The DC universe has struggled for a long time. It may be unfair to compare it to Marvel but they are the standard in cinematic universes and for superhero films. Black Adam has been praised by those dissecting the trailers as a rebirth for the DCEU. We recently had a chance to screen the film early and have thoughts on how it stands against the other DC films and the overall superhero world. Check out the trailer and synopsis before the review.
In ancient Kahndaq, Teth Adam was bestowed the almighty powers of the gods. After using these powers for vengeance, he was imprisoned, becoming Black Adam. Nearly 5,000 years have passed, and Black Adam has gone from man to myth to legend. Now free, his unique form of justice, born out of rage, is challenged by modern-day heroes who form the Justice Society: Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone.
“The Rock” has been the primary attention and cast member that Warner Bros and the marketing department have focused on to get people hyped about the new film. As the title character, the hope was his general appeal would draw more viewers to see the film and perhaps reignite the DCEU. The film has connections to Shazam and the mystics behind the power. Though it’s more or less isolated from the broader set of films in the DC world. Though there are 2 characters that connect to other films, their presence is so brief we quickly forget them.
The film does introduce us to the Justice Society in the form of Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher, and Cyclone. What makes this hard to work is that we have not had any films or backstories with these characters prior to this so it feels like we have too many superheroes in one film and no real context. Granted I am making this statement from the point of view of someone who hasn’t read any of the comics. I can’t help but compare Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan) to Dr. Stange. The lack of the previous backstory with the characters made me care very little for any of them.
So moving past the DCEU and how the film connects to any of it, let’s now go to the meat of Black Adam itself. Much like another superhero film, this takes place in a far-off land, that had access to supernatural power, and of course, someone abused it. Fast forward to modern times, and the country continues to be ruled by outside invaders. The film tries hard to push the idea that they are oppressed people but we barely get any indication of what that means or even see the ‘big bad invaders’ show off anything beyond a few barricades. Instead, the film meanders its way through a confusing mix of big bads, including one so obviously, they should have done the whole Southlands to Mordor text transition on screen as they did for Rings of Power to beat us over the head with the obvious.
Like many previous DC films before it, the pacing of the film and its story is very lopsided to the last quarter of the film. There came a point during the film that we assumed the film was done and over, and suddenly realized we had 30 min still. It wasn’t until the last 30 min that the larger plot actually unfolded to reveal the enemy. The Rock is likable enough as Black Adam, though it’s clear the role muted his otherwise strong presence on the screen a lot. Overall it’s an okay superhero film by DC standards, certainly better than a large portion of DC films. But it won’t really hold its own in the larger superhero film landscape.
Like any good superhero film, stick around for the post-credit scene. The film also appeared to be shot with a somewhere washed-out appearance. I don’t know if that was a directorial artistic choice or if the projectionist at our screening didn’t have things set up correctly (we asked but they never confirmed). You will see elements of 300-style filming and then other parts that remind you of the Snyder cut style directing throughout the film but it never seems to settle on what it wants to be when it grows up.
Black Adam hits theatres on October 21st.