Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast : Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan, Mohammed Amer, Viola Davis
Run Time : 125 min
Opens : 20 October 2022
Rating : PG13
Dwayne Johnson became officially linked to the role of Black Adam in 2007. 15 years later, he finally dons the black suit emblazoned with the yellow lightning bolt. But is the Rock the saviour that DC Films are desperately looking for?
Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) was a warrior slave from the fictional kingdom of Kahndaq, a civillisation that arose alongside ancient Egypt. Adam was granted the powers of the gods but misused these powers for vengeance. As punishment, Adam was imprisoned. Almost 5000 years later, Teth-Adam, now Black Adam, is released when university professor and resistance fighter Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) finds his tomb. Adrianna sees Black Adam as a figure who could rally the citizens of Kahndaq to fight against Intergang, the militaristic corporation currently occupying Kahndaq. Black Adam continues what he feels is his justified crusade, leaving destruction in his wake. Rising to oppose Adam is the Justice Society, a team of superheroes comprising Carter Hall/Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan). Adam must form an uneasy alliance with the Justice Society to defeat an even bigger, more diabolical threat.
Black Adam isn’t afraid to feel like a comic book, and it also has a good amount of Saturday morning cartoon energy – albeit with quite a bit more brutality to it. Dwayne Johnson does a fine job balancing both his own finely-honed celebrity persona with the Black Adam character from the pages of Fawcett, then DC, comics. The movie is rated PG13, but Black Adam’s violent streak is largely preserved.
Long-time DC Comics fans will enjoy seeing mildly-to-relatively obscure comic book characters on the big screen, though iterations of said characters have appeared on TV in Smallville and in the Arrowverse. For the most part, the film is tonally assured, neither too crushingly serious nor too flippant. Sometimes comic book movies seem preoccupied with trying not to come off as too silly, something which has plagued earlier entries in the DC Extended Universe. In Black Adam, superheroes pile into a high-tech jet and set off to save the day, as they do in the comics, and nobody really bats an eyelid.
Black Adam is being promoted as a tentpole event movie when it doesn’t really feel like one. It’s not a small movie by any stretch, but it does feel restricted. For all the movie’s world-building, it aspires to a scope and scale that it ultimately doesn’t possess. Its plot beats are straightforward to a fault, while it also struggles with feeling slightly bloated because of all its characters, none of whom the general moviegoer would already be familiar with. There is a reliance on exposition, and it feels like certain things were glued together in reshoots. There is unfortunately a dullness to the visuals, because everything takes place in dusty environs. While there is an effort made to make Kahndaq look like a real place, there are instances when it feels like we are on a studio backlot. The action sequences start blending into each other after a while. The movie’s villain is also far from compelling, and it ends as all these movies must end, with our heroes fighting a thing made of CGI.
This is as much a Justice Society movie as it is a Black Adam film. Aldis Hodge is a charismatic and appropriately stubborn presence as Carter Hall/Hawkman, the leader of the team. Both Noah Centineo and Quintessa Swindell are endearing as the younger members. Pierce Brosnan is the movie’s MVP as Doctor Fate, and this reviewer would love to see him headline a Doctor Fate spinoff film. He has gravitas to spare and is taking it all quite seriously. Besides, he looks very dashing in full silver fox mode. Unfortunately, it is difficult to connect to the characters given the very limited time we get to know them. The movie completely sidesteps Hawkman’s complicated backstory, which involves him being an archaeologist who is the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince.
It seems like Warner Bros executives are hoping that Dwayne Johnson’s star power will help rescue DC Films. Things have never been particularly smooth going for this franchise, and anyone who follows movie news will be aware of baffling developments like the decision to never release an almost-completed film. You will find many helpful infographics online explaining how each DC Extended Universe movie connects to the other. Black Adam is not an A-lister and it’s clear that Johnson does have affection for the character, elevating the character with his own celebrity status. However, the Black Adam movie feels like it should occupy a corner of the DC universe and not be at the centre of it, and it feels like it is being pushed into that spot because other plans have fallen through.
Summary: Black Adam won’t blow anyone away, but it is a largely enjoyable comic book adventure movie. It’s not ashamed of its somewhat sillier elements, but also the brutality and angst befitting its protagonist. For something that has been in development for a long time, it feels half-baked – maybe three-quarters-baked, if you’re being charitable. Dwayne Johnson is a suitably imposing, brutal Black Adam, but the movie’s secret weapon is a dashing and quietly haunted Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate. Black Adam sometimes feels a little overstuffed and too formulaic, but it never loses sight of that crucial comic book sensibility, thus remaining entertaining all the way through. Stick around for a mid-credits screen that would have a very nice surprise if it weren’t spoiled to the point of being a part of the marketing.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars