Movie Review, Black Adam


Story by Alex Paulino, Arts & Culture Editor

After the release of The Suicide Squad and The Batman, it was fair to say DC was able to rebuild its reputation regarding superhero films. There was an attempt to create an “extended universe” à la Marvel’s efforts with the DCEU, but an unorganized series of films (such as 2016’s Batman V. Superman) essentially threw those plans in the trash. 

After the failure of the “DCEU”, DC was fine with producing standalone films that were simply self-contained stories. Some of these movies generated massive responses, such as 2019’s Joker which became so popular that it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Personal opinion of the film aside, that is a staggering feat. 

Black Adam serves as DC’s re-attempt to bring back a sort of ‘extended universe’. Producers Hiram Garcia and Beau Flynn have already confirmed that plans for a second Black Adam are underway, and Henry Cavill (portrayer of Superman) has stated that the film is “just a very small taste of things to come.”

To put it bluntly, I am not excited about any of this. I would much rather prefer DC focus exclusively on director-driven passion projects because Black Adam unfortunately serves as a reminder of DC’s lousier years. 


The Rock, as he appears as Teth-Adam.

For those uninitiated, Black Adam is one of DC’s most popular anti-heroes. He serves as an antagonist for Shazam (who received a film treatment himself in 2019), but despite the antagonistic role the character is supposed to be neutral. The film attempts to stay true to this mythos, as a massive theme is the idea of neutrality and how to distinguish good and evil. 

In terms of the film’s plot, it doesn’t stray too far away from the concepts in the original source material. Essentially, the fictional location of Kahndaq is oppressed and regulated by a terrorist group known as the “Intergang”. When resistance-fighter Arianna Tomaz tampers with an ancient crown called the “Crown of Sabbac”, she accidentally releases Kahndaq’s former methodical champion “Teth-Adam” otherwise known as Black Adam. He soon fights back against the Intergang using a twisted sense of morality, which is juxtaposed with the heroic Justice Society which aims to capture and detain Teth-Adam. 

Throughout the film, there are multiple nods to Black Adam’s role as a hero, despite his tendency to murder those he sees as evil. On paper, this is extraordinarily interesting. However, viewers will be disappointed to see just how little the film experiments with this idea.

Neutrality as a theme is a difficult subject because you need to accurately place its characters in the middle of the moral spectrum without leaning in either direction. It is not enough to simply have a protagonist do good or bad things, there needs to be a conflict within the audience as well. There should be a discussion over whether a character is truly doing the right thing while remaining neutral, and in order to do this a storyteller should place the protagonist in several scenarios where this neutrality can be showcased. 

  Black Adam does not understand this. Instead, it chooses to go the idiotic route. The protagonist, Black Adam, will simply do good and bad things and that ends the discussion.

The fundamental issue with Black Adam and neutrality is that there’s no balance in conveying whether its titular character is “good” or “evil”. To put it another way, Black Adam is a good guy who desperately wants to convince every character that he is bad. 

When he is introduced in the beginning, and he is shown mercilessly slaughtering members of the Intergang, there is no inherent argument or conflict over whether this is the “right” or “wrong” thing to do. The Intergang is a terrorist group, so there is no reason to feel any remorse for them. This is essentially the main group Adam will be fighting throughout the film, and the audience cannot feel any remorse for them because they are terrorists.  

Black Adam does try to experiment a little with its themes through the Justice Society. We’re introduced to four heroes in the form of Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Cyclone, and the Atom Smasher. To be the bearer of bad news, two out of four of these characters are utterly useless and serve no purpose in the plot. Though this is excusable since the Justice Society serves to flesh out the film’s outer world. 


(From left to right) Black Adam and Hawkman, as they appear in the film.

Regardless, the Justice Society is meant to represent the all-righteous “good” that is meant to contrast with Adam’s gray view of the world. They try to arrest and contain Adam despite the people of Kahndaq enjoying liberation, due to his destructive morality. 

There is an interesting commentary to be had here, however, the film quickly detours into focusing on other nefarious characters within Intergang instead of establishing a deeper connection between Black Adam and the members of the Justice Society. 

This works against the film in several instances. Sometimes, Black Adam takes so many detours that it becomes disorientating. There was a moment in the film where in the span of about five minutes, so many things happened at once that the film could not focus on its status quo. Viewers of the film know exactly what I am talking about because it comes off as so distracting that it makes the narrative of the film come off as sluggishly written. 

That is an aspect of Black Adam that viewers will have to get used to. By the time anything interesting happens, there will simply be a detour and more explosions to distract from any meandering elements. This is not inherently a bad thing, I quite enjoyed it when I did not have to worry about the narrative and could just focus on articulate fight sequences. However, the film tries desperately to convince its audience it is more than just repetitious superhero fluff.


Pierce Brosnan portrays Doctor Fate, in a highlight performance.

To make a detour of my own, the performances in Black Adam are suitable at best. I am never expecting good performances from movies like this, so I received exactly what I was expecting. Dwayne Johnson portrays the main character, and he has been passionate about the role since 2009. All things considered, I respect the patience with Johnson. He may not deliver a magnum opus performance but you can tell there is an attempt to do something different.

In terms of other performances, Aldis Hodge does a fine job as Hawkman, I enjoyed some of his banter with the titular character. Quintessa Swindell and Noah Centineo play Cyclone and Atom Smasher respectively, but there is nothing to truly take away from either of their characters or performances. 

The easiest highlight of the entire movie, for me, was Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate. I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of Doctor Fate, but I do find the character and his abilities intriguing. Additionally, I adore Brosnan as an actor. 

Seeing these two merge together was very fun. Fate serves as the wiser backbone of the Society team, and his bickering with Hawkman was actually very pleasant. Anytime Brosnan appeared on screen I was delighted, and to be honest I hope Brosnan can reprise the role in some way in the future. 

Black Adam forces its audience to appreciate the little things within its 125-minute runtime. There is a lot of incoherent, rushed, and stupid aspects, but there are tiny moments in which the film becomes fun. Elements like Brosnan’s performance, and a few fun fight sequences do allow the film to not completely fumble into the realm of horridness, but the overall scope of the project and the lack of foundation/originality assure that Black Adam is a stern member of the realm of mediocrity. 



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