Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence, horror scenes & content may disturb
Dwayne Johnson as Teth-Adam/Black Adam
Aldis Hodge as Carter Hall/Hawkman
Noah Centineo as Albert “Al” Rothstein/Atom Smasher
Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz
Marwan Kenzari as Ishmael Gregor/Sabbac
Quintessa Swindell as Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone
Mohammed Amer as Karim
Bodhi Sabongui as Amon Tomaz
Pierce Brosnan as Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
In ancient Kahndaq, Teth Adam was bestowed the almighty powers of the gods. After using these powers for vengeance, he was imprisoned, becoming Black Adam. Nearly 5,000 years have passed, and Black Adam has gone from man to myth to legend. Now free, his unique form of justice, born out of rage, is challenged by modern-day heroes who form the Justice Society: Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone.
I was somewhat interested in Black Adam. I had been liking the DCEU, but have been losing interest with some more recent decisions. Black Adam looked like it had potential however, it had a cast which included Aldis Hodge and Pierce Brosnan, and was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Additionally, it would be focussing on Black Adam, who’s known as a Shazam villain. Ironically the part I was most sceptical about was the actor who has been attached to play the title character since 2007, Dwayne Johnson. Still, I got around to watching it, and I had fun with it.
The writing is definitely the weakest part of Black Adam. The plot doesn’t seem to that matter much, and the story itself is overly familiar and dull (especially within the superhero genre). There’s really only one or two moments that you could really spoil in this movie. The opening 20 minutes are pretty rough and dull, from a generic retelling of the legend of Black Adam, to focussing on some human characters trying to find a magic relic. Once Black Adam is awoken the film picks up, and it picks up further when the Justice Society is introduced. There’s a lot of one liners and humour, they fall flat most of the time and are too prevalent in the movie. Funnily enough, the Justice Society was the most interesting part of the movie, and their scenes were a lot of fun. Black Adam’s story definitely had the potential and they put together a decent enough backstory for him, but it almost feels on autopilot and generic. I liked the conflict between Black Adam and the Justice Society but there was some wasted potential there. You quickly lose track of how many times the JS fight Black Adam to stop him from killing people. In fact, the sole point of conflict is that Black Adam kills his enemies, which isn’t as interesting as the movie thinks it is. Because besides him openly killing enemies, Black Adam pretty much acts like every other superhero. So it would’ve been great if they had more of a difference between them, whether it be ideology or methods of protecting. The storyline following the human characters and the villains just wasn’t interesting, particularly with everything surrounding this powerful relic which everyone is after. It just felt like they needed some McGuffin for everyone to chase. The third act is pretty much just full on action, thankfully it succeeds in that department. However it felt like a paint by numbers climax, and the terrible villain deflates it a little. The mid credits scene is definitely worth sticking around for, in some ways it overshadows the rest of the movie.
I was very sceptical about Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam. Not that I don’t think he can’t act, but in almost everything he acts the same way, and the worst part is that it seems to be a deliberate choice from Johnson. He deliberately plays likable and lighter leads and now he’d be playing an anti-hero/villain with Black Adam, and I didn’t think that he would have it in him. For what its worth, I do think he was better in this role than expected. I do wish that he went a little darker, and he definitely has some obligatory ‘The Rock’ moments. Even if you got a better actor for this however, the performance probably wouldn’t have been that much better than what Johnson did here. I haven’t read any Black Adam stories, but this does seem to be how the character acts, so that’s something at least. The Justice Society was a little less generic and were enjoyable, their powers are fun and it was cool to see them on display. Aldis Hodge and Pierce Brosnan are the standouts as Hawkman and Dr Fate respectively (Brosnan was particularly great casting), whereas Quintessa Swindell and Noah Centineo are fine as Cyclone and Atom Smasher, but don’t have much screentime or material to work with. The human characters really weren’t anything special, the main kid was a bit annoying. While his acting was a bit rough, it was more that this movie kept forcing a connection between him and Black Adam with all their interactions, by trying to coach him on catchphrases and how to be a hero, etc. The villain in Black Adam however is quite possibly one of the worst comic book movie villains I’ve seen. I get that next to Black Adam and the Justice Society, the villain is not going to be someone too major. However, it literally felt like the villain here was autogenerated, beyond the generic plot, he was a big reason why I just couldn’t care about the stakes.
Jaume Collet-Serra has made a wide range of movies, from horror films with Orphan and The Shallows, to action movies like The Commuter and Jungle Cruise. He’s clearly made better movies than Black Adam, but his work here is still pretty solid. The visual effects are pretty good, I like the visual style and how the powers were showcased (particularly Dr Fate). The costume designs were also really good. The action scenes are fun, it does aim for Zack Snyder-esque action, though it doesn’t succeed as well. On one hand I do like how fast and powerful Black Adam is, reminiscent of Superman’s speed and power (especially in Man of Steel). However, they overuse the slow motion to a rather cartoonish degree, like they actually were trying to out slow-mo Snyder. Lorne Balfe’s score is a shining point in this movie, especially in the action scenes.
You can probably watch the trailers for Black Adam and predict exactly the kind of movie that you’ll get here. I’m not sure I would call it a good movie; the script is a mess and doesn’t really take advantage of its potential. Despite the marketing attempting to make the lead character stand out from the other superhero movies by making him an anti-hero, Black Adam is one of the more by the numbers superhero films I’ve seen in recent years. Still, with the entertaining action and some solid performances (mainly from Pierce Brosnan and Aldis Hodge), I enjoyed it.