Review: Black Adam

By Santiago Brion | November 7, 2022


Photo Credit: CineMaterial


“Black Adam” is the eleventh movie of the DC Extended Universe. It is the spin-off of “Shazam!,” a movie released in 2019, and follows superhero Shazam’s archnemesis, Black Adam, played by Dwayne Johnson. While in the comics he is a supervillain, this movie presents him as an anti-hero.

The film begins with a clunky set up of Black Adam’s origin story. The first scene is a full-blown exposition narration of how Black Adam, then called Teth-Adam, takes down the ancient Kahndaq kingdom. It consists of constant flashbacks describing Black Adam’s rise: him being granted the powers of Shazam, using them for vengeance, and being imprisoned by the Wizards for 5,000 years as punishment. A more effective approach for the first act could have resembled the classic DreamWorks animated movie, “The Prince of Egypt.” We could’ve seen Teth-Adam slowly go from humble beginnings to becoming a powerful being granted with powers. In short, I would’ve preferred a historical superhero epic.


In the present day where the movie is set, Black Adam is free and uses his powers out of rage. He is challenged by a modern-day super team, the Justice Society: Hawkman, Cyclone, Doctor Fate, and Atom Smasher. The only compelling character out of the entire cast is Doctor Fate.


Noah Centineo plays Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher, a buff and amorous teenager who snacks and flirts with his superhero teammate, Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone, played by Quintessa Swindell. His character’s attempts at comedic relief fall flat, like where Atom Smasher arrived too late for Black Adam’s battle with the Justice Society.


Another uncompelling character is teenage boy Amon, whose character was intended to add depth, but fell short. He rode on his skateboard spouting nonsense about how Adam could be a hero and saying one-liners that did not land.


The highlight of “Black Adam” is Pierce Brosnan’s role as Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate, a man who wears a gold helmet and can rewrite reality. His role makes me want more from this character like an origin movie or a TV show.


The chemistry between Doctor Fate and Aldis Hodge’s character, Carter Hall/Hawkman was also a highlight. When they have scenes together, you get a sense that both characters have history. Hawkman also shows a leadership quality in this role and seeks guidance from Doctor Fate.


The movie heavily relies on slow-motion cinematography in its action sequences. One scene is set to The Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black,” involving Black Adam taking out Kahndaq government soldiers. It feels like an attempt to replicate the Quicksilver sequence from “X-Men: Apocalypse,” in which Teth-Adam moved faster than the soldiers to take them out. While it seemed like a really cool scene to film, it failed due to the overreliance on slow-motion and the music.


Another action sequence is set to the song “Power” by Kanye West, making it tone-deaf given the recent controversy involving his anti-Semitic rant.


Another stylistic choice was the CGI which did not help. The villain, Ishmael Gregor/Sabbac, a powerful demon, had a poorly designed CGI look and moved awkwardly.


This is a minor spoiler but Henry Cavill’s Superman appears in the post-credits scene saying “let’s talk” to Black Adam, teasing a potential showdown event between him and Superman. While it is exciting that Henry is back as the iconic DC superhero, the scene itself made no sense. It was a way for people to get into seats and Henry’s appearance was even spoiled to the public by Dwayne Johnson himself.


Another thing that makes Black Adam aggressively mediocre is the action sequences between Black Adam and the Justice Society. I was expecting something out of the acclaimed superhero animated show, “Invincible,” where Black Adam kills the Justice Society.


“Black Adam” is a movie 15 years in the making, supposedly The Rock’s passion project. This did not come across — he looked as though he did want to be there and gave a one-dimensional performance. Black Adam is the same buff, charismatic box office draw that The Rock has been playing in characters for almost a decade.


Overall, I’d give Black Adam a 5.7/10. The film is flawed with clunky CGI that could’ve looked better, and immature dialogue that feels like it was written by a teenager. If you want to see an action movie with Dwayne Johnson with no plot, you might enjoy it. If you’re looking to see a superhero movie with a layered plot and complex, fully-developed characters, you might want to look elsewhere, or I don’t know, watch “The Batman” or Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” again.


You can see Black Adam in theaters at Regal Crossgates and Regal Colonie Center.

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