You’ve probably seen the hype and the hate. Black Adam is here to move things forward for the DCEU. And it certainly does that, despite being just an okay film overall.
I must confess something. I am an equal-opportunity comic book film consumer. Though DC holds a nostalgic place in my heart, I don’t miss a Marvel film either. They are simply too integrated into the modern cinematic landscape at this point. Besides that, their entertainment value can be quite high if well-executed. Black Adam is, but only at brief moments and in certain elements.
The film does do something significant, however: It takes an interesting approach to the now-expected story points that connect it to a larger universe.
So let’s dig into the successes, flaws, and thrills (or not) of Black Adam.
“Catchphrase first, then kill.”
The root of the problems with this film can be found in the script. There is an unfortunate reliance on exposition early on, with recounting the origins of the title character (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) in ancient times. This happens again briefly in a couple of other scenes. It’s a bit too much esoteric detail all at once, and it would’ve been more efficient if it had shown more and told less.
Also, the dialogue is heavy-handed. The theme of heroes and what they should and should not be like could not be more obvious. In general, a bit more sophistication would have gone a long way.
However, there is enough to keep viewers from dismissing the writing here entirely.
Given all the focus on the Justice League in the DCEU so far, the decision to shift to the Justice Society was a good one. Seeing Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Atom Smasher, and Cyclone on screen is such a treat. Their interactions with each other and with Adam keep the movie going in some scenes. The conflict between Adam and Hawkman may not be subtle, but it’s engaging. The relationship between Hawkman and Doctor Fate, meanwhile, provides surprising emotion. They have an almost parent-child dynamic so, without spoiling anything, when Fate’s ability to predict the future comes into play, it leaves an impact. On Hawkman AND us.
“Send them all.”
Connecting with characters like this is easy when the casting is this good. Pierce Brosnan is a remarkable fit with Doctor Fate. He’s someone I definitely want to know more about, and he’s interesting enough for an origin story of his own.
Aldis Hodge is an actor I’ve enjoyed watching since the TV series Leverage, so seeing him as Hawkman was a delight. A lot of humor comes from the character of Atom Smasher, and Noah Centineo gives him the youthful charm he needs. Elsewhere, Sarah Shahi and Marwan Kenzari deliver memorable presences, too.
As for The Rock, well…he’s The Rock. His onscreen persona is precisely suited to Black Adam. And this character was the right one to use as a catalyst for a shift in the DCEU. His powers are directly connected to the same source as those of Shazam, the hero from the wonderful 2019 film of the same name. This fact, along with the mid-credits scene you’ve most likely heard about, points to what comes next for this cinematic universe.
If the visual energy director Jaume Collet-Serra captures here, especially in the action sequences, could continue, the potential for the DCEU is strong indeed. The imperfections of Black Adam don’t dampen the joy of that possibility.
3 and a half stars out of 5
Black Adam is now in theaters.