Black Adam is a mixed bag of a DC Comics movie.
Published on October 27, 2022
Rating 2.5 /5
Black Adam is an anti-hero that would seem to fit in with the oddly gritty world of the DCEU. After having a Superman who demolishes Metropolis, a Batman who murders, and a band of criminal misfits in Birds of Prey and The Suicide Squad, a revenge-bound wizard of the past seems like a no-brainer film. Surprisingly, there’s some meat to this story that sets its ambitions lower and mostly meets them. That being said, the film turns into a wee bit of a mess in its bid to be both a punchy picture of colonialism and a mindless action flick.
Dwayne Johnson does an ample job portraying Black Adam, a man wronged by his slavery era of Kahndaq. Having lost his family, he uses his gifts from wizards to transform his limited mortal coil into a superpowered magical being, zooming across the skies and zapping people with his electrical powers. For his wrong-doings, he was banished to a magical prison. Skip 5,000 years ahead to modern-day Kahndaq, where a tomb-raiding mission leads to the lightning-insignia anti-hero being unleashed. Black Adam isn’t happy about Kahndaq being under the occupation of the high-powered Intergang or their desire to attain power through the demonic Crown of Sabbac.
Black Adam’s destructive assault on Intergang is applauded by the people of Kahndaq. Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi), being a Kahndaq resident and the emancipator of Black Adam, appreciates his help. Not so keen on this vigilance is the Justice Society, apparently called into action by Task Force X head Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). The Justice Society is comprised of the magical illusionist Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), the powerful flying warrior Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), the giant-sized Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), and the wind-mastering Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell). A fight is soon on between these powerful forces and only quelled when a common threat of a demonic force looms over Kahndaq.
Black Adam starts off interesting by questioning that nature of superheroism and imperialism beyond the mild and vague platitudes of previous DCEU entries in the PG-13 ratings. In some respects, this is refreshing because it feels like a more fascinating scenario. Despite setting that bar higher, rarely does it ever progress further as the film soon succumbs to superhero story requirements. Those requirements being that the hero face a standard take-over-the-world villain and reduce all intriguing discussions to catchphrases. The battle becomes less about whether or not the Justice Society is doing the right thing for the people of Kanhdaq and more about how Black Adam will defeat the might of Sabbac and his undead army.
On a technical level, the many fights are rather exciting for how they’re staged. The special effects for making Black Adam look like an unstoppable force of flight, electricity, and speed is dazzling. There’s even some great humor in how the film find just the right timing and cut for when the anti-hero slams another bad guy into the atmosphere with his powerful punches. I hope you like watching him do that considering how often it occurs. Johnson’s dry comedy works really well here though, especially for staging him like Terminator 2 where he plays a fish out of water. There’s some decent moments where Adrianna’s son teaches Black Adam the ways of the modern world. That being said, it was a bit tedious staging him as the ultimate DC fanboy, constantly carrying around DC Comics issues and speaking openly about what superheroes occupy this universe.
Black Adam is a mixed bag of a DC Comics movie. The action is fast and exciting, per the strengths of director Jaume Collet-Serra. Much like his other films though, the greater message becomes lost in the lust for bold action sequences. There’s some admirability in wanting to craft a superhero film that is equal parts brainless action and thoughtful commentary. Sadly, this film can’t have it both ways and ends up as a bit of a mess for trying to smush these two elements together and never making them mesh.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.