What Was The Rock Cooking in “Black Adam”
Issue 5, Volume 113
By Munem Tajwar
Amid the drama in Warner Bros., ranging from mass firings to cancellations of movies already in post-production, the DC Extended Universe has attempted to restore its direction and reinstate its place in the current superhero-stuffed film industry with “Black Adam.”
“Black Adam” takes place in the fictional country of Kahndaq, a once self-governed civilization tarnished by greedy kings and imperialism. Black Adam (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is a slave-turned-champion after being bestowed powers of Egyptian gods to combat a king who is obsessed with the Crown of Sabbac—a crown that gives the wearer unfathomable power. After seemingly defeating this king, Black Adam is put to rest for 5,000 years, until he is woken up by Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) in an attempt to locate the crown to save Kahndaq, which is being threatened by the imperialist group Intergang. The movie follows Black Adam as he attempts to adapt to the modern world while facing Intergang, his past conflicts, and the Justice Society, the first-ever team of superheroes in comic book history.
The film continues to expand the DC Cinematic Universe with cameos from U.S. government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) who also appeared in “The Suicide Squad” (2021). Waller introduces Black Adam to the Justice Society, which includes Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo). These are comic-book characters who many have anticipated seeing adapted on-screen. The four, albeit an odd group, bring charm and humor to the film. Notably, Centineo’s young, clumsy superhero and Swindell’s joyful, intelligent wind-bender have an entertaining dynamic. Similarly, Brosnan is a delight when playing the wise, revered Dr. Fate, and Hodge has great chemistry with all of the cast by playing the stuck-up yet courageous leader of the group. Unlike the four, Black Adam remains dispassionate throughout the film to portray his total disconnect from reality. Still, the movie does a good job of balancing Black Adam’s broodiness with humorous gags, such as his misunderstanding of the concept of a door.
Adrianna and her son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui) also play important roles in the film, acting as moral compasses for Black Adam in his adjustment to the modern world. Shahi’s performance as Adrianna adds heart to the film, as she stops at nothing to ensure the safety of her son and the protection and freedom of the people in her country. Shahi encapsulates the soul of Kahndaq and embodies the emotions that the rest of the people in the country feel.
Though The Rock has been criticized for playing similar roles in his films, people overlook the fact that many of the movies in his catalog have stellar action sequences. “Black Adam” proves no different. However, as the movie progresses, the enjoyment from these scenes declines. After an amazing battle between Hawkman and Black Adam, the movie’s CGI noticeably declines in quality, as choppy editing overwhelms viewers in certain fight scenes. More time should have been given to special effects artists and fight directors, as the film starts to look like a high-budget CW show at best. The final battle of the movie is also incredibly anti-climactic. Starting with obnoxious and unnecessary zoom-ins of Brosnan’s face and ending with a generic and unoriginal CGI boss battle, the overall action in the movie lacks an “It” factor to set it apart from similar films.
Along with formulaic action sequences, the movie has been compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with many dubbing its characters as imitations of popular live-action Marvel characters. Dr. Fate has been criticized by many for being a copy of Dr. Strange, despite debuting 23 years before the latter. Similarly, Atom-Smasher and Ant-Man are often compared, as they are both easy-going, humorous, and able to grow to humongous sizes. Though the writers and producers are not entirely at fault for this issue, the movie could’ve made a much larger effort to uniquely include and establish the identities of the characters.
Though the movie takes place during the modern era, the main conflicts of the plot are rooted in the past. The antagonizing threat in this movie is the Crown of Sabbac, as many tyrants are actively trying to acquire the crown and its power, a plot that was underwhelming at best. A larger focus on Kahndaq’s fight for freedom from not only the Imperialists, but also the Justice Society, would have made this movie infinitely better. Imperialism in the Middle East is a very relevant topic with long-lasting effects persisting to this day. Though Amanda Waller, a high-powered U.S. government official, initially disregards all the conflict and torment Kahndaq suffers from imperialism, the moment Kahndaq is seen as a threat to the United States because of Black Adam, she sends the Justice Society to take it out. These events allude to the United States and other Western forces sending “global peacekeepers” into Middle East conflicts, causing further destruction, which is paralleled in multiple action sequences. This plotline provides commentary on modern society and is far more captivating than the primary story. The film hints multiple times at these anti-imperialist themes but fails to fully commit to them, resulting in a lackluster script.
“Black Adam” contains the action, comedic gags, and overproduced CGI battles of a conventional superhero movie. But with its many faults, from the script to filmmaking, the movie fails to prove why everyday movie-goers should entertain future Warner Bros. releases from the DC Extended Universe.