Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: Nearly 5,000 years after he was bestowed with the almighty powers of the Egyptian gods—and vanished just as quickly—Teth Adam is freed from his earthly tomb, ready to unleash his unique form of justice on the modern world.
Review: I had the pleasure of being a guest reviewer last week on a good friend of mine’s podcast, BBB Radio where a group of us discussed the latest entry into the DCEU, Black Adam (you can check it out over on his YouTube channel). And one of the things I said was, “This was the most comic book movie I’ve seen from a DCEU movie so far.”
I’m sure fans of the Snyderverse may disagree with me, but personally I’ve always found his movies lacked one of the most important elements needed in a story based on superheroes that aren’t just Batman, which is to say they weren’t fun! But even with its missteps and somewhat messy narrative the one thing I CAN say about Dwayne Johnson’s passion project is this movie was fun!
The movie takes the origin of Black Adam and throws in a couple of twists to keep comic book readers off-kilter, something I personally appreciated as it kept certain elements such as Teth-Adam’s backstory from being too predictable while also ensuring they still kept the key elements. In this version more than four thousand years ago, a tyrannical king (is there really any other kind?) enslaved the people of Kahndaq and forced them to mine a rare and powerful mineral called Eternium (before you laugh/groan just keep in mind the source material). During this enslavement a young boy rebels and encourages his people to do the same. These events lead to him being bestowed the powers of the gods (in the comics it was originally the same Greek gods Captain Marvel’s powers come from, but this was later retconned to Egyptian gods.) And by saying SHAZAM he transforms into Kandaq’s most powerful protector.
The evil king in the meantime has a crown made out of Eternium meant to give him superpowers as well (though of the demonic variety). And when the two clash ancient Kahndaq is destroyed, Teth-Adam is entombed and the crown disappears. Four millennia and change later in the present day university professor Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi of Person of Interest, Sex/Life) along with her brother and friends try to locate the crown and move it to a safe location before colonisers—I mean mercenaries—from a group called Intergang can find it. Things don’t work out the way they planned and with no hope left Adrianna recites the “prayer” and says the word that summons Black Adam into our world. Glorious chaos ensues.
As Ryan Reynolds is to Deadpool, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is to Teth Adam/Black Adam and I’m not just talking about the actor fitting the role to a tee. Johnson has lobbied for years to play this character the same way Reynolds did for Deadpool. And one can imagine he’s turned down numerous opportunities from Marvel and DC for other roles just to ensure he alone got to play Black Adam. Physically Johnson is exactly what you want from a live action Black Adam, no neck and all! Kidding aside, the man got EXTRA swole for this part and does his best to embody the stoic manner of this villain turned anti-hero. Personally, I was hoping for a bit more nuance as a lot of his early scenes, especially his interactions with Adrianna’s son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui) come across very “The Terminator and John Connor” from Terminator 2. I think Johnson was doing his best though and I was happy to see more charisma coming from Black Adam as the story wore on.
The other players here also make positive impacts (at least the super-powered ones…we’ll get to that) with Pierce Brosnan absolutely nailing it as Dr Fate. Same goes for Aldis Hodge as Hawkman. Even newcomers to the Justice Society of America, Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) were fun to watch. And most importantly everyone made the kind of impression that makes me want to see them all return in future stories.
Zack Snyder may not be at the helm but director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, The Shallows) does utilise Snyder’s signature style for a lot of the action sequences, while also putting his own spin on them. Add to that the gorgeous colors and comic accurate costumes which I absolutely adored (Hawkman and Dr Fate especially!) and it all came together to create the kind of bombastic moments fans want from these types of movies.
Black Adam isn’t perfect though and suffers from some of the same issues found in prior DC movies (and even some Marvel ones). The story is a bit of a mess and lacks character development for some, especially the human players. We don’t get much history when it comes to the members of the Justice Society, just broad strokes here and there. And with heroes such as Hawkman and Dr Fate, not to mention a quick guest appearance by Henry “The Frickin’ Fonze” Winkler as the previous Atom Smasher, that felt like a hugely missed opportunity. Mother Adrianna and son Amon also feel like they belonged in a 90’s superhero movie instead of this one. I don’t mean to come across as disrespectful, but their line deliveries never struck any emotional chords with me. Thank goodness for the uncle character Karim, though. He’s the absolute best of them all, including the villain who later on becomes Sabbac.
Speaking of which, we get yet another one-dimensional evil guy courtesy of DCEU in the form of Sabbac. Now I didn’t totally hate him as I loved the comic accurate look of the character, but I think the movie would’ve benefited from an additional 30 minutes to provide more depth to both the heroes and this villain on his quest for ultimate power. It’s definitely been DC’s weakest area in their movies thus far, with maybe the exception of Aquaman’s foes. On one hand I commend Warner Bros and the DCEU for structuring their movies so that they can stand on their own, with just enough threads there to hold them all together. But on the other hand, having a plan going forward will only work to benefit them. And unless they plan on creating television shows that give these players a chance to connect with audiences (I believe we’re supposed to get at least one show based on Dr Fate) these missteps will continue to plague their big screen outings.
Overall though I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a blast with Black Adam. It IS the most “comic book” movie I’ve seen from the DCEU ever and I can forgive the flaws here because the movie was so entertaining. Not to mention that mid-credits sequence which I luckily knew nothing about going in (I always avoid the internet when I’m planning on watching these types of films) had me cheering along with everyone else in the cinema. I honestly haven’t felt that type of energy from a crowd since the earlier days of Marvel movies, and that alone speaks volumes as to the success of Black Adam. I just hope the good folks over at the DCEU don’t get blinded by all the praise and keep learning from their mistakes so audiences can get even bigger and better heroic tales from them in the future.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
For more of my thoughts you can check out my video review below:
And you can check out more great DCEU content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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