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Quick Review: Black Adam
The World Needed A Hero. It Got Black Adam.
The following is my review for the film Black Adam. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I score films when I review them.
Nearly five thousand years after he was bestowed with the almighty powers of the Egyptian gods (and imprisoned just as quickly), Black Adam is freed from his earthly tomb, ready to unleash his unique form of justice on the modern world.
Me and the DCEU haven’t really had the greatest of relationships. I just need you, dear reader, to fully understand that so you can see where I’m coming from here. I liked 2013’s Man Of Steel and adored last year’s The Suicide Squad, but other than that I tend to see the DCEU’s catalog as mediocre. Yes that includes other well reviewed movies like 2017’s Wonder Woman and 2020’s Birds Of Prey.
But here comes one of my favorite actors going today in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with a vision of restoring the franchise at a time standalone DC projects like 2019’s Joker and this year’s The Batman have been enjoying more critical success; and one thing I’ll say is his passion and commitment to this endeavor is genuine. Every single time I’ve seen him marketing and hyping this project up I can see how much he cares about this film in his eyes and body language. Regardless whether I like a piece of art or not, films included, I will always respect the creativity and passion it takes to make that art become a reality and Johnson is undoubtedly a major part in making this movie happen.
So is this where the franchise can start winning me over sans James Gunn’s contribution? Is this where I finally turn around on it? Sad to say - no. However you tend to feel about these DCEU properties will probably inform how you feel about this one as well. While this could potentially open up new doors to “saving the DCEU” financially and vision-wise, I don’t think its going to be winning over skeptics like me or giving it momentum in its near-impossible mission to catch up to the MCU.
Ensemble-wise Johnson is clearly giving it his all in the title role, and I actually really liked Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate. But after that, none of the other characters gave me much to care about their individual story arcs or personalities. Not to say the performances and line deliveries are bad from Aldis Hodge (Hawkman), Noah Centineo (Atom Smasher), Quintessa Swindell (Cyclone), Marwan Kenzari (Ishmael), Sarah Shahi (Adrianna), Mohammed Amer (Adrianna’s brother, Karim), and Bodhi Sabongui (Adrianna’s son, Amon). But the dialogue that’s written for them and the exposition that keeps being blabbered on throughout the movie that attempts to give them more layers just failed for me at almost every attempt.
The film goes for some moments of levity that literally got zero laughs from me. Admittedly the audience I was with did get some chuckles from them, but I didn’t react to one single comedic relief moment.
The film’s antagonist is beyond weak and serves as just a plot point, and with no malice meant at Bodhi Sabongui’s performance, the script decides to go for the trope of having a child character around constantly in the middle of the plot as a clear, lazy attempt to get kids more invested in the film when the superheroes themselves should suffice.
For a movie supposedly about a villain, this sure felt like the standard superhero flick. The visuals were filled with over-reliance on CGI and at times gave me negative flashbacks to the “Snyderverse” that I was not a fan of. About two-thirds through the movie I felt like I was watching things unfold on screen and had no emotions coming from what I was watching. It was a surreal experience. I was just there, almost completely apathetic, watching explosions and hearing loud noises and that’s all.
I will give the movie props for exploring some interesting themes, and there were admittedly two or three great action sequences, and a strong end to the arc for one of the characters. And I do think that if you were the type to go against the critics and enjoy past DCEU movies, you’ll at the very least LIKE this - but I cannot count myself among you lot.
As much as I like rooting for Dwayne Johnson’s success in Hollywood, and appreciate the passion he has for this project, I just didn’t come out of this with much to cling on to. This is the definition of a superhero movie that exists, you turn your brain off to watch its existence, and then you forget it existed years down the road. I’m sure this film could gain a cult following among some, and there are already those coming to its defense, but for me Black Adam was yet another mediocre DCEU entry. No hierarchy changed for me in terms of how I view this particular cinematic universe.