The exploration of the Black Adam character in the new Dwayne Johnson-led movie revolves around whether he’s good, bad, or maybe really bad. While this kind of introspective theorizing is going on between the other characters in the film, Black Adam doesn’t seem to care one bit either way. With a little bit of Ash Williams’ logic from Army of Darkness logic (“Good … bad … I’m the guy with the gun”), Adam just goes about his business and beats a lot of people up.
For many viewers, their enjoyment of the film may very well come down to how much they want to explore nuances of quality as opposed to more visceral reactions. Is it a good film? Is it bad? In a sense, does it matter? If you’re searching for a deft exploration of what makes heroes or villains tick, you’re in the wrong theater. If you want to see some Mortal Kombat-style fatalities play out as super-powered battles fill up almost every part of the screen, pop some corn and enjoy.
With that in mind, let’s get an example of the bad out in front. With a script that felt like it could have used just one more re-write, some plot developments are too forced in the sense that characters act as if they had no other choice in the moment, when they obviously did. In the interests of treading carefully around spoilers, there’s a character who is seemingly bound to meet their doom and does so alone, keeping those who want to help away and unable to intervene. However, when you see how the entire sequence plays out, they could have achieved their goal much more easily with companions helping them without sacrificing their heroic intent. It might sound like a little thing, but when you question why a character does something as you near the climax of the movie, that’s not good.
There are other moments like that which don’t bring the whole plot crashing down, but just could have used a little more tweaking to tighten up the logic of the story. However, and this is the point of this review: that’s not really all that important. What’s important is that all of the above criticism of careful attention to detail in writing plays second-fiddle to a battle between a human endowed with alien powers and a mystical demon reborn on Earth. Meanwhile, skeletal zombies updated from 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts terrorize the citizens of Kahndaq, the fictional country in which most of the action plays out, and Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) knock over statues, throw vehicles, create dust tornadoes, and generally wreak havoc in an attempt to subdue both Adam and the demons who appear later on.
This is not the time to seek subtleties in storytelling.
Now, this is not a free pass, either. Let’s put it this way: Black Adam is not a good movie, but it’s a fun movie. It’s great to have it all — a fun movie with an airtight plot — and it’s awful to have a dull movie that doesn’t even make sense. If you can’t have it all, though, especially when it comes to an action/super-hero movie such as this, then it had at least better be fun.
So we have Hawkman fighting Black Adam with fight choreography that takes advantage of their upward mobility; Adam ripping through enemy bad guys that don’t have superpowers and therefore don’t stand a chance; Pierce Brosnan bringing his coolness and nobility to his role; and some tie-ins to the rest of the DC universe that’s usually a sure-fire way to get fans hyped up. All of this made for a good time.
One of those tie-ins sees Emelia Harcourt (played by Jennifer Holland), a member of the Task Force X squad that featured prominently in DC’s Peacemaker series from earlier this year. The same Peacemaker series that starred John Cena. The same John Cena that faced off against Dwayne Johnson not only once, but twice in a lifetime at back-to-back WrestleManias. You see what’s happening, wrestling fans? It’s hard to see a path in which DC avoids having Peacemaker and Black Adam converge in some way, and it should be fun when it happens.
There’s another very significant character appearance that, while again I strive to keep spoilers to a bare minimum, is all over social media anyway so let’s talk about it. Henry Cavill returns mid-credits as Superman, suggesting to Black Adam that they need to have a chat. Back when Peacemaker wrapped up its first season, a Justice League appearance had only the silhouette of Superman because Cavill had vacated the role. In the summer of this year, Dwayne Johnson was booed at the San Diego Comic-Con when he hinted that it wasn’t clear who would be portraying Superman going forward. Audiences like Cavill in the part, and his return is good news for the franchise. Plus, let’s be honest, he stacks up pretty well against Johnson and it should have fight fans eager for them to face off.
In a “sort-of” cross-over moment, it was amusing to see Uli Latukefu, who plays the eldest version of Johnson in TV’s Young Rock, appear in a flashback as Black Adam’s son and spiritual motivation. I suppose it pays to make a good impression on Hollywood royalty!
Surprisingly, the person who looks like he’s having the least amount of fun in all of this is Black Adam himself. Going into the film, one of my expectations was for actor-producer Dwayne Johnson’s natural personality to dominate the screen as it often does. It’s usually hard to watch him and believe that he’s anybody other than, well, himself, because his public persona is already larger-than-life to begin with. Step one to minimizing that effect in Black Adam: no million dollar smile. Step two: no eyebrow raising. There’s a catchphrase, yes, but it’s played for laughs and Black Adam himself is partly the butt of the joke. It seems there was a concentrated effort to reduce (or at least focus) the energy of a Dwayne Johnson performance into the title character, and let the supporting cast do the mugging. That’s a good thing in this movie.
The DC films have always felt hamstrung in trying to catch up with what Marvel has put together, but in propping Dwayne Johnson up in this role they certainly have another strong horse to pull the wagon.
Black Adam (2022)
|Tag Line:||The world needed a hero. It got Black Adam.|
|Directed By:||Jaume Collet-Serra|
|Cast:||Dwayne Johnson, Pierce Brosnan, Aldis Hodge, Sarah Shahi|
|Runtime:||2 hours and 4 minutes.|
Slam Wrestling's Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale:
1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner