The DC Comics antihero film is now playing in theaters everywhere.
Dwayne Johnson has been attached to star in Black Adam for over 15 years. It speaks to the level of his commitment to wanting to portray this comic book character, which is very near and dear to him. And finally, after all these years, his dream of portraying this antihero on screen is finally realized in this two-hour, action-packed film. While it certainly isn’t without its flaws, Black Adam and the star behind the lightning bolt-centered costume is exactly what this comic book universe needs – for better or worse.
Black Adam has your typical, run-of-the-mill comic book character origin story, told through a series of flashbacks, that finds Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) of Kahndaq who has been given powers from the gods. But after using his powers improperly, Teth-Adam becomes imprisoned for 5,000 years. But when he’s freed from his imprisonment in the present day, he seeks justice in his own way, while Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and the Justice Society of America (JSA) look to imprison him again due to the danger he imposes.
This generic story, which has three credited writers and likely others who were uncredited, is a bit wonky and takes some time to find its footing after a rocky start. While it’s good to see a comic book film come in at just two hours once in a blue moon, the story is thin and filled with clichés and a supporting cast of mostly underdeveloped characters outside of Black Adam himself. The only characters audience members will find themselves wishing they had more screen time with are members of the JSA, including Doctor Fate, Hawkman, Atom Smasher, and Cyclone. There is also another problem here that almost all other comic book origin films have, in that it has a villain (which won’t be spoiled here) who is completely lame and uninteresting. Oh, and we can’t forget about a couple of needle drops in the film that are cringe too.
However, with all that said, near the end of Act 1 things pick up considerably for Black Adam and it doesn’t let off the gas until the credits roll. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, known for The Shallows and Jungle Cruise, packs this film with more action sequences in the remaining 90 minutes than most other comic book films include in two and a half hours. Most of the action is up close, intense, and may remind some of its viewers of the film 300, which explains why the film was edited from its original R-rating and delayed several times due to the number of visual effects. All this action, whether it’s from Black Adam or the JSA, works well and helps the film’s runtime fly by. Some of the action is coupled with great humor, like Black Adam being brought into the present day and going through walls like it’s nothing or him just killing people without hesitation.
Of course, Black Adam wouldn’t be entertaining without its charismatic star at the center, Dwayne Johnson. While this won’t be the career-defining performance Johnson might be hoping for, his brood and authoritative approach to this antihero adds juice to the DC comic book world, which has desperately needed a star for quite some time. In addition to Johnson, the entire JSA team stands out as well. The always likable Pierce Brosnan makes for a terrific Doctor Fate, Aldis Hodge is badass as Hawkman, and Quintessa Swindell and Noah Centineo as Cyclone and Atom Smasher have their moments in this film. If Warner Brothers is keen on keeping this iteration of the DC universe on film, they would be wise to bring back members of the JSA in future DC films.
Dwayne Johnson has been touting for over a year that, “the hierarchy of power in the DC universe is about to change” when Black Adam is released. While that may not be the case with this finished product, it delivers on being a fun popcorn comic book film thanks to its main star. A lot has been discussed about where the DC universe would go after Warner Brothers was bought by Discovery. Whether or not the mid-credits scene in Black Adam, which is great, is more than just a tease of something more exciting to come later down the line remains to be seen. Regardless, and if the now named Warner Brothers Discovery is smart, Dwayne Johnson will portray Black Adam again in future DC films. Let’s just hope Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam is in even better films.