6 Thoughts on Black Adam (Review)
The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe has never been more in flux. At long last, the Black Adam movie is upon us. We’ve been waiting for this film ever since Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was first cast in the role in 2007. We’ve been waiting for this film since the DCEU sorta fell apart after Justice League. Is Black Adam the savior that this cinematic universe has been waiting for?
Probably not, but it was an alright flick.
Movie Rating: 7/10 – Good
I’ll admit that I probably went into Black Adam a little biased. Not against the character or DC, because I’m a comic book fan who loves all this stuff. But The Rock’s constant hyping of this movie, coupled with DCEU fanboys desperate for a hit, really started rubbing me the wrong way. This isn’t the second coming of superhero movies, and I doubt it’s going to really change the shape of DC movies going forward. I think it was just an enjoyable superhero film.
Join me after the jump for my thoughts and full review of Black Adam. Expect FULL SPOILERS for the film. And feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments down below.
6. I liked it
Black Adam is an enjoyable, action-packed superhero adventure with some really great digital effects, a lot of fun characters and some really big action scenes. The humor didn’t work for me, and the writing can be very heavy-handed at times, but the overall experience was entertaining. I thought it would be more bland, based on the trailers, but I think the addition of the Justice Society really elevates the whole product. If it had just been a movie where Black Adam fights Intergang for a while, then dukes it out with Sabbac, it would be really bad and boring. But the additional layer of the Justice Society not only gives us some cooler action scenes and some better characters, but also some great foils for Black Adam. It gives him actual people to contrast against instead of just the idea of heroism.
I liked Black Adam as a force of nature in the movie, and in how he used his powers. The way he hovered everywhere was neatly done, and they found some cool uses for it, like him slowly descending the staircase while the boy rushes after him. And I liked Black Adam’s journey, from jerk to a more heroic role. I don’t think that was done as well as the movie hoped, but more on that in a second. As a specifically Middle Eastern superhero fighting for his own people, the movie definitely worked.
But it was also far from perfect. Like I said, I didn’t care for the humor. It was a little too desperate and silly. There was way too much exposition, especially in that opening prologue. I really dislike when movies stuff a bunch of weird exposition in an opening crawl, and this was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. The twist over whether Black Adam was the father or the son was spoiled in the trailers, so I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal in the movie itself. A lot of the film was very contrived, just to make things happen. Like, there was no reason why the Justice Society couldn’t have explained themselves to Black Adam before attacking. He wasn’t a wild dog or anything. Black Adam surrendered himself far too easily there towards the end; it didn’t make sense based on what had happened. And the less said about Sabbac as a Third Act villain the better.
5. Wanted to have its cake and eat it too
Black Adam was never the anti-hero the movie wanted him to be. The man was always heroic, from ancient times to the present day. The only ‘anti-hero’ thing he does is kill bad guys without a hint of remorse. While that’s not great, plenty of superheroes kill people in these movies. And Black Adam really only kills the very evil Intergang members who are actively either shooting at him or harming innocent people. In the flashback, he goes to get revenge against the evil king. From the moment he awakens in the present day, he’s all about helping and saving the boy and his mom, always choosing to help them every time he’s presented with a choice.
Then once the Justice Society arrive, they attack right away, so he’s defending himself. And then he constantly speechifies to them about how it is his country and all he’s doing is liberating it from bad guys. Hawkman can whine about due process all he wants, nobody in the theater or in Khandaq is worried about Black Adam killing bad guys. But the script makes it sound like it’s this huge conflict.
Heck, at the end of the film, when he’s given the throne, Black Adam immediately destroys it. He doesn’t take over as the new leader, he just decides to be its champion after all. In the comics, he’s the ruler of Khandaq. So the movie went against what happens in the comics in order to make Black Adam more heroic. He’s no anti-hero. He’s a straight up hero.
4. Justice Society was awesome
I think it was a great idea to pit Black Adam against the Justice Society instead of relying on Intergang and Sabbac. It was a gamble to throw so many brand new superheroes at the audience at once, but as someone who knows and likes all those superheroes, it worked splendidly for me. They gave the film a whole new level of personality and cool super-powers, not to mention color. And the relationship between Black Adam and those team members is what really carries the movie.
Granted, I think it was pretty dumb that they didn’t simply talk to Black Adam when they first arrived, but that’s because the movie had to happen.
3. Black Adam vs. Superman is dumb
Henry Cavill as Superman means nothing to me. People on the internet are cheering like their dog came back to life that Cavill is going to play Superman again, and that he gets the post-credits scene in Black Adam. Likewise, the Rock is all about boasting about a future Superman vs. Black Adam encounter. But all of this sounds dumb to me. Cavill played a pretty dour, uninteresting Superman in 2.5 movies and nothing about his performance has me chomping at the bit to see him return. Man of Steel sucked and I don’t want to see a sequel. Recast the role, like Robert Pattinson in The Batman, and do a proper Superman movie on the big screen.
Because there is zero stakes in a fight between Black Adam and Superman. They two characters have nothing to do with one another and no reason to fight. Their fight also wouldn’t really bring anything all that interesting to the big screen. It’d just be two strong dudes smacking into each other. We already saw that with Superman vs. Zod in Man of Steel. Black Adam being able to zap Superman with lightning a couple of times does not excitement make.
I figure the Rock just wants to fight the title card match at Wrestlemania. Superman gets the title match at Wrestlemania. Shazam doesn’t get squat at Wrestlemania.
2. Where was Shazam?
It is hilarious to me the lengths the Black Adam movie goes to ignore the Shazam movies. Black Adam and Shazam are mortal enemies in the comics. They’re mirrored enemies, with Black Adam being the dark, evil version of the superhero, with the same powers. But because The Rock is playing Black Adam, he refused to be second banana to another superhero. I understand that…but jeez louise, the extent to which this movie completely ignores the other, successful movie franchise is mind-boggling!
Shazam has one successful movie already, that people watched and theoretically remember. And Shazam has a sequel coming out next year. Fury of the Gods. There are trailers that exist and can be watched. It’s the very next DC movie. And in the movie Black Adam, he very clearly gets his powers from the same wizard, and has to shout the magic word “Shazam” to either gain or lose his powers. It’s a big plot point in the movie.
So why, oh why, is there no reference whatsoever to Shazam or those movies? Where is the thinking behind this? Why is the post-credits scene not something that sets up Fury of the Gods? I think The Rock vs. Zachary Levi’s Shazam would be really entertaining! They’re so different in personality. It would be a hoot! But nope! Apparently we’re just supposed to pretend there is no connection.
1. The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe has not changed
Also hilarious to me, as to much of the internet, was The Rock’s declaration that the “hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change”. God, who came up with that line for him to spout? Was it The Rock himself? Such a ridiculous phrase. There is no DC Universe anymore, let alone a “hierarchy” of measured power. Batman has moved on. Superman was dropped (though I guess now he’s back). Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Flash movies are far in the future for some reason, if happening at all.
Suffice to say, Black Adam has changed nothing. It had an OK opening weekend, and we’ll see how it does going forward. Maybe it’ll get a sequel. Maybe he’ll show up in Shazam: Fury of the Gods. Maybe nothing will ever happen in this franchise again. We’ll have to wait and see. But I don’t think Black Adam has moved the needle at all, either in DC movies or with superhero movies at large.