Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Premise: An adaptation of the DC comic book character. The country of Kahndaq is occupied by a criminal syndicate. An archaeologist discovers a magical artifact and resurrects Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson), a powerful being of uncertain moral character.
What Works: Dwayne Johnson has built a career around populist, economically safe, and creatively conservative films and Black Adam fits that bill. The movie is another entry in the DC Extended Universe and it is consistent with the recent titles in that franchise, namely Shazam! and Aquaman. Black Adam is sufficiently exciting with a bit of humor and generally likable characters. The role of Black Adam doesn’t require Dwayne Johnson to stretch himself as an actor but the character fits within his skill set and he’s able to convey the anger and menace of this powerful being. As part of the DCEU, Black Adam is interesting in the way it connects the more colorful and upbeat later films such as Wonder Woman with the darker and morally ambiguous early films such as Man of Steel. Black Adam isn’t necessarily a hero and he isn’t particularly interested in doing the right thing or using his powers for the greater good. That ambiguity is reflected in the politics on the ground where the people of Kahndaq resist occupation which the Justice Society of America ignores while trying to rein in Black Adam.
What Doesn’t: Like many of Dwayne Johnson’s movies, Black Adam is never more than adequate. It plays as a movie made to satisfy a superhero template and the filmmakers successfully check all the boxes but don’t do anything interesting or innovative. The character is poised to be an antihero which he is for a little while but Black Adam’s turn toward virtue comes across forced and unearned. The rest of the characters are not very interesting and young actor Bodhi Sabongui’s performance is not convincing. Black Adam entertains larger political ideas but does not do anything with them. That’s evident in the first big fight set piece between Back Adam and the Justice Society which is remarkably similar to the Paris sequence in Team America: World Police but with none of the self-awareness. Black Adam only runs about two hours—not terribly long for a superhero film—but it feels much longer because the plotting is unwieldy. The story is messy and frequently doesn’t make sense with characters making and breaking allegiances at random and one of them martyring himself for no reason.
Bottom Line: Black Adam is an acceptable superhero adventure. There is nothing special about it and the filmmakers bury the most interesting aspects of the story and the title character.
Episode: #926 (November 6, 2022)