BLACK ADAM review by Mark Walters – Dwayne Johnson brings the DC Comics antihero to life

BLACK ADAM review by Mark Walters – Dwayne Johnson brings the DC Comics antihero to life

One of the more exciting Warner Bros. releases this year is BLACK ADAM, a lightning-based character closely connected to SHAZAM!, only not at all the same kind of hero. Dwayne Johnson is not only connected by starring in the film, he’s also been a big champion of the project and loves the source material enough to give it a big personal push. In fact he first became attached to the role 15 years ago, and it’s taken this long for the movie to come to fruition. It’s also a more risky proposition for big screen superhero fare as Black Adam is not necessarily a good guy, nor does he care to be. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expect this movie to be very good or memorable, but I was quite surprised to find the end result very entertaining and tremendously fun.

The story involves a 5000-year-old Egyptian city that is controlled by a violent King, forcing his his people to dig tirelessly for a powerful stone containing magical powers, but after the leader’s suppression reaches a boiling point, one young boy grabs a stone and encourages the people to fight back. Ultimately the lightning gods (the same ones seen in SHAZAM!) send a conqueror to take out the mad king, and take away his magical crown, but the battle leads to the city’s destruction, and the conqueror is sealed in a tomb along with the fabled crown. Cut to present day, and the city is now heavily populated, but also run by a ruthless militia called Intergang. Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) and her friends head to the mountains to search for the missing crown, but don’t realize Intergang is on their tail. She retrieves the crown, but out of desperation reads etchings on the ground and releases Teth-Adam (Johnson), who quickly kills the bad guys and allows her to escape. We immediately see how immensely powerful this long-buried conqueror still is, but he’s unfamiliar with the modern world. Soon, Adrianna and her son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui) do their best to explain their current surroundings to this superpowered stranger, but his reemergence has caught the attention of the Justice Society, a group of superheroes who decide to investigate this potential threat to the human race. Led by Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), these normally impressive heroes find themselves outmatched by Teth-Adamm, and don’t realize there’s a bigger threat looming when the crown falls into the wrong hands.

BLACK ADAM is a true roller coaster ride of a film, starting off on a grand scale and never slowing down. Dwayne Johnson does a great job playing this layered antihero who despite being the strong silent type, is also layered and has some dark secrets that are eventually revealed in the final act. This is a character that doesn’t mind saving good folks, but also isn’t worried about killing anyone and everyone who gets in his way. He doesn’t really care about the world around him now, but he also isn’t going to let bullies get away with violence without stepping in to stop them. In many ways he’s like a superpowered version of The Man With No Name, only with a more emotional past than we initially realize. Pierce Brosnan beautifully brings to life the character of Dr. Fate, a man with a strange alien helmet that gives him incredible power, but also keeps him alive longer than his liking, and in some ways is an obsession and a curse for him despite allowing him to help others. Among the helmet’s many powers, it also allows him to see the future, which can be a very stressful and heartbreaking thing. Aldis Hodge plays Hawkman, a winged hero with a mace that possesses incredible fighting ability, and his portrayal of this character is thrilling. Almost every time Hawkman does something, the audience was cheering enthusiastically, and with good reason. Sadly, the other two members of the Justice Society, Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), aren’t given much to do and feel a bit underwritten, though the special effects used for their characters are nonetheless impressive. As with the majority of comic book movies, the villain isn’t terribly memorable in the end, but I suppose serviceable for the story.

The packed house I saw this movie with was clearly very engaged with the film, and several moments in the production led to big cheering and strong emotional responses. The pacing of the film is intense and moves at a very brisk pace. The action scenes are plentiful and well-choreographed, and at times surprisingly dark and violent for a PG-13 movie, but I loved seeing a darker take on a comic book film for a change, and I think moviegoers will find it refreshing as well. Director Jaume Collet-Serra is reuniting with Dwayne Johnson here after their previous outing on JUNGLE CRUISE, which I also found surprisingly fun and satisfying. He does a great job here crafting a movie that feels confident and bold. Even the powerful score by Lorne Balfe feels like it elevates each scene to even grander results than one might expect. I’ve been seeing some negative reviews for BLACK ADAM in other publications, and I honestly don’t understand why. Granted, I’ve been in screenings before when the audience was cheering loudly and seemed to love everything about it, and yet I didn’t end up giving the film a favorable write up. But with this movie, I was feeling what they were, and loving almost everything on display here. BLACK ADAM is definitely one of the better DC movies as of late, and potentially could be seen as a course correction for the DC Cinematic Universe. There’s a mid-credit scene at the end that received one of the most genuinely enthusiastic responses I have ever seen for a movie like this, which might speak quite well for the future of this company’s cinematic efforts.

BLACK ADAM is now set to open on October 21, 2022

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.