahk-Ton before he can put on the crown. In the ensuing battle, the palace is destroyed and the champion disappeared.

Black Adam has been in development for over a decade and it’s crazy that the film is finally here with the same star that has been attached since the beginning. Dwayne Johnson was originally tapped to play the character back in 2007 as the main antagonist in a feature film about Captain Marvel – no not the Marvel character. Over time as DC and Warner Bros. started planning their shared universe Johnson began to court the possibility of playing both Captain Marvel and Black Adam but eventually stuck to the antihero. As Johnson’s fame grew the higher-ups at Warner Bros. decided that Black Adam could headline his own film meeting up with Captain Marvel, since rebranded as Shazam, to avoid confusion with the Marvel comics character. Now after all that time the film is finally here and the final product is…okay.

To start with the positive, Dwayne Johnson was born to play this character. He is the star of the film and it just wouldn’t work as well with anyone else in the role. His dedication and commitment to the character are recognized on screen. Black Adam looks like a solid block of muscle. Knowing that there aren’t any muscle pads in the suit is astounding. If Johnson can get into and maintain this kind of shape as a 50-year-old actor, younger actors should have no problem doing the same. The decision to change Black Adam’s origins makes the character more relatable. Although it does create a tiny plot hole in Shazam! Aldis Hodge is great as Carter Hall/Hawkman! He is also in fantastic shape and looks great as the superhero. As the leader of the Justice Society of America, Hawkman is a true hero fighting with honor and courage. He has a moral code about what a hero is and will do whatever it takes to save people as long as it falls in line with that code. The standout for me is Pierce Brosnan as Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate. He is translated right from the page of the comic. His suit has a tad more CGI applied to it but that makes sense with the character’s power set and Brosnan’s advanced age. There will be comparisons to Doctor Strange, but besides similar names, their use of magic is quite different.

The score is pretty good and starts booming with the opening credits. Lorne Balfe (Pacific Rim Uprising) does a decent job complementing the action scenes which are a majority of the film. The costume design is spot on! Nothing could be done better in adapting comic-accurate costumes to the big screen. The cinematography is pretty with Lawrence Sher (Joker) doing his best to capture the vast city and desert of Khandaq. Although some of the nighttime shots are a tad too dark, probably to hide rushed CGI.

Now on to the negatives of which the biggest is that the dialogue in this film is terrible. If a sequel is made they should hire a new writing team. While some of the jokes did make me giggle most didn’t work. Surprisingly, they didn’t bring back the same team from Shazam! to write this feature considering how well that film was received. The plot has too much going on. It feels like there are five different movies crammed into one. There are characters are introduced in this picture that hasn’t appeared in the DCEU at all until this point. We already have to suspend disbelief somewhat, but why didn’t Hawkman or Doctor Fate help when the Kryptonians tried to invade Earth? While it was nice to see the Justice Society of America, they did feel like they came from another universe. Since this movie was originally supposed to come out after The Flash maybe that plays a part in the disconnect.

This also ties into Hawkman’s speech about heroes not killing people. This type of dialogue doesn’t fit. In the DCEU we have seen Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Batman kill villains. If you jump over to the MCU all of those heroes have killed and that includes Spider-Man. This antiquated sense of morality doesn’t fit in modern superhero movies at all. At the same time, Hawkman is working with Amanda Waller who runs a black ops team made up of captured villains. Maybe he doesn’t know this, but that’s a stretch considering how old he’s supposed to be. On the visual side, the CGI is a bit sloppy on some of the characters and there is an overuse of slow-motion that would even make Zack Snyder feel sick.

While the dialogue is utterly atrocious, Dwayne Johnson’s dedication, the great cast, and impressive costume design make Black Adam a fun time at the theater. I give Black Adam a Solid 5/10. I would like to see a sequel with better writers attached and to see how this character will interact with the Shazam Family.


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