Black Adam (2022)

Black Adam
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani
Based on: Otto Binder and C. C. Beck‘s character
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Quintessa Swindell, Marwan Kenzari, Bodhi Sabongui, Mohammed Amer, James Cusati-Moyer, Jalon Christian, Djimon Hounsou, Viola Davis, Henry Cavill
Part of: DC movies
Seen on: 2.11.2022

5000 years ago, Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) was blessed with immeasurable power to rid Kahndaq of the cruel rule of its emperor. But just as soon as he had done that, he was imprisoned. Today Kahndaq is yet again under the harsh rule of a criminal gang. Archaeologist Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) has to evade the gang to find the Crown of Sabbac, said to have great powers. As she finds the crown, she accidentally sets Black Adam free. And he is hell-bent on taking his revenge, destroying whoever gets in his way. This doesn’t go unnotice, so Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends in a team to take him on, consisting of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell).

Black Adam is definitely not the worst DC movie out there but that doesn’t mean that it’s all that great, either. It’s messy, and pays too much attention to the action scenes and too little to the characters. There is an interesting attemtp at anti-imperialism but it’s not successful enough to make the film really good or interesting.

The film poster showing Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) in profile.

Black Adam sits in kind of a weird spot of the DCEU. Featuring mostly second-tier characters that are rather unknown and have not yet shown up in the DCEU, it feels more like a sequel to a film that never was than something that stands on its own. Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone are introduced in a way that seems to assume that we already know them. But I think I speak for a big part of the audience when I say: we don’t. It speaks for the cast that the team works despite that (can you tell me why Aldis Hodge isn’t in pretty much everything? He should be).

Including them, though, gave the film one of the most interesting parts as it shows the USA’s continued imperialistic attitude. Here we have a country in the Middle East, left pretty much to its own devices despite an oppressive and criminal regime, but as soon as a force appears that could be a threat to the USA, they feel completely justified in playing world police. The massive prison that comes with that attitude is a chilling thing, and the film does acknowledge that. But in the end, it doesn’t really challenge it, and that also weakens Adam’s character arc that is all about liberation and emancipation, but ends on a note where the USA in the shape of Superman (Henry Cavill in a brief cameo) still calls the shots and is the one to play police.

Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) striding down a palace hallway.

The film has a lot going on and more often than not, it feels like when things get complicated, it just throws a CGI-heavy fight scene at us to try and gloss over the narrative mess. I grew rather tired of those fights (then again, they are usually my least favorite part of these films). The pacing isn’t quite right, either. This becomes particularly obvious when it tries to joke around. Most of these jokes just fall flat. But then again, one has to be grateful that the film tries to joke at all and isn’t a complete doomfest as so many DCEU movies are.

The film has enough charm to not make it a chore to sit through it. There are entertaining moments, and some nonsensical moments that are entertaining because obviously nobody considered what effects certain gags or decisions might have outside of the moment they happen in. But you will have to decide for yourself whether “it’s not painful to watch and the cast is good” is enough to actually be considered a recommendation.

Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) standing in the rubble, his wings spread.

Summarizing: oh well.

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