BLACK ADAM Review; "Come For The Rock's Pitch-Perfect Take On Black Adam...Just Try To Forget Everything Else"

Black Adam is now playing in theaters, and while we can't fault Dwayne Johnson's take on DC Comics' greatest anti-hero, you won't find much else to love about this supposed fresh start for the DCEU...

Reviews Opinion

For the past couple of years, we’ve been hearing that the hierarchy of power in the DC Extended Universe would change with the arrival of Black Adam. While there’s no denying that Dwayne Johnson’s titular anti-hero is a ferocious, damn-near unstoppable badass, the character deserved a better movie than the one he finds himself in here. Desperate to be a Marvel blockbuster, the latest DC Comics adaptation succeeds in that respect…but ends up epitomising almost everything that’s bad about them.

Jumbled, hard-to-follow action scenes, bad jokes, and irritating supporting characters dominate Black Adam, while a laughable lead villain gives the likes of even Malekith and the Flag-Smashers a run for their money. The story itself is similarly weak; Khandaq is being taken over by a generic (Inter)gang of goons with sci-fi gear, Teth-Adam is awakened, and the Justice Society are dispatched by Amanda Waller (which makes zero sense unless this movie takes place prior to Peacemaker) to put him back in his prison. While all this is happening, Intergang leader Ishmael Gregor is trying to acquire a crown that will transform him into the demonic Sabbac, so he can rule Khandaq…which his mercenaries pretty much already are, anyway. Original ideas are few and far between, and the fact a mom and her annoying kid get shoehorned into the story to try and ground Black Adam does little to help matters. They serve a purpose, but quickly outstay their welcome, robbing us of what could have been a far more fascinating dynamic explored between Adam and the Justice Society.

Ah, the Justice Society. This four-person team has a jet that takes off through a mansion’s gardens, X-Men style, a leader in the dead serious Hawkman and Doctor Strange’s helmeted doppelganger, Dr. Fate (the characters have always been similar, but it’s surprising just how close the visual of their powers are when DC could and should have done something totally different). Throw in a couple of spare parts in Atom Smasher and Cyclone, and this underwhelming take on the superhero team is unlikely to satisfy comic book fans. Very much retconned into the DCEU, they have potential, but this B-List Justice League only serves to add a few cool action scenes to proceedings. 

Still, Aldis Hodge is solid as Hawkman and a great counterpoint for Johnson’s murderous anti-hero. Pierce Brosnan is somewhat underutilised as Dr. Fate, but manages to be relatively entertaining, and we’d have actually liked to see a lot more of Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone. Her powers are gorgeous to look at, but that’s about as much as the character gets to bring to the table. And apologies to Noah Centineo, but nothing really works about his inexperienced superhero in this outing, making it doubtful anyone will be clamouring for more Atom Smasher. He looks like Deadpool, sounds like Spider-Man, and has the charisma of neither.

Where Black Adam does work is with its lead. Johnson’s jokes land with great effect, and he’s unquestionably the right actor to bring this character to life. With flashbacks used smartly to unravel his origin story, we have a fleshed-out new addition to the DCEU by the time the credits roll who could indeed be a game-changer for this shared world. Whether it’s clashing with the Shazam family, squaring up to Superman, or potentially teaming up with a JSA we hope would boast a more exciting roster, there are a lot of places the character can now go. Johnson is clearly having fun playing Adam, but brings some gravitas to the role and quite obviously cares about portraying him in a way that ensures he'll be viewed among the upper echelons of DC’s superheroes. It’s honestly hard to find fault with the former pro wrestler's work, and he redeems a movie that otherwise struggles in nearly every other respect. 

Whether it’s poor visual effects that make it easy to see the transition between live-action and CG characters, ADR that’s so bad it’s distracting, or a villain sure to grace lists of the all-time worst comic book movie baddies, Black Adam gets a lot wrong. Director Jaume Collet-Serra delivers some epic and exciting visuals that fans will appreciate, but an overabundance of slow-motion and fight scenes that begin to all feel the same sadly aren’t enough to elevate a weak screenplay by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani. Throw in some baffling soundtrack choices and downright terrible performances from key supporting actors, and this is not the fresh start the DCEU needed.

In the weeks to come, we’re sure that the narrative will be that Black Adam was made "for the fans." In fairness, DC fans are likely to find a lot to love, including a post-credits scene that should make you want to leap from your seat and cheer. However, if the movie is indicative of what’s to come from Warner Bros. Discovery in this "new era," consider us concerned. If you can switch your brain off for two hours and enjoy an abundance of action and some bad jokes, all while The Rock brutally murders people (that part is fun), then you’ll likely be pleased as punch. For anyone wanting more from the comic book movies, Black Adam sadly becomes the latest disappointing superhero adaptation in a year that’s given us the likes of Morbius and Thor: Love and Thunder

Come for The Rock’s pitch-perfect take on Black Adam and stay for an unmissable post-credits scene. Then, just try to forget everything else, because this brainless, brawny superhero movie is not the fresh start the DCEU desperately needs. 


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