Black Adam, 2022
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Shahi, Viola Davis, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, James Cusati-Moyer, Quintessa Swindell, Marwan Kenzari and Mohammed Amir.
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.
For every new character that steps from the pages of DC Comics and onto the big-screen, audiences and fans alike must be hoping that this is the one that provides the lightning bolt which drives this cinematic universe in a more coherent direction. Sure we can enjoy the standalones, such as Matt Reeves’ The Batman or Todd Philips’ Joker, but a bit of connective tissue for the most iconic characters would make these movies a much more exciting proposition. Is Dwayne Johnson’s 15-year campaign to get Black Adam suited and booted in the DCEU that movie?
Some of this cinematic universe’s strongest elements can be found in the origin movies; the first two-thirds of Man of Steel, Wonder Woman, and Shazam!, a film with which this is intrinsically linked, so-much-so that they were originally planning to debut the characters in a single film. It’s a good thing that they didn’t, because Black Adam is as crowded as Dwayne Johnson’s suit is with muscles, especially for those uninitiated with things such as the The Justice Society of America.
Their introduction are just one of the many moving parts at play in Black Adam, with the titular character’s origin story hastily covered in the opening salvo, we then have to meet Sarah Shahi’s underdeveloped freedom-fighter and her streetwise son, one of the most obvious “it’s him” bad-guys in a long while, as well as Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman, Pierce Brosnan’s Dr. Fate, Noah Centineo’s Atom Smasher, and Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone.
Returning as the nefarious Amanda Waller, a Viola Davis voiceover helps to fill in some of the blanks on their bios, but all credit must go to the actors bringing them to life, because they could have suffered the same superhero fate as some of the characters thrown at the screen in the latter X-Men movies and simply been lost amongst the chaos.
As it is they all get their moment in the CGI sun, with helmet’s off to Brosnan and Hodge in particular, who strike up quite the double-act as they fly around in their Jeff Bezos style spaceship. Centineo and Swindell also bring a level of charm to their heroes that would make their a return a welcome one should this prove to the box-office hit Warner Bros., DC and Johnson are hoping for.
For many the fate of Black Adam rests squarely on the huge shoulders of The Rock, who’s kind-of playing against type here, reigning in a lot of the quips and keeping the eyebrow in check. He’s the reason those not au-fait with the IP will show up to Black Adam, which a superb mid-credits sting aside, doesn’t feel that integral to your understanding of this world moving forward.
His Teth-Adam is a performance of relative restraint, with the film sensibly eschewing a lot of the fish-out–of-water comedy that made something like Kenneth Branagh’s Thor a tonal success, instead it presents the character as a totem of the dichotomy between good and evil, something the DCEU has wrestled successfully with since its inception. As with all of the characters, their trajectories are quite predictable, and you wish the film allowed them more time to breathe, simply so we could give a shit about who is being tossed around those beautiful orange-hued skies.
Imbuing the on-screen action with a superhero performance of its own is Lorne Balfe’s terrific score. His ‘Black Adam Theme’ is already dislodging Harry Styles from the top of the Spotify playlist. A rousing piece of modern music built upon the kind of traditional sounds you’d expect to hear from the films non-specific fictional nation of Kahndaq.
On which, the film perhaps ambitiously attempts some level of social commentary about occupied nations or the situation in the Middle-East, but a lot like everything else in the convoluted script it gets smothered in Jaume Collet-Serra’s blockbuster action, which admittedly has impressive levels of clarity in a world that has so often been shrouded in murkiness.
Cut from the same cloth, or ripped from the same pages to that which has come before, most notably the Snyderverse, Black Adam is two hours of flying and punching that grounds its likeable cast just long enough for it to be decent blockbuster fun.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter