Black Adam: Review
Black Adam Synopsis: 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
Black Adam delivers an endless onslaught of lavishly expensive action setpieces featuring some of DC Comics' most treasured characters. For DC, the film marks the first chapter of a new universe for their expansive library of cape-dawning heroes.
It's also not very good.
The long-awaited collaboration between DC and movie star Dwayne Johnson lumbers into theaters as a cluttered mess. Filled to the brim with fiery explosions and chaotic setpieces, Black Adam certainly remains busy, but the film never provides a reason for viewers to care about the latest superhero making his big-screen debut.
While DC has trailed in popularity compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they often compensated by producing more creatively vibrant films. Say what you want about their duds, like 2017's Justice League and that abysmal Green Lantern film that everyone has already forgotten. When the puzzle pieces align, DC creates bold, risk-taking projects that stretch the standard definition of superhero films. This year's "The Batman" delivered an atmospheric noir that enriches aesthetics ripped from a bygone cinematic era, while adaptations of The Watchman and V for Vendetta explored the intersection of politics and pop culture long before Amazon's The Boys came around.
DC's usual panache for auteur-driven projects is part of what makes Black Adam such a downer. There is not an artistic bone in the film's body. Instead, the film feels like a ball of clay molded strictly from the interest of marketing executives looking to cash in on the long-running superhero craze.
The screenplay attempts a balancing act that it never quite pulls off. Black Adam is framed as the introductory chapter to its titular anti-hero and the Justice Society of America - a team of earnest figures that includes Hawkman, Atom Smasher, Dr. Fate, and Cyclone. Unfortunately, the movie's ambition far exceeds its grasp, presenting far too many characters that ultimately receive little in terms of depth or personality. Everything here feels truncated and rushed, almost acting like a movie trailer for what the final product could've been. There are also vague thematic undertones about the Justice Society serving as a callous, nationalistic military entity, although the film is too ill-equipped to say anything of note with that concept.
As for Dwayne Johnson, the movie star delivers one of the worst performances of his career. I've always felt Johnson's brand of movie star projects got a bad rap from critics, with films like Rampage, Central Intelligence, and Skyscrapper showcasing the type of blockbuster fluff that the marketplace needs. Here, Johnson forgoes his usual charisma in favor of his overly-brooding delivery as Black Adam. The movie star acts like an angsty teenager, sulking through every line in his try-hard attempt to create a compelling anti-hero. Neither Johnson nor the film ever attempts to reckon with the character as a potentially nefarious figure in a thoughtful manner. At least Pierce Bronson and rising star Aldis Hodge deliver some fun as Dr. Future and Hawkman, respectively.
In place of engaging material, Black Adam throws action scene after action scene at viewers. Director Jaume Collet-Serra enjoyed success in the past with his fun stylistic fusions featured in a slew of Liam Neeson-led actioners. With Black Adam, the director gets lost in a cacophony of blistering noises and messy visuals. The crowded setpieces eventually become a nuisance as the audience is assaulted with an overbearing sense of deja vu by each CGI-filled moment.
I've seen worse superhero films than Black Adam, but I'm having a hard time thinking of other super-powered efforts that felt so voiceless and apathetic. Hopefully, DC and Johnson can remedy some of these issues with a potential sequel.
Black Adam is now playing in theaters