FoCC Review: Black Adam – DC needs a Gunn
By Jason Delgado
Black Adam is unfortunately part of the same, tired formula that has failed so many DC films before it. It feels like they want to be Marvel so badly, but they just don’t know how to do it correctly. The heart and soul of the characters and story is MIA (while Black Adam did do a better job in this department, it still fell short of Marvel standards to me). These soulless (mostly Synderverse) DC characters instead have a twisted moral compass that allows for its heroes to murder in cold blood, while simultaneously marketing action figures of said murderers to children. Granted, Black Adam has always been a more villainous character in the comics than Batman and Superman, but it is surreal watching kid’s toy commercials for his action figure after I just watched him kill a bunch of people in the movie.
DC’s recent successful films, such as The Batman and James Gunn’s Suicide Squad, have strayed from the aforementioned path to do their own thing creatively, and more of that fresh approach will be needed to turn DC’s ship around. That is precisely why comic book nerd/film auteur James Gunn is the perfect choice to lead DC, along with Peter Safran. Gunn’s DC film and spinoff show Peacemaker were both more adult-oriented, and that seems like a good way to differentiate themselves from Marvel.
Black Adam, like so many other DC films, tries to have its cake and eat it too by attempting to cater to both adults who like darker content, and kids, and it just doesn’t work. The filmmakers should have either done an R-rated, fully dark take, or instead could have made a more family friendly and uplifting film without the murdering. Sadly, they went back to the old Zack Synder way of combining the two.
The story follows Teth Adam aka Black Adam (Dwayne the Rock Johnson) in the ancient city of Kahndaq, who was bestowed his Superman-like powers from the gods. He is the city’s protector, vanquishing those whom he sees as threats.
The Justice Society of America makes its debut in this movie, which is both fun and frustrating at times. Black Adam and the Society have their inevitable battles, and it all feels quite contrived and Marvel Civil War-like, yet without the multi-year buildup that made the MCU storyline so epic. Two of the characters also unfortunately feel like Marvel retreads, with Dr. Fate (played well by Pierce Brosnan) as the ‘Dr. Strange’ of the bunch, and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) as the ‘Giant-man/Ant-man’ knock-off. Aldis Hodge as Hawkman is a nice addition to the DCEU, but deserves a better film to star in.
The main villain of Black Adam is Sabbac (Marwan Kenzari), yet his character isn’t compelling enough to write home about, like much of the writing in this script. The opening scene of a young slave boy leading a revolt in 2600 BC offers a good start, but the movie doesn’t sustain this momentum. There is an interesting theme of oppression that is not fleshed out enough to be complete.
Black Adam is not a terrible movie, it just isn’t a good one either. I give Black Adam two and a half hot sauce packets out of five. It’s not enough spice to get a burn going.