I know we were supposed to dedicate this entire month to reviewing horror movies but it looks like we have to hit pause on that for now because DC and Warner Bros. decided to release their latest comic book movie, Black Adam. You might have noticed that I didn’t say this was a superhero movie because, well, Black Adam isn’t always considered a hero. Oh, he’s a being with superpowers, for sure. But he started out as one of the most feared villains from the Shazam! comics series before turning into a sort of anti-hero.
So I was incredibly curious on how DC and Warner Bros. would tell the story of a superpowered being who had no qualms killing people and who works in a more morally gray area than even Batman. Would DC and Warner Bros. go back to the entire “grimdark” feel or will they follow their more current trajectory and keep things a little light and goofy? Well, I’ve seen Black Adam so I can say it’s a little bit of both and, sadly, it doesn’t really work well. Let me explain…
But before I do, I have to mention that this will be a SPOILER FREE review for Black Adam. I’m aware that the film hasn’t been released in theaters everywhere in the world so, just to keep it clean, I won’t reveal any major plot points or anything like that. So, yeah, SPOILER FREE review incoming!
Anyway, Black Adam takes place in the middle-eastern country of Kahndaq. The country has been taken over by Intergang and they rule with pretty much an iron fist. In the hopes of finding a mystical object that Intergang has been searching for before the terrorist group does, a group of rebels locate the said object but also find the legendary tomb of Kahndaq’s greatest warrior. The rebels recite the incantation on the tomb, releasing Black Adam. Black Adam lays waste to Intergang’s army but this alerts the Justice Society, led by Hawkman, and they deem Black Adam to be a potential danger to the entire world.
I started off this review saying that they tried to mix in the entire “grimdark” feel with the same goofiness we saw in DC’s latest superhero outings like Shazam!, Wonder Woman 1984 and The Suicide Squad. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to find a nice balance between the humor and seriousness here. A lot of the jokes fell flat on their face and the humor severely undercuts the more dark moments. It’s almost like there were two directors and one director would try to be funny (and fail) while the other director would do the serious moments (and fail).
The action scenes weren’t all that great as well. There were some moments where you would get a clear shot of the fight but then they would zoom in super close, making it difficult to focus on who was pummeling who. To add to the confusion, there were a lot, and I mean a lot, of times when they would go into super slow motion, even when it didn’t warrant such a dramatic look at the action. It got real old real fast, which is ironic as these are slow-mo scenes.
Dwayne Johnson is fine as the titular Black Adam. Then again, all he generally had to do was act super stoic and look like a badass. I mean, the latter was easy for him. But for him to be detached from the world is kind of a departure from his previous roles. Still, I do think Dwayne Johnson gave a fine performance as Black Adam. Aldis Hodge fills in the wings of Hawkman here and he also does a good job. But he’s just super serious and we don’t really get to see a whole lot of range here as well. Pierce Bronsan gets to do a lot more with his portrayal of Doctor Fate as, while he’s still comes off as super confident, there’s a general weariness to his performance.
Still, overall, the acting is just okay because there isn’t a whole lot of emotional range to any of the characters, making them come off as pretty flat and one dimensional. I would say the worst performances come from the woman who played Justice Society member Cyclone and the son of the main rebel. My biggest problem with the woman who plays Cyclone is, even when she’s whipping up massive tornados, she gives off this emotionless blank stare while doing so. With the kid, I just didn’t believe his plucky attitude performance and it quickly got on my nerves.
Speaking of Cyclone, I can’t see why she was even here, actually. Atom Smasher is also here but he and Cyclone don’t really add anything to the story or the action, in general. I can sort of understand why Atom Smasher is here as, in the comics, he does become a strong ally to Black Adam later in his career. I can’t see why they decided to add Cyclone to this movie’s superhero roster. Guess they thought Vixen wouldn’t work?
I do have to quickly mention that Black Adam ahd probably one of the worst, if not the worst, main villains ever. I can’t really say who it is as this is a SPOILER FREE review. But the main bad guy is so uncharismatic and generic. He doesn’t even come of as the least bit threatening! It makes me wonder why Black Adam or any of the Justice Society members just couldn’t beat him to a pulp in a couple of seconds. It would’ve saved us from the big CGI final battle that felt a little nonsensical.
This leads me to probably my biggest problem with Black Adam: I didn’t care for any of the characters. Not for Black Adam. Not for Hawkman. Not for Doctor Fate. And especially not for the plucky kid. The “just okay” acting is a part of it but it’s mostly because they’re written badly. I was never given a reason for me to care for what was going to happen to them as you never really get to know them. It’s because of this I don’t feel a connection with any of them. There wasn’t anything for me to latch on emotionally.
The plot of Black Adam is, at least, interesting at the start. However, it does wear out its welcome as they though it would be fun to add a couple of twists and turns to the story. It also hurts that a lot of it is done through some form of exposition. It’s not like the twists are bad. I was actually surprised at one of the curveballs Black Adam threw at me. The thing is it didn’t really matter because I didn’t care. It makes Black Adam’s 124-minute runtime feel like much longer.
As much as I like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I can’t really recommend Black Adam. While I’ve seen worse movies based on comic book movies, I’ve come to expect a whole lot more from them now. It has clashing tones, weird direction and editing when it comes to the action scenes and, worst of all, really bland and forgettable characters.
In some way, I do feel like Black Adam is a horror movie… but that’s because of how frighteningly bad it was.
Have you seen Black Adam? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!