Film Review: Black Adam
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
DC Films and Seven Bucks Productions
In Theaters 10.21
While I try to go into every film that I review with an open mind, expectations and circumstances certainly come into play. I entered into Black Adam, the latest film from the DC extended universe, with very low expectations, and I also needed a night off from the weighty subject matter of the recent Oscar hopefuls that I’ve been screening.
Black Adam takes place in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Kahndaq, which is overrun by violence, both from Western intruders and from within. Kahndaq’s legendary, all-powerful protector, Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson), who was bestowed with powers of the ancient gods given to him by a council of wizards led by Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), finds himself suddenly awakened 5,000 years later, and Teth-Adam isn’t exactly a morning person. Finding his home overrun by modern-day war machines and chaos, Teth-Adam lashes out at those who are destroying it, attracting the attention of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and the newly formed Justice Society of America, led by Hawkman (Aldis Hodge, One Night in Miami), and they set out to bring him in to prison in United States. There are bigger dangers out there than Teth-Adam, however, and it’s not long before a tentative alliance must be formed in order to save Kahndaq, and, perhaps, the world.
Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, Jungle Cruise) throws himself into directing Black Adam with a sense of wild abandon, clearly enjoying the big budget after making mid-level Liam Neeson action thrillers. This doesn’t necessarily translate into an abundance of creativity, as Collet-Serra relies heavily on emulating Zack Snyder, evoking Man of Steel whenever the film is set in the present and 300 for flashback sequences. It’s not exactly an inspired choice, but it gets the job done, and while Black Adam often feels like one big run-on action sequence, it knows what it wants to be and does so with glee. While Black Adam is loud, chaotic, violent and at times incoherent, it’s also an awful lot of fun.
Dwayne Johnson has nurtured Black Adam as a pet project for years, and he’s managed to take this spinoff of Shazam!, based around an antagonist-turned-occasional antihero, into a viable property that ranks among the better DCEU entries. Johnson sets aside his hammier tendencies, embracing the tortured, dark edge of the character, giving a driving performance. Adam’s relationship with Amon (Bodhi Sabongui), a local boy who is obsessed with superheroes, is quite strong and adds heart to the film. The supporting cast has plenty to add, with Hodge making a charismatic Hawkman and Pierce Brosnan, who plays a sorcerer and seer called Doctor Fate, giving his most entertaining and relaxed performance in years, bringing back the commanding star quality he had in his best Bond films. The whole Justice Society team is thoroughly likable, even if we don’t get enough of a chance to get to know them as people, and the choice to use these characters as the more traditional heroic force countering the title character’s dark and vengeful nature was a good one.
Black Adam is more guilty pleasure than great movie, and even then I find myself going easy on it because I saw it the night after being emotionally devastated by harsh reality of Till, and I needed to escape into some dumb fun. I may be going against the majority in having enjoyed this one so much and I fully expect to take some heat from fellow critics. While I’ll give you that Black Adam gets pretty dumb at times, for me, it was so much more fun than I had even hoped for that I’m certain I’ll see it again. I may find that Black Adam doesn’t hold up well under repeat viewing, but it sure did hit the spot when I needed it the most. –Patrick Gibbs
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