TL;DR – This is a film where nearly anything of interest was sandblasted off to give us a bland expedition with some moments of interest.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.
Black Adam Review –
I came into this film with a lot of trepidation. To say that Warner Bros has had a challenging year with its merger would be an understatement, losing nearly any goodwill they had with them. Add to this that the DCEU has struggled with very straightforward hero narratives. How would they go with an anti-hero? But if nothing else, the charisma of Dwayne Johnson is strong, and if anything can help a film, it is that.
So to set the scene, 5,000 years ago, in 2,600 BCW, in the land of Kahndaq, Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) was chosen by the wizards to stand up to the local despot. SHAZAM, and the palace explodes. In the present, Kahndaq is still under the control of occupiers, and Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) is trying to hide treasures from the Intergang mercenaries when she finds Black Adam’s tomb. He is finally let free, but all that time has not blunted his desire for revenge and rampage. Seeing a potential threat, Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and the Justice Society Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) try to show him a different path or at least get him to surrender peacefully. But then, the Black Adam is not peaceful.
Okay, wow, but before we get to that, there were some positives here. To begin with, many of the actors give their all. Pierce completely understands what film he is in and provides an excellent performance of a more classical superhero. Aldis must carry a lot of the film and is an instant presence throughout. Also, Dwayne historically used to be a heel in his wrestling days, so there is history to draw from, which you can see. To add to this, while it is still a very PG-13 fair, the first couple of action scenes had their moments with some creative use of humour and slow-mo, but then a lot of those moments were used in the trailer.
Now there is everything else, and I want to be clear that most of what I am flagging here is not bad per se but just average at best. While the action scenes start off quite good, they slump into a repetitive scenario as you can feel them not having a handle on how to show Black Adam’s powers in new ways. Then there is the dialogue, which is quite good when they get into some banter, for the rest of the film feels stilted at best and as subtle as a sledgehammer. You can feel the desperate need the script had for another dialogue pass before going into production.
This leads me to my main issue with the film, which is how safe it is. Kahndaq is a quasi-Arabic-Mesopotamian-Egyptian but without any real personality or voice in the movie. You will never see a map of the world in this film because vague is the calling point of the narrative. More than this, you can feel how much of a lost opportunity the story is because it refuses to contend with the post-colonial anti-imperialism themes it wants to wear on its sleeves but does not actually engage with. If Mad Max Fury Road can discuss feminism in what is essentially one long car chase, then you can take the time to give something other than lip service to what is a core driving force of your story.
The production side of things is also a mixed bag with ticking off a checklist of competence but not excelling in any one way. When they let Lorne Balfe’s musical score out, some moments shine. However, the film mostly feels content to fall back on needle drop insertions into the film, which, while they are not Suicide Squad terrible, they are very much not GOTG good. Also, given that Atom Smasher is probably the weakest character in the lineup, I am not sure why the choice was to give him a suit reminiscent of Deadpool because it is not a great idea to remind people of better films [like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly] when they are watching yours.
In the end, do we recommend Black Adam? Well……? Look, was I entertained in parts, yes. Were the actor giving good performances, mostly? But as I walked out of the theatre today, all I could think about was just what a missed opportunity there was with this film. They chose the safe option at every opportunity, and while safe is watchable, it is not memorable. If you liked Black Adam, we would recommend to you The Batman.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Black Adam
Directed by – Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay by – Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines & Sohrab Noshirvani
Based on – Black Adam created by Otto Binder & C. C. Beck & Characters created by DC Comics
Music by – Lorne Balfe
Cinematography by – Lawrence Sher
Edited by – John Lee & Michael L. Sale
Production/Distribution Companies – New Line Cinema, DC Films, Seven Bucks Productions, FlynnPictureCo., Universal Pictures & Warner Bros Pictures.
Starring – Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan, Mohammed Amer, James Cusati-Moyer & Uli Latukefu with Henry Winkler, Djimon Hounsou, Viola Davis, Jennifer Holland & Henry Cavill
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13