Black Adam review – a superhero film with a stunning lack of purpose

By Marc Miller
Published: October 21, 2022 (Last updated: 4 weeks ago)


It was a bold choice to make a film about the character Black Adam, but the script was run down through the studio machine, and the result is a superhero film with a stunning lack of purpose.

Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, we review the DCEU film Black Adam. This review does not contain any spoilers. 

It’s surprising just how run-of-the-mill the DC Comics film Black Adam can be. The fact that it looks like a visual Zack Snyder retread is strange since everything Warner Brothers does is to distance themselves from him. You know what I mean. All the glorified digital special effects result in studio heads only casting for the main character’s upper chest and broad shoulders. That includes the much-talked-about and overhyped after-credits scene.

This superhero entry follows a group of resistance members trying to free the good people of Kahndaq. Led by Andrea Tomaz (Sara Shahi) and a group that includes her brother Kamir (Mohammed Amer, offering most of the film’s comic relief), Ishmael (The Old Guard‘s Marwan Kenzari), and her son, Amon (The Baby-Sitter’s Club’s Bodhi Sabongui), they are in search of the Crown of Sabbac. Why? For one, to keep it out of her hands of the Intergang, an organized crime syndicate that can give the world’s superheroes a run for their money. Unfortunately for Andrea, the bad guys catch up to them. They take away the crown and are about to put a bullet in her head.

That’s until she figures out how to unleash Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson) with an inscription she finds on the dusty floor. A super antihero (the writers here move Adam away from his supervillain origins) attacks the group of Intergang members with streams of blue lightning and super speed. He first picks off bullets in the air and lets them bounce off his body. This is exactly like firing ping-pong balls and expecting them to penetrate Teflon. The council of wizards has imprisoned Adam for over 5,000 years, so suffice it to say he has pent-up aggression to work out.

After Teth saves Andrea’s life, she escapes with the crown but not before she and Kamir bring Adam back to her home because an Eternium missile strike struck him. (We know this because it says in big letters written across the heat seeker). Did we mention that Andrea also brought back the Crown of Sabbac? That makes her a target for anyone recognizing the piece of Eternium’s power, including the Justice Society, who think Adam is a danger to Kahndaq, and the entire world.

Jaume Collet-Serra directed Black Adam — a man responsible for a series of tepid and forgettable Liam Neeson films and behind the camera for Johnson’s throwback action film Jungle Cruise, utilized special effects appropriately. Here, the film has Adam battling Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) repeatedly, all with endlessly drenched scenes teeming with special effects that are repetitive and boring. Dr. Fate (an excellent Pierce Brosnan) appears, predicting future outcomes with his trusted helmet. Anyone wondering if this sounds familiar will recognize that these characters are similar to Marvel’s Falcon and Doctor Strange. Rest easy; these characters were written over twenty years before these superior MCU characters. They are joined by Atom Smasher (Netflix heartthrob Noah Centinio) and Cyclone (VoyagersQuintessa Swindell).

I’m not sure how much you can expect from a film penned by the scribes of Scooby!, Due Date and Rampage, but Black Adam has those films’ feel of overwhelming digitized action that drowns out a good story, and humor that misses the mark. At first, I thought the boys may have gotten it right. While playing with themes of colonization, the Justice Society comes into Kahndaq, dictating to community members that it is no better than the Intergang. Sadly, the themes are never explored deeply. The writers also try to make Adam worse than he is, resulting in false notes. The filmmakers try hard to make Black Adam an antihero, but the constant debate, bickering, and battling between the two become monotonous.

And that’s the problem with Black Adam. This is the same old humdrum experience we’ve been getting from DC comics for the past ten years. It’s beautiful, but it’s just the same film in glossier packaging. Besides very few moments of deadpan comic relief from Johnson, his character is stiff. (Johnson is practically playing the same character from Central Intelligence, except here, instead of being overtly positive 24/7, he’s just a grumpy son-of-a-bitch). Written as almost alien instead of a fish-out-of-water story, it’s almost as if the writers forgot he was once human in the first place, as if Jeff Bridges’ Starman was a template for inspiration.

I’m sure there is plenty of action and cameos to delight ardent fans of DC Comics, the genre, and novice movie fans alike. Black Adam, however, missed a golden opportunity to put a stamp on a studio that can’t seem to get solid footing, unlike DC’s rival. It was a bold choice to make a film about the character Black Adam, but the script was run down through the studio machine, and the result was a superhero film with a stunning lack of purpose.

What did you think of Black Adam? Comment below.

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