While there wasn’t anything necessarily wrong with the DCEU’s newest addition Black Adam, the movie still fell flat. Black Adam is so concerned about making a a spectacle on screen that it doesn’t develop any deep themes that could have easily been explored. Instead, the film felt overstuffed, underdeveloped, and ultimately underwhelming
One of the major complaints about Black Adam is I kept saying to myself “That was cool, but I’ve already seen that before.” Many of the characters and moments within the film felt like direct rip offs from previously made comic book films, most of which were from a different studio entirely.
The opening voiceover history lesson introducing the background of Kahndaq and Black Adam (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) followed the same structure as Black Panther. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only Black Panther reference as Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone felt like a B studio edition of Letitia Wright’s Shuri, the underwater prison felt and looked very Wakanda-esque, and there was even a hand gesture that reminded me of the arm crossing of Wakanda Forever.
Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman never quite felt like he fit. Instead, Hodge’s performance came across as a combination of Bruce Wayne meets Iron Man. There was even a scene where Hodge jumped out of a plane to save two falling me and if you listened close enough you could hear the metallic sounds as his Hawkman suit came to him. As much as this felt like blatant Iron Man rip off, I do have to admit that the Hawkman costume looked great. Minus the helmet.
The similarities to other films don’t stop there. Noah Centineo’s Atom Smasher was a watered down version of Paul Rudd’s Ant-man and Pierce Brosnan’s Doctor Fate screamed of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange. The reveal of the Hawkman’s plane as it came out from the water could have easily been a reshoot of the X-Jet’s reveal in the X-Men franchise. Speaking of X-Men, the slow motion destruction of the criminal Intergang by Black Adam, while visually well done, was completely outclassed by Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in both X-Men: Apocalypse and Days of Future Past.
Again, none of those above connections were ‘bad’ in any way, they just didn’t feel special or really necessary. What definitely didn’t feel necessary was the rehash of the Shazam storyline between Zachary Levi’s titular character and Jack Dylan Grazer’s Freddy Freeman, this time between The Rock’s Black Adam and Bodhi Sabongui’s Amon. Shazam and Adam are obviously connected in the comics for reasons, but the storyline where a young boy tries to mentor a new hero is not a connection that needed to be as blatantly revisited as it was throughout the film.
One thing that actually was bad – no, awful – was Noah Centineo’s Atom Smasher. This character added nothing to the film and was depicted as a kid who knew nothing about being a hero. I’m not sure if the call was actually made to use Paul Rudd as inspiration or not, but all Atom Smasher did was come across as a joke, especially when a similar character exists in the MCU. Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone was better, but not by much. These characters added nothing to overall experience of the film and were probably only casted to bring in the younger kid/tween demographic.
The less we talk about the DCEU’s overuse of CGI and demon villains the better. The main villain did look impressive, but was easily overlooked and predictable. The DC source material is a cornucopia of a rich rogues gallery and it would be nice to see some of these villains getting the spotlight they deserve.
Nitpicking aside, Johnson’s Black Adam was excellent as was Brosnan’s Doctor Fate. Both actors played their parts tremendously well and you could tell they were having fun in their roles. Doctor Fate is one of my personal favorite DC characters and it was nice to see him being played on the silver screen. Being played well was just the icing on the cake.
The over-the-top killing of ‘bad guys’ by Adam was terrific and could have easily moved into R-rated territory. I would argue that these deaths were just as close to R-rated as we could get. This was also a fun running gag throughout the film. The Rock played this perfectly and his stoic one-liners were quite funny. However, the notion of heroes innately being good could have been played up more here. It serves as a plot point that is just there.
I will admit that I am not the most knowledgeable about Black Adam’s origin, however, I do feel that the film did a nice job about introducing the character and his motivations behind his behaviors. Black Adam isn’t a hero, he isn’t there to save the world. Instead, he is there to take care of his people and he is going to go through anybody who stands in his way. His conflict with the JSA is just the beginning and if you stayed for the after credit scene you know what I am talking about here. I personally would love to see the grit turned up a couple notches and the line between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ blurred a little more, but again, this wasn’t bad.
Overall, Black Adam was good. The special effects were good, the Rock was incredible, and the film did a good job introducing the character. But, it did suffer in my opinion for the ‘been there, done that’ approach. It is almost a given that we will see Black Adam again and hopefully this will give us more in terms to sink our teeth into as viewers.
You can watch Black Adam in theaters now.
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