Review: Black Adam (2022) – How To Hate Friends and Tolerate People

Dwayne Johnson in Black Adam

When Marvel was looking to start their cinematic universe, they didn’t look to Captain America or even Spider-man (Movie rights are complicated), instead they started with the lesser appreciated Iron Man to kick things off. Looking back, it was either a massive risk or a smart tactical choice for a burgeoning studio. DC however went in hard with Man of Steel and the Superman of it all. Most know how that turned out. With its soft reboot, DC has taken a page out of Marvel’s playbook and turned to Black Adam, an anti-hero looking to shake things up. Let’s just say the choices made here were much less inspired.

Set in the fictional nation of Kahndaq, a country overrun by a mercenary group called Intergang (I wish I was joking), Black Adam follows Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson), who after 5000 years buried is reawakened by accident to a world that has changed. While he adjusts to this new country, excessively violently at times, the Justice Society of America get wind of his destruction and head to Kahndaq to stop him but a bigger threat hides in the shadows of Black Adam’s wake.

While it might be that expectations were lowered to the floor with DC’s other outings in recent years or that going into a Dwayne Johnson film you don’t expect much in the form of dramatic tension, but Black Adam proves to be a serviceable launch pad for any future DC projects. While it isn’t expressly designed as such it pushes enough boundaries here to feel new and unlike the increasingly monotonous superhero content of recent years. That isn’t to say Johnson’s latest big budget punch-up is a great film, it’s far from it but by no means is it bad.

While it feels cheap at times, with some plot lines that feel thrown away to cut time, characters that are wedged in to add mindless comedy and nothing else and a human plot that leaves much to be desired, the action here is solid. Both vicious enough to add credence to Adam’s ‘I’m not a hero bravado’ and colourful enough to avoid the mindless destruction that Man of Steel managed so well. DC seems to be learning from its mistakes and director Jaume Collet-Serra seems to be having fun breaking things without having to contemplate the collateral damage.

However, it does fall down the rabbit holes of an origin story, filling you with exposition while never really getting to who Black Adam is, or for that matter, the members of the Justice Society brought to stop him. While Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) are well realised visually, dramatically they have little to no back story, weighing down a key sequence with the dreaded movie question, why should I care? While Doctor Fate has an action sequence that is enough to elevate the character, its Pierce Brosnan’s performance that fills the gaps of a script that forgets to fully realise any character other that Teth-Adam. It feels like a whole lot of missed opportunities.

Most of the films enjoyable moments hide outside of the main story and away from Johnson’s dry delivery. While in other films, Johnson’s comedic timing works here it doesn’t, it almost nullifies his characters malice for the sake of a mild laugh that never appears. Although there is promise here, it never lies with Black Adam’s journey, instead in the world outside of Kahndaq, with Johnson feeling miscast for a film he fought so hard to create.

There is an element of optimism, not only in the film but in the overall direction of DC to be seen here but unfortunately, it’s in a perfectly fine but utterly forgettable film that needed a different star and a script more attuned to the characters it proclaimed to care for.

TSR

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