- Run time: 2 hours 4 minutes
- Studio: DC Entertainment
- Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
- Where to Watch: In Theaters
In the ancient city of Kahndaq during the year 2600 BC, a mad king is working his subjects to death. He seeks a powerful ore known as Eternium and with it, he will forge a crown that will grant him otherworldly powers. There is one person who stands to defy this king and that is a young boy named Hurut. He inspires his countrymen to stand up to the king and wins the favor of the Council of Wizards. The Council grants him the powers of the gods and he becomes the Champion of Kahndaq. After he vanquishes the mad king Anh-Kot, he vanishes. It is now modern day and Kahndaq is occupied by Intergang, a criminal syndicate, and they are searching for Anh-Kot’s lost crown. A team of researchers and treasure hunters are racing to find the crown so they can hide it and prevent Intergang from becoming more powerful. During a skirmish, The Champion of Kahndaq is awoken and begins to exact his revenge on all those that stand in his way. Amanda Waller, always ready for trouble, alerts the Justice Society of America and has them intervene to stop this seemingly unstoppable demi-god.
I was a DC fanboy for most of my childhood and teenage years, but I had never really heard about Black Adam (or Shazam) until the Shazam movie came out. I was raised on the animated Batman and Superman shows and then bits and pieces of The Justice League so I’m very much in the “traditional” DC superhero camp and Black Adam is not one of those. That said, he is not a bad character and if anybody was going to play him, it HAD to be Dwayne Johnson. But even with all of Johnson’s effort and determination to drag this movie kicking and screaming into existence, it is not a good movie. For starters, this is a 2-hour movie that felt like an eternity. I have seen several reviews online saying that they wish the movie was longer, maybe another 30-45 minutes and I think that is absolutely insane. I was checking my watch several times throughout this movie waiting for it to be over. The writing team felt some sort of need to cram as much content into the runtime as possible and it comes off as clunky and exposition heavy with no real payoff. There is no consistent message or theme throughout either. Everything moves so fast, and it doesn’t leave the audience any time to breathe or get attached to anything on screen. It’s not even all value-added content, it’s just stuff for the sake of stuff. The stuff that I was able to actually observe and pay attention to was filled with cliche after cliche and it failed to present anything new, which is the disheartening norm for DCEU movies.
Johnson plays the hulking menace that is Black Adam with all the authority and grimaces that he can muster. But he’s no different than his character in any other action movie – he is just Dwayne Johnson with a new costume on. There’s nothing that differentiates this character performance from his performance in Jungle Cruise (which is the first collab between Johnson and Collet-Serra). It works for a while, but it just gets old. Yet somehow, I keep buying tickets for his movies so there has to be something to it. It’s an almost morbid curiosity to see if he’s going to do something different but never actually does it.
Pierce Brosnan and Aldis Hodge are the best thing about this movie in my opinion. Their characters have an epic bromance respect for each other, and I loved it. Dr. Fate is just a diet Dr. Strange but with enough of a difference that kept me interested. Aldis Hodge is the perfect Hawkman, just what a fan of the old school Justice League would want. Together they lead the Justice Society and have some pretty good interactions between themselves and their super-peers. Noah Centineo portrays the Adam Smasher and does so in underwhelming fashion as he carves out a new career path away from romcoms and teen dramas. Quintessa Swindell is in a similar position as Cyclone. Both characters were written as rookies and it showed because they made mistakes and as an audience member, I appreciated that they were flawed from the beginning instead of instantly perfect. There was also a budding romance underneath the surface which was endearing and if they were to appear in future DCEU movies, I wouldn’t be disappointed. The rest of the supporting cast includes an odd trio of characters that are supposed to be central to the story but end up just getting in the way by serving their archetypal roles. Sarah Shahi plays Adrianna Tomaz, mother to Amon Tomaz played by Bodhi Sabongui. They are both poorly written characters that minimally impact the story and don’t come across as relatable at all. There are a few scenes that were supposed to be inspiring, but the urgency of the situation was lost because of annoying or poor delivery.
The look and feel of Black Adam is jarring to say the least. There are a few noticeable moments where it’s obvious that the brutality on screen was cut out with awkward transitions or jump cuts. The action sequences looked mediocre to decent at best when riddled with these sudden and sharp changes in focus or perspectives. Certain shots of Johnson flying looked straight out of a b-movie visual effects studio, but then Dr. Fate would dazzle us with some wizardry and refracted visuals. Again, nothing is consistent in this entire movie. Things just looked odd and out of place or floaty everywhere you lookked. I don’t think that Black Adam took more than 15 steps with his own two feet the entire movie because the studio CG-ed him to be floating 8 inches off the ground pretty much the entire time.
Black Adam is the latest DCEU entry directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, arriving a year after James Gunn’s acclaimed Suicide Squad redux. Dwayne Johnson plays the titular character and embodies the anti-hero character with a level of ferocity that can’t be matched by any other DCEU character currently on screen. Supporting Johnson is the bromance of Pierce Brosnan and Aldis Hodge. Additional cast members include Noah Centineo as Adam Smasher and relative newcomer Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone. This 2-hour movie is full of the usual DCEU missteps and screw ups that show that the studio is ready for new leadership, especially because of the shoehorned post-credit scene. It is a very inconsistent movie with only a few moments actually worth seeing, but it will no doubt get some insane NFL-esque statistic that artificially suggests it is a “good” movie. I can’t say I’m disappointed, because I had no expectations, but I’m not very satisfied with it either. Objectively, it’s not a bad movie, but subjectively it’s not great either. Just meh.