Here’s our review for “Black Adam” as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson finally portrays a comic book character in a film that’s far more fun than it has any business being…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
It’s taken Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson a long, long time to finally see his comic book fantasy realized with “Black Adam” landing in theaters.
Despite being one of the only actors on Earth — alongside Chris Hemsworth — who doesn’t look like he needs any extra padding to play a convincing superhero, Johnson never got the chance to work with Marvel or DC until now. A lot of that is surely by choice because Johnson is a megastar who can pretty much pick and choose whatever he does these days but “Black Adam” has always been a passion project for him.
After years of development, Johnson finally got the chance to play the character, who was largely a villain for most of his existence in DC Comics history before eventually becoming an anti-hero in recent years. It’s actually far more enjoyable that Johnson chose a complex character like Black Adam to play rather than a one-note superhero that would end up on posters and lunch boxes.
Instead, Johnson wanted to play Black Adam — a demigod with powers equal to Superman, who has no problem killing to get the job done. By all accounts, Black Adam is the kind of character that would have fit in perfectly with the dark and grim world that Zack Snyder was building before he was booted from developing his plans for a larger shared DC film universe.
Now Johnson has personally engaged with plenty of projects in the past and found varying degrees of success but it definitely seems like he put everything into “Black Adam” to make this a successful film. In many ways, Johnson hit the mark by striking a good balance between characters and action sequences but he still came up short due to the constant pitfalls movies like these deal with while trying to orchestrate the perfect origin story.
Because Black Adam is a far lesser known character than say Batman, the film is forced to take a lot of time revealing backstory and while that’s definitely consequential to understanding why this guy does what he does, it still drags down the overall story that lifts this film up over the course of two hours.
There’s a lot more to dig into so with that said, let’s get to our full review for “Black Adam”…
The fictional country of Kahndaq has known conflict for thousands of years after initially being founded on the principles of learning, growing and exploring. That all ended whend a warlord took over as king while enslaving the citizens of Kahndaq to help him mine for a rare mineral known as Ethereum that is believed to contain magical properties.
Tired of being oppressed and tortured by a cruel monarch, a champion rises up with powers granted by a group of powerful wizards. The champion is sent to vanquish the king but then afterwards he rests for the next 5,000 years until his tomb is disturbed by the latest group of people seeking to conquer and rule over Kahndaq when they come looking for a mythical crown that the evil king was making out of Ethereum.
Soon, Teth Adam — as he’s known by his ancient name — awakens from a long slumber and he realizes that the world he left behind is long since gone. Now Teth Adam has to once again fight to free his people from enslavement by an evil ruler while also battling against a group of superheroes who have been sent to contain him and his extraordinary powers.
ACTING, DIRECTING AND SCRIPT
Listen let’s be honest here — “Black Adam” isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel and the film certainly isn’t attempting to redefine the comic book movie genre. That said, the film has an easy enough plot to follow, although there are plenty of moments where the story gets dragged back to ancient times to fit in more and more of Black Adam’s origin.
While it’s definitely important to know why Black Adam even exists, those scenes feel like they last forever in comparison to many other narrative angles that take shape throughout the film.
The screenplay does manage to offer up some funny moments sandwiched in between the battle for the soul of Kahndaq while giving Johnson just enough to work with in the lead role that he’s not forced to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to his dialogue. Instead, Johnson mostly gets to concentrate on executing well-timed one-liners and brooding when battling bad guys.
Johnson plays to his strengths with his performance, especially in an action-heavy film like this but he’s also smart enough to defer to actors like Pierce Brosnan and Aldis Hodge, who steal a lot of the scenes they’re in while portraying two of the main members of the Justice Society of America.
Brosnan’s credentials are well documented but you’d be smart to keep an eye on Hodge, who has become one of the best actors working in Hollywood in recent years.
The direction from Jaume Collet-Serra is solid, although if there’s one major complaint it’s that in a film driven by CGI, he still manages to go overboard with digital effects. Also, Collet-Serra clearly followed the Zack Snyder playbook when it comes to mashing down on the slow motion button but there’s just a few too many that take away from otherwise exciting action sequences.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?
As previously stated, comic book films centered around an origin story almost universally suffer from spending so much time explaining to the audience who this character is, where they come from and how they got there that a lot the bigger plot gets lost or straight up forgotten.
That’s not always the case with “Black Adam,” but truth be told, there’s still far too much time spent dealing with backstory rather than focusing on the present day. The film really thrives when the Justice Society shows up to take down Black Adam because he potentially serves as a powerful threat on a global scale and the dynamic Johnson shares with co-stars like Brosnan and Hodge really make this movie.
Another issue origin stories like these deal with constantly are less than thrilling villains and that’s once again the case with this film. The best conflict comes from Black Adam going up against the Justice Society but we all know that rivalry can’t last forever so eventually a big bad shows up — and while it’s not terrible by any means, the overall execution is just somewhat forgettable.
Give me Johnson sparring with Hodge any day over the villain we got in this movie.
Listen a lot of critics are raking “Black Adam” over the coals like it’s some sort of superhero abomination but that’s just not the case. No, this isn’t the most compelling comic book movie ever made and it’s tough to imagine this will go down as one of the more memorable films of 2022.
That said, “Black Adam” executes a winning strategy with huge, epic action sequences and a story good enough that it will keep you interested for two hours. With a bucket of popcorn in your lap, sometimes good enough is all you want.
“Black Adam” gets a 3 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale