BLACK ADAM (2022) l Warner Bros. | October 21, 2022
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Pierce Brosnan
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Nearly 5,000 years after he was bestowed with the almighty powers of the Egyptian gods-and imprisoned just as quickly-Black Adam is freed from his earthly tomb, ready to unleash his unique form of justice on the modern world.
REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
Black Adam attempts to usher in a new era in the DC Extended Universe, and while it is a fun time full of great action and crowd pleasing moments, it does not offer much new to the DCEU.
Ever since Black Adam was announced, Dwayne Johnson has been claiming that a new hierarchy was coming to the DCEU. The film itself has been a passion project for him, which is evident from the finished product and the press tour he has done for the movie. But in terms of shaking up the DCEU, the film itself is rather more of the same entertaining action and thrills we have seen in the majority of the other entries. The film tells the story of Johnson’s Teth Adam, an ancient hero from 5,000 years ago, who is awoken and released from where he was imprisoned by the gods, set on unleashing his own form of judgment on the modern world. But after Amanda Waller detects that Teth Adam has been released from his prison, she sends in the Justice Society of America, headed by Carter Hall a.k.a. Hawkman, on a mission to stop Teth Adam at all costs.
Telling an anti-hero story is tricky, because you need to maintain the darkness of the character while also making the audience care about their cause. While the film never is short on the darkness of Teth Adam, and I have more to say on that while talking about the action sequences, the story itself is a mixed bag of results. The first act is an absolute mess, introducing human characters that are frankly not great comedic relief of the film, before unleashing Teth Adam, which all Johsnon does for the first thirty to forty minutes of screentime just gives a devilish grin at the camera with some bad dialogue. It makes it hard for the audience to get invested in the story because he is such a flat and one dimensional character, no matter how much we all love Johnson or how badass he is in the role.
The saving grace early on in the film is the Justice Society of America, and I wish that the film was told more from their perspective in the first act because there was substance to these characters. Though, after Teth Adam and the Justice Society of America’s big fight at the end of the first act of the film, the story comes together and the screenplay allows for Johnson’s great comedic abilities to seep into the character and provide Teth Adam some humanity. His backstory is eventually revealed and he is given a character arc, it just happens so late in the film and it would have been beneficial to tease more of it earlier on. The film does a good job introducing the Justice Society of America, not to be confused with the Justice League, one of the longest running superhero organizations in the DC Comics. Each character is given enough backstory upon introduction for the cast to enact the character arc, easily wetting the audience’s appetite for future appearances of them in the DCEU.
Luckily, the film is full of incredible action sequences. Every sequence brings an intensity that will have your eyes glued to the screen as a spectacle unfolds. Packing a brutality, you can feel the blow of each punch thrown as you can see how they had to recut the film to achieve a PG-13 rating, as this easily could have been R rated if they had gone with one of the earlier cuts of the film. For the most part, the CGI is great during these sequences, bringing all of the superhero’s powers to life in glorious detail. Being a superhero film, there is no shortage of action, as in fact the action makes up the majority of the film’s run time. Though, without a doubt the highlight of the action sequences was that dazzling first fight between Teth Adam and the Justice Society of America which packs all the fun, excitement, intensity and laughs that audiences want from the superhero genre.
Johnson is the big draw of the film, and he is good as Teth Adam. There is no denying that he has absolutely nailed the hulking, brutality of the character, which excites me to see where they will take his character in the future of the DCEU, but the writing of the character prevents Johnson from bringing out any other emotions in his performance other than “kill mode.” Noah Centineo is a lot of fun as Atom Smasher, bringing some great comedic moments to the film, while Quintessa Swindell is charming as Cyclone. The two of them do a great job capturing the struggle of a young hero on their first mission, while also brewing up some romantic tension that I suspect will pay off in future films. Aldis Hodge was an excellent choice for Hawkman, bringing a great dynamic to the film. But it was Pierce Brosnan who stole the film as Dr. Fate. It has been such a long time since I have seen Brosnan this good in a film, but he was charming, surprisingly funny and the wise figure that this film needed. His on screen banter with Hodge was fantastic, the two of them quickly developing an old friendship and the ease that comes with that within seconds.
And rounding out the film is an electrifying musical score from Lorne Balfe that captures the darkness of Teth Adam, as well as the heroics of the Justice Society of America, which is yet another excellent musical score for the DCEU. Though, it is the mid credit scene that is the highlight of the film. Without getting into spoilers, it features the return of a DC character that fans have been waiting years for that sets the stage for a major fight to come in the DCEU’s future that I cannot wait for. Despite a story that got off to a rough start, Black Adam features dazzling action sequences and a scene stealing Pierce Brosnan which is more than enough to get fans excited about the DCEU once again.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5