Thursday, October 20, 2022

Black Adam

Perhaps not surprisingly, Black Adam is a mess. Now, not unlike the first Suicide Squad film, that doesn't mean at times it isn't a fun mess, but it is a mess nevertheless. And the film has more than a few things in common with the first Suicide Squad film including messy magical characters and a problematic final act.

Despite having already introduced the idea of magic champions in SHAZAM!, the new film goes for the more complicated origin for the longtime comic villain turned antihero. Returned to Earth after 5,000 years by a professor turned freedom fighter (Sarah Shahi), Teth-Adam (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) finds his country Kahndaq enslaved by the criminal organization Intergang who are searching for a powerful relic (until they literally disappear from the movie in favor of the crazy magic subplot).

Far from a hero, the legendary warrior of Kahndaq does kill off several of Intergang's mercenaries (albeit for getting in his way more than anything else) while the professor and her son (Bodhi Sabongui) attempt to convince Adam to be a hero and the Justice Society of America arrives having already decided he's a dangerous villain that needs to be dealt with despite having done nothing more than defending himself against trigger-happy soldiers.

There are several threads at work in the script from Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani including the origins of Adam, the crown, Intergang's control of the country, Adam's relationship to young boys, and the JSA battling Adam (despite his utter lack of interest in anything outside of his unrecognizable homeland). With so many balls juggling at once, several get dropped at numerous points throughout the film with some never getting truly resolved.

The script could have played up the idea of the Western heroes invading the country to prevent Adam from killing a few mercenaries to thunderous applause from the populace who have no interest in the JSA's "help." There's certainly a juicy Imperialist slant that could have been explored in far more detail but there's little room for nuance in director Jaume Collet-Serra's film (although there is plenty of action).

For our heroes we get Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) which we get minimal introductions to before throwing them into the fires of Kahndaq. While all the actors are fine, every one of the heroes could have been fleshed out a bit more. Hawkman is basically Batman providing the wealth and transportation for the team with some cool gadgets. Dr. Fate's powers are never really explored and he's used mostly as a plot device for his portent of doom. And Atom Smasher and Cyclone provide some youthful exuberance balancing out the two older and more weary heroes.

Shahi is a nice addition to the cast both in providing some necessary heart to the story and a local voice against all invaders to her country. Heart is one thing SHAZAM! had in abundance with Zachary Levi wearing it on his sleeve. Johnson is having fun here as the mostly gruff Adam who provides a very different kind of energy at the center of this film as a character far removed from the wide-eyed Billy Batson.

While the film is hit-and-miss, particularly in the final act which feels largely tacked on after a more intriguing cliff-hanger ending provided 30 minutes earlier, there's probably enough here for fans of the character. There are also pieces taken from the Snyder/Goyer DC Universe and reapplied here in slightly different ways including bringing back Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and a mid-credit sequence featuring an un-Snyderized version of a character fans are sure to recognize.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Black Adam
  • IMDb: link

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