There’s been a long-running campaign for Dwayne Johnson to play the role of Black Adam. Posed as the darker version of Shazam (aka Captain Marvel), he was the magical villain with bitter pathos and a look that just seemed to suit Johnson like a glove. With Johnson’s intimidating nature and penchant for action, it seemed like a perfect fit.
So now we finally get the Black Adam movie and it certainly doesn’t skimp on the action. Audiences coming to this film for Johnson to bring the thunder won’t be let down. If you were hoping for characters developed enough to root for, though, you may be left longing.
Black Adam: The New/Old Wizard in Town
Black Adam at least has a compelling backstory and drive. Born into slavery, he was gifted magical powers for his bravery and uses them to exact revenge on those seeking powers of the demonic. Becoming more violent than intended, Adam was imprisoned by the almighty magical beings that would later give Shazam his powers.
Since the events of 2019’s Shazam! confirmed the original counsel is gone, it’s an opportune moment for Black Adam to break free. He’s let loose by the treasure-hunter Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) as she seeks to find and hide the legendary Crown of Sabbac. And the 5,000-year-old lightning-wielder isn’t exactly happy that his kingdom of Kahndaq is now occupied by the crime syndicate Intergang.
We Live in a (Justice) Society
Tasked with containing Black Adam’s unstoppable power is the Justice Society. They apparently take orders from Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and it’s uncertain just how long this superhero ensemble has been in her back pocket. Based on the introductions, the members have been around for many decades.
The oldest member is obviously Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), an elder with an elongated life thanks to the illusionary and time-revealing helmet from space. Second-oldest is Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), the winged hero wielding Thanagarian technology. Based on the comics, Hawkman’s origins have some crossover with Black Adam but this connection is never explored.
The youngest members are Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell). Both of them are treated like interns for being fresh members who only get brief intros and backstories. All that’s revealed about these two is that Atom Smasher can grow large and Cyclone can create wind-based attacks.
Fighting For The Hometown
The film starts with an intriguing premise about Black Adam finding purpose in Kahndaq. His return is praised once he starts killing Intergang members. He becomes the anti-hero the populace adores for fighting back against oppressive colonizers.
This element pairs well with the previous DCEU film, The Suicide Squad, where Waller’s plan was to destabilize a country. Sadly, this motive doesn’t seem as present in Black Adam, making Waller’s security concerns seem more genuine than conspiratorial for American exceptionalism. Wouldn’t want the Justice Society to seem too corrupt, eh?
There’s some debate about regime change and how superheroes are not present in the more oppressive country, only venturing when there’s another hero or villain on the loose. Most of this talk is tabled, however, once Ishmael Gregor (Marwan Kenzari) gets that magical crown and starts raising the dead. No time for colonizing conversations when there’s a demon to fight!
Director Jaume Collet-Serra is no stranger to directing fast-paced action films that are heavy on adrenaline and low on themes. Black Adam is no exception, boasting a slew of chaotic fights in the streets of Kahndaq. You’ll get to see plenty of shots of Black Adam flying around skyscrapers, shocking people with electricity, and punching bad guys into orbit.
For those up on their DC Comics lore, this film can be pretty fun at times. Watching Hawkman trade blows with Black Adam while they argue over the morality of vigilantism holds more character and intrigue than the lukewarm moral struggle between Batman and Superman. It’s also refreshing that a film mostly set in an Egyptian-like slum has bursts of color, especially from the cool-colored Cyclone spinning winds of green.
While these fights are exciting and the special effects are solid, they do kinda wear thin after a while. After watching Black Adam punch an Intergang member miles into the air for the third time, the bit gets old. I started wishing there was a grander focus on what Black Adam will do for Kahndaq rather than whether or not he’ll be able to defeat Ishmael Gregor in his demon form.
Conclusion: Black Adam
Black Adam won’t exactly revitalize the DCEU but it does place it in a safer camp of fast-paced action amid better thematic topics. For those who just want to see Black Adam and the Justice Society kick a lot of butts, all that stuff is present. Just don’t expect it to carry as much charisma and wit as The Suicide Squad, considering the climax seems less about what Black Adam will do next and more about who he will fight for the sequel.
Did you see Black Adam in the theater? Did Dwayne Johnson do well in the role? How does the film compare to The Suicide Squad? Let us know in the comments below.
Black Adam is playing in theaters everywhere on October 21st, 2022.