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‘Black Adam’ is a Step Backward


There are two types of people who will really love Black Adam: diehard Dwayne Johnson fans and hardcore DC Comics fans. Personally, I’m a fan of both, but I have my limits. From animated films to goofy TV game shows, Johnson has proven that he can do (almost) no wrong. He starred in Disney’s adventure hit, Jungle Cruise, which was also directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and is probably why Johnson was chosen for this project. But honestly, the role of the antihero is tailor-made for him. It’s just too bad that the script was missing much of a plot.

Time and again, Warner Bros.’ history of successful movies based on DC Comics characters has an uneven track record. After the second try at the Suicide Squad, Shazam and The Batman, things have been looking up for the studio. And the brief scene during the end credits of the film suggests more of the same to come. But in the meantime, Black Adam will have to do. And that is okay, I guess. Sometimes you want steak and other times, a McDonald’s cheeseburger just sounds really good.

Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) and Karim (Mo Amer) (Warner Bros.)

Granted, creating superhero movies is no easy task. No matter what studios create, somebody is going to be upset. Marvel Studios films have done very well because they balance what the comic super-fans want and what causal fans will tolerate. On the other hand, Warner Bros. tend to want to focus all of their energy for their super fans. And even then, many of their fans are not happy with the finished product.

Carter Hall/Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) (Warner Bros.)

While Black Adam isn’t a train wreck, there isn’t much to it either. It is visually stunning and if you want an action picture, this is it. But if you want a compelling story, you might want to re-watch The Batman. The sad thing is, it could have been great. Black Adam features a bunch of characters who have never made it to the big screen, but writers Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirani didn’t think it was necessary to bring the causal comics fan up to speed on who they are. The movie begins assuming that the audience already knows them, which is bad enough, but then it doesn’t give any reasons why they should care about them either.

The origin story begins 5,000 years ago in ancient Kahndag where many slaves are tasked with finding Eternium, a special and rare blue-ish material found within the Rock of Eternity that is said to contain special powers. During this time, one slave known as Teth Adam was given a gift of power from the gods. But he abused these powers and so was quickly condemned from the same group.

Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan) (Warner Bros.)

Now 5,000 years later, the film continues with a modern-day Kahndag where things are not looking that much brighter. Eternium is even harder to come by. Led by Archeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi), a group of freedom fighters are going undercover to go deep into the former site looking for Teth Adam’s gravesite. Along for the ride is her brother Karim (Mo Amer), her friend Ishmael (Marwan Kenzari) and her son, Amon (Bodhi Sabongui). They find it and wouldn’t you know it, she accidentally conjures up Black Adam ready to continue where he left off.

Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) (Warner Bros.)

The Justice Society is awakened to these events by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis); you know, the same woman who thought creating the Suicide Squad was a good idea. The Justice Society includes Kent Nelson (Doctor Fate) portrayed by Pierce Brosnan; Carter Hall/Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell). For newbies (like myself), Doctor Fate is similar to Marvel’s Doctor Strange, Atom Smasher has a suit similar in style to the one that Deadpool wears but he grows really big, Cyclone spins around a lot (but doesn’t say much) and Hawkman is a man with large gold wings and is the coolest one of the bunch.

Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) (Warner Bros.)

The rest of the movie shows this group of people trying to stop Black Adam’s revenge while also trying to negotiate with him. There is swelling music throughout the movie. In fact, it never stops. Even when there is no action, the music continues. It feels as if it was put there to give the impression of excitement and tension, when there isn’t any or at least, not much. It’s a cheap substitute for storytelling. Though the movie stretches to just over two hours, the story still fills pretty slight. Instead of focusing so much on the origin story of Black Adam, Collet-Serra should have been given us a backstory about Adrianna, Karim, Ishmael and Amon. As it is, you want this rag tag bunch to win, but at the same time, you’re not emotionally invested in them either. This is very similar to the DC treatment of Batman v. Superman where there is a lot of action and fighting, but little plot. But if that is what you’re looking for, enjoy.

Main Image: Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) (Warner Bros.)

Jeffrey Totey View All

I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.

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