What a time to be a DC fan, and I don’t mean that in a good way. As the Warner Bros. and Discovery merger continues to take a toll on the plethora of now-canceled projects, it’s unfortunate that the projects that remain on the release schedule show much less promise. Take for example “The Flash,” a movie whose lead is still embroiled in numerous criminal charges, yet is still allowed to return for reshoots. On the other hand, you have “Batgirl,” a movie that could’ve been a much-needed breath of fresh air for the DC Universe, and one that was almost 98% finished when it was completely scrapped. It now has little chance of ever seeing the light of day. However, let’s not focus on films that have yet to be released until we have a new film that has been able to survive the merger and one that promises to put the DCEU back on the map.
“Black Adam” introduces us to the city of Kahndaq, a metropolis under the control of the tyrannical Intergang. Things weren’t always like this though, as in ancient times there was a great warrior who rose above his oppressors and freed the native people. When an archeological dig goes wrong, the warrior known as Teth Adam (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is awakened. Teth-Adam has the power of the Gods and in this modern world could pose a threat to the whole of humanity. Seeing him as such a threat, The Justice Society enters the picture and attempts to contain him.
I usually like to start reviews off on positive notes and there are a few highlights here in an otherwise mediocre experience. While the visual effects are very fake looking, the action scenes are at least creative and use each of the character’s abilities to their full advantage. The Justice Society easily had some of the film’s best moments, with the clear standouts being Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Fate and Aldis Hodge as Hawkman. Noah Centineo and Quintessa Swindell are also very charming as Atom Smasher and Cyclone respectively, but they’re not in the film as much and their story beats really end up going nowhere.
Unfortunately, that’s really where the positive aspects end, because “Black Adam” is a massive misfire on pretty much every other level. Starting off with the elephant in the room, Dwayne Johnson is particularly bad in this film. I know this is a role that he’s incredibly passionate about, but it feels as though he’s phoning it in throughout as if he’s not even trying when doing his usual schtick. He just plays the part in the same stoic, monotone way throughout, which works at first, but by the halfway mark you’re begging for him to wake up. Speaking of poor acting, the rest of the cast is unusually terrible, especially for a big-budget film like this. Bodhi Sabongui I’m sure is a nice young man, but as an actor, at least in this film, he is embarrassingly bad.
Even if these performances were better, it wouldn’t save a truly laughable script. Right from the get-go, the film decides to throw massive amounts of exposition at us and just expects the audience to accept it. The pacing is a nightmare, scenes just happen for no rhyme or reason, and half the time it just feels as though we’re watching the same scene over and over again. Black Adam fights someone, exposition, Black Adam fights someone, exposition, and so on and so forth. Maybe it would be okay if the characters had anything slightly interesting to say, but that’s not the case here.
If there is one movie I would compare “Black Adam” to, it would have to be “X-Men: Apocalypse,” and that’s not a compliment. It’s a basic origin story, while also introducing a bunch of new characters that aren’t likely to return for sequels no one wants. Plus, it wouldn’t be a superhero film without a loud and obnoxious CGI-heavy finale with a big cartoon villain for all our heroes to fight.
“Black Adam” is what happens when you combine an actor known for their brand with a company trying to fix their brand. The film simply plays it way too safe and feels as though it was written in the early 2010s. The cast is pretty much wasted, with a lead who couldn’t even put his ego aside to play the villain for once. Simply put, “Black Adam” is easily one of DC’s worst offerings in a while and lacks the spark of life this universe needs to continue.
“Black Adam” is now playing in theaters.
By Adam Beam