’Black Adam’ Is the Most Generic Superhero Movie of the Year – Review
This review contains no spoilers for Black Adam.
To say that the Black Adam movie has been in development for a while would be the understatement of the year. Dwayne The Rock Johnson has been pushing for this character for a long time — he was originally going to be introduced in 2019’s Shazam!, but the DC heads decided to split him apart and The Rock got his own movie to headline. That was but the beginning, and now, the movie, by Jungle Cruise director Jaume Collet-Sierra, is available in theaters worldwide.
The movie is set in the fictional country of Kahndaq, where Teth Adam was once born a slave under the oppression of a despicable king. After getting the powers of the Gods, he became a legend to his people, right before he was buried underneath the palace. 5,000 years later, the legend lives, and the people living in today’s Kahndaq are still seeking their savior. Black Adam is awakened in their most desperate hour, as the population struggles with foreign invasion from military forces that are only looking for their natural resources. After realizing that he may be a major threat, Amanda Waller assembles the Justice Society, led by Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman, and also featuring Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher, and Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate, to combat the emerging threat.
If you are looking for a visual spectacle to shove popcorn down your throat, then Black Adam is probably the movie to see this weekend. This is probably DC’s Venom, in that it is completely self-aware of what it wants to be, but fails at pretty much everything else. The difference, though, is that Black Adam leaves a lot of potential on the table. First of all, it has the opportunity to make real statements on themes like occupation and even imperialism, but restricts itself to generic action sequences, corny dialogue delivered awkwardly, a shameless amount of exposition, and an exorbitant amount of slow motion. Venom at least had a specific type of humor it attempted to do, which is what made it gross over $800 million worldwide. Black Adam almost feels like studio executives and B-list writers putting together ideas they think will appeal to young adults these days.
The movie introduces the aforementioned four characters as a team called the Justice Society. It’s an absolute shame they didn’t include “of America” in there, as that in and of itself would have presented a much bigger conflict. But the writers clearly didn’t want to go the interesting route, and instead went for the popcorn spectacle. The people of Kahndaq see Black Adam as their Champion, the demi-god that will finally set them free from military occupation. When the JS shows up, they are antagonistic towards the supposed heroes (something that would have been worth an entire movie to explore), but it would have been much more interesting if they had identified themselves with the military forces occupying the country. After all, we know from The Suicide Squad that this is probably why Waller sent them there.
If you come for the spectacle, you will probably leave the theater satisfied, though you will certainly have to wait for a bit — the first 10 minutes of the movie were just painful to watch, and if I was at home watching it on HBO Max, I would have either skipped them or tuned out completely. Once Johnson appears as the title character, the movie never really stops, which is at times also the problem. By the end, we haven’t been able to empathize with any of the characters, including Black Adam himself I would say, and a lot of the character moments from the third act were definitely not earned. The best scene of the movie was probably a conversation between Swindell’s Cyclone and Centineo’s Atom Smasher towards the end of the second act, and even that was cut short. The two of them were the only salvageable part of the movie for me, but got their screentime severely restricted — I assume this was a decision taken in the editing room, as other parts of the movie clearly set the stage for more. Whether it was an editing choice or a script issue, the two most interesting characters in the movie were the ones it paid the least attention to. And it’s a shame, because their acting was by far the best as well.
Much like what Joss Whedon did with the theatrical version of Justice League, Black Adam also features a subplot with normal human beings that are supposed to be our connection to the world (in this case, they have a much larger presence than in Justice League, as they are the direct connection between Black Adam and the people of Kahndaq). We are supposed to empathize with them, but this was yet again another script problem, as the characters are never really likable. Instead of focusing so much on these characters, the script should have developed the Justice Society much more so that the third act feels at least semi-compelling.
In the end, Black Adam was a major disappointment, even for someone who was going in with no expectations. There is one post-credits scene, as the entire Internet may have heard, and while I was satisfied by it, I don’t think it’s enough for me to recommend the movie.
Miguel Fernández is a Spanish student that has movies as his second passion in life. His favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings, but he is also a huge Star Wars fan. However, fantasy movies are not his only cup of tea, as authors like Scorsese, Fincher, Kubrick or Hitchcock have been an obsession for him since he started to understand the language of filmmaking. He is that guy who will watch a black and white movie, just because it is in black and white.