BLACK ADAM (2022)
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan, Mohammed Amer, Odelya Halevi, Angel Rosario Jr., Joseph Gatt, Natalie Burn, James Cusati-Moyer, Uli Latukefu, Patrick Sabongui, Djimon Hounsou, Viola Davis, Jennifer Holland, Henry Winkler and Henry Cavill.
Screenplay by Adam Sztykiel and Rory Haines & Sohrab Noshirvani.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra.
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. 124 minutes. Rated PG-13.
With his charm, soft-spoken sense of humor and his imposing physique, you’d think Dwayne Johnson would be ideally suited to play a superhero in a blockbuster film. I’m just not sure that DC’s Black Adam is the ideal fit for him.
Black Adam is one of DC’s earlier and lesser-known characters (at least outside of the comic book community). In fact, I’ll acknowledge I was not particularly familiar with him, although he is part of the same basic storyline as Captain Marvel (aka Shazam!), with whom I was definitely familiar. (In fact, I think the first Shazam! movie was one of DC’s best and most underrated films, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.)
According to Wikipedia: “Black Adam was originally depicted as a supervillain and the ancient Egyptian predecessor of Captain Marvel, who fought his way to modern times to challenge the hero and his Marvel Family associates. Since the turn of the 21st century, however, Black Adam has been redefined by DC Comics writers Jerry Ordway, Geoff Johns, and David S. Goyer as a corrupted antihero attempting to clear his name and reputation.”
Okay, sounds interesting enough, right?
However, it does not play into the easy likability of its star. Let’s face it, Johnson’s acting chops are somewhat limited – but he is very charismatic at playing quipping tough guys. After all, let’s not forget the guy got his start wrestling as The Rock. He’s an entertainer and a charmer, but I’m not sure he’s quite built for playing a tortured and angry outcast having a long series of dark nights of the soul and wreaking bloody havoc on all who get in his way.
Black Adam neuters most of what Johnson does well as an actor, and it’s to the detriment of the film.
In fact, the lead character is probably the least interesting of the five superheroes gathered together for this film, as Black Adam also resurrects The Justice Society of America – a predecessor of The Justice League – which includes the little-remembered Hawkman (Aldus Hodge), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan).
Which is kind of a shame, because Black Adam is decent enough as a comic book origin story, not one of the classics but far from being unwatchable.
Black Adam is busily (and occasionally incoherently) directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who has collaborated on some of Liam Neeson’s more formulaic action fare like Unknown (2011), Non-Stop (2014), Run All Night (2015), and The Commuter (2018). He had also directed Johnson in last year’s slightly disappointing Jungle Cruise, loosely based on the Disneyland ride.
As you may guess from the director’s resume, Black Adam has a slick popcorn immediacy throughout, but isn’t exactly deep. (Which is somewhat ironic, because for better or worse the lead character is supposed to be rather deep.)
Taking place in the fictional Middle Eastern city of Kahndaq, it starts in ancient times where Teth-Adam is a slave whose beloved wife and son are killed by the evil King. He receives superpowers through the same wizards who created Captain Marvel (using the same catchphrase to access the powers – “Shazam!”)
He defeats the evil king and brings peace to the kingdom, and then he disappears. However his myth and legend grow over the generations and the people of Kahndaq believe he will return when their freedom is again in a crisis. He is finally resurrected in the modern day; however he has no interest in being a hero. He is still in mourning for his family and all he really feels is rage.
However, he is willing to help a sweet (and pretty) freedom fighter (Sarah Shahi) and her brave teen son (Bodhi Sabongui) – who remind him of his family.
From there, Black Adam is pretty standard blockbuster fare, touching on many of the superhero tropes and even borrowing from films like Raiders of the Lost Ark. It has some exciting moments, some funny ones, but there is little here that you have not seen.
Hopefully if the story of Black Adam continues – which is quite likely as part of the DC Extended Universe of films, guesting in other films as well as his own – the filmmakers will tailor the character more towards their star’s strong suits.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 20, 2022.