Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Quintessa Swindell, Mohammed Amer, Marwan Kenzari, Bodhi Sabongui and Pierce Brosnan
Nearly 5,000 years after he was bestowed with the almighty powers of the Egyptian gods–and imprisoned just as quickly–Black Adam is freed from his earthly tomb, ready to unleash his unique form of justice on the modern world.
Dwayne Johnson and Black Adam, for the longest time, felt like it was forever going to be stuck in development purgatory. Since the time of being approached about potentially portraying the character back in 2006, Dwayne Johnson has starred in at least TWENTY-NINE films (not including those he makes cameo appearances in), has been the lead in two television series (Ballers/Young Rock), and headlined two WrestleMania’s. But FINALLY, the time has come for Dwayne Johnson to portray Black Adam on the big screen. Set in the city of Kahndaq, in the modern day the city is oppressed by a mercenary organisation known as Intergang. When trying to locate the Crown of Sabbac, Adrianna Tomaz, an archaeologist and resistance-fighter, manages to wake up Teth-Adam from his tomb. Teth-Adam, Kahndaq’s champion, unleashes his god-like powers, putting him on the radar of the Justice Society, who make their way to Kahndaq to prevent Adam from causing anymore destruction.
After an exposition-heavy opening, the film wastes no time in having Adam rise from his slumber in the modern day and immediately unleashes the spectacle with his powers and having him go up against the Justice Society. Visually the effects team is arguably the best strength of the film, highlighting the various powers being showcased here, from Black Adam to Cyclone to Doctor Fate and the main villain of the film. The moment Dwayne Johnson’s Adam appears in the modern day, it certainly brings the film to life in how he dispatches the mercenaries in the cave. Johnson certainly looks the part as the anti-hero, particularly with his outlook in stark contrast to the members of the Justice Society, and his counterpart Shazam, and while that conflict takes up a huge amount of the films runtime, it makes for interesting viewing for the most part.
Aldis Hodge is a commanding presence as Cater Hall/Hawkman, going toe-to-toe with this god-like figure, and despite some of the lines he has to deliver, I liked Hodge’s performance. Pierce Brosnan meanwhile gets the flashier role and certainly the most interesting arc during the course of the film as Kent Nelson/Doctor fate, and I found Brosnan’s performance to be the best in the film. While the film certainly has some spectacle, it unfortunately doesn’t have a lot else going for it. It has taken this long for Black Adam to come to the big screen, to the point that it feels like a comic book film from the mid-2000s, to the needle drops and relying on spectacle over character and as a result the film just feels dull. DC/Warner Bros. are notoriously fond of a needle drop here and there, you only have to look back to the first twenty minutes of 2016’s Suicide Squad as evidence of that. While Black Adam ain’t as bad as that, there is some particular needle drops here that are quite jarring.
There feels like there’s some noticeable ADR moments here, one involving the mercenaries in the cave and the other when Amon is skating away from a Intergang mercenary. It’s either the ADR or the way them consequences are shot, but they still feel off to me. I felt that the Justice Society members, Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher and Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone, didn’t really get to do much in the film other than add to the spectacle. We get the bare minimum of their backstories through exposition between the two, but really it’s the thinnest of material for Noah Centineo and Quintessa Swindell to work with. Others who struggle to get anything meaty to work with are the human characters, granted they all do their best with the material given. Sarah Shahi gives a fine performance as Adrianna Tomaz, who is seeking to find and hide the Crown of Sabbac, before it falls into the wrong heads, especially Intergang. Mohammed Amer has the difficult task of being the comedic relief in a mostly serious film, so sometimes his jokes fall flat, but that’s on the writing more than his performance. Marwan Kenzari, out of the human characters, certainly has the most interesting arc throughout the course of the film, but he’s completely sidelined for the majority of the second act which focuses on Adam vs Justice Society, that his entrance in the final act and what happens just feels incredibly rushed. Finally, there’s young actor Bodhi Sabongui as Amon Tomaz, whose character I found to be particularly annoying in how he serves as a device for the story, but again, that’s more down to how he’s written than performance.
Black Adam feels like a mid-2000s film found in a time capsule. It may have played much better then, but coming into the peak of the superhero films era, it simply doesn’t work by todays standards. There’s too much clunky exposition, the films unbalanced as it goes for spectacle over story and characters, with the villain unfortunately wasted and one-dimensional.