Black Adam Review: Dwayne Johnson’s Charm Lifts a Dubious Thrill Ride!

Jaume Collet-Black Serra's Adam, in which a potential presidential contender demonstrates how pleasant it is to wield immense force when nobody is strong enough to confront you, will, for most viewers, just be another fine-not-great night of spandex mayhem and franchises waiting to be born.

Given the complex global themes it exposes but doesn't completely explore, some audiences may have trouble finding escape in this film. It's a sad fact of life that we now have to sift through the merriment of pop culture for clues as to the direction of future foreign policy (and to conjure up terror plots involving a lovable performer like Dwayne Johnson).

Before we get into the question of whether or not Black Adam is entertaining, let's be honest about what it's about: defending the wisdom of deploying American firepower to volatile regions across the globe. The passage might be read as a condemnation of past passivity almost as easily.

From a distance, this appears less like an acknowledgment of geopolitical complexity and more like an attempt to please all audiences. It's business as usual in both Hollywood and Washington, but the latter city poses far more challenges.

Whatever your political leanings may be, the first thing most comic book fans will notice is that, despite our hopes that DC will finally abandon the Snyderverse, there are more than just remnants of that universe here. Outtakes from 300 come to mind when watching the opening sequence, complete with slow motion and flying globules of blood. The film is hampered by obvious slow-motion, and rumor-mongers will have heard of even stronger connections to Zack Snyder‘s previous works.

black adam review

That the predicted superpowered co-star isn't present among the many others may be due to the audience's identification with the macho side of DC's mythos. In David F. Sandberg's surprisingly entertaining 2019 picture, Shazam (played by Zachary Levi) would be a welcome diversion from the protagonists' puffed-up egos and long-held grudges, but he won't be making an appearance.

The wizard who bestowed superpowers upon Billy Batson is briefly glimpsed. In recollections of the past, a monarch of land called Kahndaq, which bears some resemblance to ancient Egypt, makes his subjects dig for the mystical ore Eternium. A little boy is captured when he tries to incite an uprising. He is about to be executed when he is rescued by wizards who turn him into a godlike champion who promptly destroys the king and his palace in a rage-fueled battle.

Adrianna, a scholar from Kahndaq (Sarah Shahi) searches a long-lost tomb for the king's Eternium crown, which she believes is hidden there. She discovers it, and the long-dead champion is brought back to life, but then her mission is ambushed by Intergang, the crew of mercenaries who have tormented Kahndaq for decades. Fighting breaks out.

Teth Adam, Johnson‘s revived warrior, is primarily educated about the present day by Amon, Adrianna's son (Bodhi Sabongui). Since both mother and son have been working covertly against Intergang, having the magic crown just makes them more of a target. But Teth Adam doesn't give a hoot about their difficulties, and he even scolds the kid for not being aware that violence is the solution.

black adam review

Some people are more curious than others. When Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) learns that the crown has been stolen, he recruits Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan) and a group of lesser-known heroes to help him reclaim it and secure it in the United States. They travel the world in a plane with a removable cockpit that would make a millionaire owner of phallic rockets green with envy, and act (at least in Adrianna's estimation) like enforcers of a paternalistic Western power structure.

(The script offers little to assist non-DC scholars in this regard, only obliquely referencing nanobots, relics, and the Justice Society of America as though they had previously been presented in other movies. Because of the large number of new characters introduced during the course of the film's two-hour “battle scene,” there is little room for exposition.

Hodge gives Hawkman a tough edge, making him a lawman who is as adamant about maintaining the status quo as Teth Adam is about eliminating anyone who dares to look at him the wrong way. The film effectively dramatizes their divergent perspectives and manages to make us feel for the torn people of modern Kahndaq: When they had little worth protecting, they were eager to enlist Western aid; today, however, Teth Adam's approach is more popular.

The explosive and antisocial antihero that Johnson develops is compelling. Instead of flying, he more closely resembles a stalker of the skies, swatting at his foes as if they were nothing more than bundles of weightless CG pixels. This side project helps develop the protagonist, setting him up for future adventures that hopefully won't be as formulaic as this one.

And maybe America can grow out of its terrible propensity to elect celebrities with little experience in making governments work while Teth Adam progressively builds a cohesive moral worldview over the course of several movies. We'll need more than wizards and magic rocks to accomplish it.

IMDb Ratings


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