Dwayne Johnson is one of the most charismatic figures in mainstream entertainment and seems like a nice guy by all accounts. He’s been working on getting one Black Adam project featuring the millennia old DC anti-hero and his wizard bestowed powers that has been around since 2007 and everyone has to applaud for this level of tenacity. It is therefore unfortunate to report that the film is not particularly good.
It has moments of value here and there, and out of respect for Mr. Johnson and his halo of goodwill, I am anxious to elaborate on those points. But there’s no point in denying the 270-pound wrestler in the room: Even within the realm of the superhero genre, this is a fleeting film that lacks depth, originality, or narrative panache. Much like a McDonald’s hamburger is technically food, Black Adam is technically a movie, and both can be fun at times before you wonder, “Why am I consuming this?”
Our story begins 5,000 years ago in the ancient kingdom of Kahndaq, a vaguely Egyptian (or perhaps Sumerian?) site described as the first civilization. Its tyrannical king has enslaved his own people to mine a substance called Eternium, which we know is important because it glows blue. One day, a slave boy who possesses some of this mysterious substance is rescued from the king’s executioners by a cabal of sorcerers, who grant him magical powers and a password to access it: Shazam!
Yes, this is similar to the lore of Captain Marvel and the latest movie Shazam, but the enchanted acronym comes from various mythological sources. (You can compare and contrast something here.)
Anyway, this new hero defeats the king, but after that he ends up in some sort of pocket-sized tomb for his troubles. Cut to today and a band of renegade archaeologists/Kahndaqian nationalists led by Adrianna (Sarah Shah), her colleague Ishmael (Marwan Kenzari) and her happy JackBlack-ish brother Karim (Mohammed Amer) believe they have discovered a crown of Eternium that could unite the people of Khandaq in a time of political oppression.
Kahndaq, you see, is a non-Iraq/non-Afghanistan proxy under longstanding occupation by non-America but a gang of vicious pigs called the Intergang who plunder the nation’s resources and keep people waiting at long checkpoints. They also zoom around on sci-fi skiffs that glow blue (just like Eternium!) and really want that crown.
Soon, Adrianna summons the captive hero Teth-Adam, who is the gargantuan Johnson dressed in a superhero suit and scowling. Bullets, rockets and grenades cannot stop him, and a mere touch of his hand can turn someone into a skeleton. He goes on a PG-13-style wild rampage, flinging bodies thousands of feet into the air and ripping off limbs, but without blood, terror, or agony. It’s definitely entertaining for a while, and Johnson’s natural magnetism shows on a wider scale Front.
With all this sudden violence erupting in Khandaq, Viola DavisChief of Security Amanda Waller (she has appeared in a number of DC films) is determined to restore order. She does not represent Intergang’s interests per se, but sees the need to “keep the peace” and sends in new superheroes, the Justice Society.
Black Adam is a character steeped in DC Comics lore, but you don’t feel like you need to have any background Black Adam. Thankfully, there are very few connections to the rest of DC’s “movie universe.” What’s refreshing is indeed how the new characters, the expanding but never-before-seen group of the Justice Society, just show up. We skip all the typical Origin Story detours, and the effect is like tuning into a Saturday morning cartoon for the first time, even though it’s been on the air for a while.
This is, perhaps counterintuitively, Black Adam‘s greatest feature. Unlike the maudlin, bombastic comic book movies Zack SnyderWhose Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a master class in making something supposedly as boring as possible for kids, Black Adam just zoom along and trust the audience to catch up. It recognizes that this is a film for young people and if adults want to see it too, that’s fine, but don’t expect anything too deep.
https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2022/10/black-adam-review-mcdonalds-hamburger ‘Black Adam’ Is a McDonald’s Hamburger