Its reluctance to do something dark and inventive with its protagonist makes Black Adam yet another dull, middling chapter in the DCEU.
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Mo Amer, Bodhi Sabongui, and Pierce Brosnan
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Tagline: The world needed a hero. It got Black Adam.
lack Adam’s venture onto the big screen had been in the works in various iterations since the mid ‘00s. That might explain why the new Black Adam film feels like it belongs in the mid ‘00s, although this explanation shouldn’t have to apply – you’d think that at some point someone would have realized how far superhero movies have come in the last two decades and then given this stodgy picture a sharp, swift revamp. But clearly, they didn’t, so here we are.
The newest addition to DC’s generally unexceptional Extended Universe is an unexciting affair that needlessly gives its protagonist an uninspired, drawn-out origin story in this mostly unnecessary solo vehicle.
Dwayne Johnson stars as the titular anti-villain, a former slave bestowed with the powers of various Egyptian gods, who is awakened from his tomb after 5000 years and immediately gets down to business, decimating baddies left, right, and centre.
An irked Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, reprising the role) sees him as a threat and tasks the Justice Society – rule-abiding Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), soothsaying Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), wind-controlling Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and size-changing Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) – to take him into custody.
Resistance fighter Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) – the woman responsible for Adam’s resurrection – has, in the meantime, managed to find the Crown of Sabbac, a relic that can potentially give its bearer immense power but that could cause massive destruction if it falls into the wrong hands. That pair of hands belongs to Ishmael (Marwan Kenzari), who desperately wants to obtain the crown and unleash its powers.
When things get dire, Black Adam and the Justice Society must navigate their clashing views of justice as they try to save the world from annihilation.
There is a world of potential in exploring vigilantism, vengeance, and the whole “one man’s terrorist…” concept, and Black Adam has the perfect protagonist and setup to do just that. But the film is too afraid to embrace the inherent darkness of its central character and the world around him. Instead, the movie just sticks to a beige, unexciting, predictable story, delivered through weak acting performances further decimating the tale’s impact.
Johnson is unremarkable but serviceable in the central role, but his character just isn’t as compelling as it should be.
As a spin-off of sorts to 2019’s delightful Shazam!, this middling new entry feels like a step back for the DCEU and might ultimately leave you wishing that someone would take this film back to the aughts and leave it there.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection