One thing is for certain. Dwayne Johnson doesn’t keep his promises. The mega movie star is back on the big screen this weekend with a project that is practically fifteen years in the making. BLACK ADAM is a passion project for Johnson. But whereas many filmmakers have passion projects that involve small budgets Johnson is all about the big. Now before we start talking about who or what a Black Adam even it must be addressed that the Johnson promised something huge. In fact his exact words were “the hierarchy of the DC universe will change forever.” Now whatever the fuck that really means is less interesting as it is exhausting. To build an entire film around changing a movie universe is another reminder that superhero films will continue to dominate the industry with no endgame in sight. While there is still plenty of opportunities to turn the genre into something exciting BLACK ADAM is not that. Instead Johnson is at the forefront of a generic and sluggish film with enough tonal shifts to satisfy any major studio head putting a film through the chopping block. Here is a film that focuses on an indestructible character but as a whole it has taken the biggest beating of them all. A corporate studio mess that doesn’t change the “hierarchy” as much as it leaves you wishing it would crumble to the ground. Instead of giving a fully deep dive into a film with very little to it here is a breakdown of BLACK ADAM and what the future of the DCEU may look like.
AN INCOHERENT STORY-If you are familiar with the story and comics of Black Adam count yourself lucky, you’ll be ahead of this confusing game. It is not that Adam’s (going by Tenth Adam) is too complicated to understand it is juts that there is no understanding of the mythology here. Sure we learn that Adam is from an ancient civilization of Kahndaq but the entire lore of this civilization is lost in the mess and replaced with every other middle eastern society. The stereotypes are all there and its riddled with enough slow mo to make any Snyder fan happy. Even when we get to modern day Kahndaq there is very little to hold onto and care about. Sure its never good to see oppressed people, but who exactly is doing the oppressing and why? If the answer is just to enslave people then again stereotypes galore.
UNNECSEARY HUMANS-BLACK ADAM is sort of a fish out of water story that the DC seems so fond of. Because of that Adam must encounter several humans that bring him into the modern world. It’s a shame they are so uninteresting but even worse their portrayed by some very weak actors. Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz is given nothing and Bodhi Sabongui as her son Amon is another annoying child character whose character and performance can never match the depth the movie is aiming for.
EDITING HEADACHES –The film is riddled with scenes that just abruptly end and you’re left asking yourself if you missed something. This is the type of film that has been chopped up by focus groups and studio producers to make it fast paced. The pacing ends up not being fast as much as it does leave you perplexed. Get ready for a scene that cuts randomly to a Kanye West song that is so out of place you think someone’s phone went off instead.
A DULL ROCK-Dwayne Johnson seemed like a fun casting choice for Black Adam and the love and dedication he has had to getting this film made doesn’t go unnoticed. But Johnson is doing nothing but playing duller versions of some of his other characters. There is no joy or excitement from Johnson’s performance, but on the flip side his charisma to make Adam intriguing is also long buried. This is more the type of performance he gave in his earlier career when he was trying to break away from his wrestling career.
JUSTICE SOCIETY TO SAVE THE DAY-Halfway through the film you find yourself wishing this movie was a Justice Society film with a little bit of Black Adam. Their has been a lot of anticipation for the introduction of the JSA and its team members, Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo). First off credit Rich Delia, the casting director, for doing a wonderful job at perfectly placing these actors in their given roles. Brosnan and Hodge work so well together as the new and veteran leaders having philosophical debates while still kicking ass. Centineo and Swindell are terrific as fresh faces that are having just as much fun saving the world as wrapping their head around the fact that they are superheroes themselves. There are some excellent shots including a first take down attempt of Adam that really shows off each one of their skills. They also bring much needed humor and empathy to the story. When Adam is off screen and the film follows the JSA you cant help but fall for all of them and hope to see where they go next.
DCEU FUTURE (SPOILER WARNING!!!!!!!!!)- If you have been following the press for this film you know that Johnson himself has basically leaked the mid credit scene and it has been in the rumblings for awhile now. We will obviously see Black Adam again and after a final warning from Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) Adam comes face to face with the man of steel himself. Cavill may be back but to what extent is unknown. Johnson has been a proponent and getting Cavill to return, but unfortunately behind the scenes drama causes so much to be up in the air at DC. Batgirl was cancelled, Aquaman keeps being delayed and The Flash still has an abuser for its lead. Maybe this Cavill re-entry was meant as a distraction for the sinking ship and most average moviegoers will still turn up knowing none of the behind the scenes chaos, but if Johnson is going to continue to have a bigger hand in the production side we can expect his ego and Black Adam to take over in a bigger way. He still needs to face off against Zachary Levi’s bubbly Billy Batson. So maybe the film didn’t do anything to change the ”hierarchy” but it is clear that Adam is here to stay.
BLACK ADAM IS IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE