Movie Review: ‘Black Adam’

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwam Kenzari, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan

Plot: An freedom fighting archeologist hunts for a mystical artefact and, in the process, awakens an ancient demigod imbued with the powers of Shazam.

Review: It’s surprising that this happened, and happened in this form, a full eight years when The Rock was announced as Black Adam. This was at a time when he was still mostly referred to as The Rock, and was playing Hercules. That was two years before Dawn of Justice and five years before Shazam! Dwayne Johnson has already played Black Adam in League of Super Pets. But it happened, and with the Justice Society to boot!

Mind you, I don’t remember anyone asking for an evil anti-hero version of the fun and cheeky Shazam that presents us with a vaguely north African – Middle-Eastern conflict riddled nation analogue. It’s the DCEU’s answer to Wakanda. It even has a rare mineral that gives them an advanced technology.

Some things in this movie are a bit weird. We get a very clumsy introduction to the Justice Society, which we never get a clear idea of the full scope of. They answer to Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) for some reason, and appear to be bounty hunting potential members of the Suicide Squad. I have some questions about that. The origin of Hawkman (Hodge) is left unsaid, whilst Doctor Fate (Brosnan) is summarised as his helmet being “from another planet and millions of years old”. Pierce Brosnan is genuinely the best part of this movie, and is giving it a real strong effort, but it gets awkward when he delivers a long, emotional speech about his friendship with Hawkman…characters we met this morning when they left on this mission.

After all the exposition dumps and flashbacks, set-ups for the twists revealed in the trailers and whatnot, we get into the proper title character. The people of Kahndaq speak of the ancient hero Teth Adam who stood up to the corrupt king and freed them from slavery. An archeologist summons the mythological figure from his tomb in a quest to rid the nation of invaders, unleashing Teth Adam and his god-level powers. He immediately goes on a murder spree, leading to a confrontation with Justice Society members Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Cyclone (Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Centineo).

Up until a point, it works. The visual designs for Doctor Fate and Cyclone’s powers is nice to look at, and the strength of Black Adam and Hawkman comes across through their destructive battles. The actors mostly go all in, but most of the heroes are very thinly drawn and remain so throughout. This is a Justice League movie as much as a Black Adam movie, DCEU sticking to the standard approach of putting a complete story on the backburner while they set-up back door pilots for the supporting cast.

Much of Black Adam’s personal journey is learning not to be a huge murderer whilst being asked to champion a country that needs him to fight against genuine injustice. Mercenary groups and criminal groups run the town and oppress the population, and Teth Adam is traditionally seen as a champion of the people. Initially he only seems interested in disintegrating people with his lightning powers, but he’s guided through the modern world by a very obnoxious child doing a super-nerd schtick so dated Dwayne Johnson wouldn’t have been cast as Black Adam.

It works, up until the third act. It harkens back to the much maligned third act of Wonder Woman, with a quick CGI punch-up after the story seemed entirely wrapped up. It’s an odd jumble of a movie with some fun performances and moments, the highlight being Pierce Brosnan being spectacular as Doctor Fate.

Ultimately, it’s fine.

Rating: SIX out of TEN