It has taken 15 years for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to bring Black Adam to the big screen, taking on the role being one of his favorite characters in the DC Universe. The new film in the DCEU not only introduces audiences to the anti-hero but also the superhero team was known as the Justice Society of America. It has been a long road with many obstacles with development and production as the leadership of the DC Universe is about to shift following the introduction of Teth Adam. So does the film deliver on its promise to portray the anti-hero accurately and compelling? It mostly does with a few bumps in the road.
In Black Adam, it follows the tale of Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson), a slave in the country of Khandaq who faced a lot of hurdles and tragedies in his life. He is suddenly gifted with the same powers as Shazam and becomes the champion of his people, but he uses them to destroy his enemies in violent ways. Due to his actions, he is locked away in a state of sleep for thousands of years until he is awoken into a modern world as his country looks for a protector to help them against the Intergang. However, Black Adam finds himself in a conflict with the superhero team, The Justice Society. With a second chance, Teth Adam makes stand to protect his people against those who threaten the nation of Khandaq.
Johnson has found a way to portray Black Adam as a powerful being who has issues he must deal with from his past as well as the present. With his demeanor and charm, the actor does a fantastic job of showing the turmoil that Teth Adam has faced in his mortal life and how his gifted powers have changed him into a vengeful hero. The latter sets himself apart from other superheroes. Black Adam isn’t a villain or a hero as he has no problem destroying his enemies with his magical abilities to protect his country. Johnson manages to bring some of his personality to Black Adam and it completely works in his favor. We see how much of a badass he can be when he’s tearing down members of the Intergang and those around him who get in his way. Even with his dark tone, we do get some humor from Black Adam since he’s a fish out of water learning the ways of the modern world.
The film feels very much like it could’ve benefited from being R-rated, but there’s enough of a mature feel to set Black Adam apart from other superheroes. Director Jaume Collet-Serra does well in capturing Teth Adam in some amazing action set pieces. It does get violent whenever we see Teth Adam taking down an entire army with tanks and helicopters without much of a scratch. The slow-motion action scenes showcase the might and power of what Black Adam can do. It is something that we don’t often get to see in superhero movies. The best action sequences we get are when we see Teth Adam going toe-to-toe with the Justice Society.
We do get quite a roster of heroes in Black Adam that are well-acted by this cast. Aldis Hodge puts in enough screen time as Hawkman whenever he comes in conflict with Teth Adam. He is perhaps the scene stealer of this whole film other than Johnson. Pierce Brosnan puts on his best foot forward as Doctor Fate with his omnipresence and relaxed nature as a key player in the story. We also get some new members in the form of Atom Smasher and Cyclone, played by Noah Centineo and Quintessa Swindell. Both of them add some lightheartedness to the film even though we don’t get enough time with them. Despite not getting enough background information on the JSA, we do get enough to care for them as characters, whether trying to save Khandaq or figuring out who the true villain is behind the scenes.
With so much to like about Black Adam, some flaws are noticeable during its runtime. With the film running a little over two hours, Black Adam doesn’t give enough time to develop the characters’ backstories and just streamlines through them quickly. Once the film begins, much of Khandaq’s history and Teth Adam’s connection is displayed in a quick exposition that displays the darker tone of the very first wielder of Shazam’s powers as well as the troubled state that the country has faced over the years. We get plenty of action to enjoy what’s happening on screen and the chemistry with the characters is there, but the film could’ve had a tighter story and let some of these character moments take time to marinate and savor with the audience.
Another issue that comes up that’s very common with most superhero movies is the villain. Rather than a powerful adversary that our characters have to fight, the villain ends up becoming a hurdle they must overcome and uses a heavy load of CGI that is easy to spot knowing the budget of a big film like this. Once Black Adam and the JSA are on screen, the film shines bright, but once the action settles down, we see how much flawed the script truly is. What the film doesn’t shy away from is that Khandaq’s troubles parallel what Middle Eastern countries are facing and the lack of protection from outside forces. These themes could’ve been explored more thoroughly, but we still get to see the topic of an outsider protecting the underrepresented being tackled well.
Black Adam isn’t completely a masterpiece, but it does lay the groundwork for a better future for the DCEU moving forward. The film doesn’t need to replicate what other superhero movies are doing, it just needs to deliver good characters and keep it entertaining, which it does in many ways. It is a fun action-packed feature that will please a lot of fans, especially if you stay during those credits for quite a surprise. It accomplishes what it set out to do by establishing Black Adam as a powerhouse staple to the DC Universe and expanding on it with the introduction of the JSA. Johnson’s testament and love for the DC Universe show in the film and his commitment has paid off handsomely.
Black Adam will be released in theaters on October 21st, 2022.