Black Adam

Release: Friday, October 21, 2022

👀 Theater

Written by: Adam Sztykiel; Rory Haines; Sohrab Noshirvani 

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra 

Starring: Dwayne Johnson; Aldis Hodge; Pierce Brosnan; Noah Centineo; Quintessa Swindell; Sarah Shahi; Marwan Kenzari; Bodhi Sabongui; Mohammed Amer

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

 

***/*****

Justice-seeking takes another dark turn with the arrival of Black Adam, the latest chapter in the sprawling (some might say stumbling) DCEU, a franchise known for its less sunny outlook and that has at times suffered for a lack of humor. So it’s almost counterintuitive that things do not exactly lighten up with the introduction of Dwayne Johnson in the title role. However his somber performance really works and on the whole the movie does as well, despite some familiar issues.

Originally making a cameo appearance in 2019’s Shazam!, the oversized anti-hero now gets his own standalone film, one where concerns surrounding True Champions and fake heroes seem not too far removed from the D-grade scripts The Rock played up to cheesy perfection back in the day. But this grim tale finds him in much lower spirits, his attitude and temperament the product of a character who has suffered maybe more than his share of pain. Even if Johnson is morose and unsmiling, he’s also really good in an atypical role and it’s not as though Black Adam is devoid of humor. He’s surrounded by a number of fun characters who keep the tone from spiraling into a melodramatic bore.

Black Adam tells a simple tale of choice as the titular character (introduced as Teth-Adam) struggles within himself to become either a force for good or a tool of destruction. It’s a bit of a slow and wobbly start, but when do openers burdened with the responsibility of summarizing thousands of years’ worth of backstory ever come off convincing? In 2600 BC, in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Kahndaq, a young slave boy, endowed with the powers of the ancient wizards, ostensibly frees his people after slaying the despotic King Ahk-Ton, earning his accolades as the city’s heroic champion. 

Yet a present-day Kahndaq still faces oppression in the form of modern crime syndicate Intergang and the debate still rages over whether Adam’s actions were noble or vengeful. Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi), an archaeologist sympathetic to his legend, stumbles upon the tomb of Teth-Adam and, believing she’s freeing him from wrongful entombment, recites an incantation. But someone’s woken up on the wrong side of the sarcophagus, an enraged Adam laying waste to virtually all life in the vicinity in a hair-raising intro that stands among the DCEU’s best. 

The trio of screenwriters does well to keep the events of Black Adam contained within a fast-moving, action-packed narrative. Unlike other chapters, concessions to other stories and properties are downplayed in favor of the spectacle everyone has paid to see, and that’s undoubtedly Dwayne Johnson coming in to his own as a hero with a hardened edge. A rare connective tissue comes in the form of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, reprising her role as the world’s friendliest government agent) who is starkly against the idea of Adam roaming around in the world and so dispatches the Justice Society of America to subdue him.

Not to be confused with DC’s all-star ensemble which made its comics début as the Justice League a good two decades later, the Justice Society — Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan) — kick the excitement up a notch when they ask for peaceful cooperation but instead and predictably meet violent resistance. Somewhere between foe and friend, the Society, notably Brosnan’s stoic Kent Nelson and Hodge’s hot-headed Carter Hall, gives Black Adam a beating heart and a welcomed sense of humor.

Their collective abilities (my personal favorites being Atom Smasher’s lack of grace and the seemingly endless possibilities the Helmet of Fate provides) are eventually fully realized when the film’s “true threat” arises — a misnomer perhaps, given Black Adam‘s familiar failure to provide a villain commensurate in influence and/or intrigue. Either or would have been great. In this case, Sabbac (Marwan Kenzari), a feral beast who derives his bloodlust from Hell’s most powerful demons, pops up toward the end as if out of a Trey Parker/Matt Stone creation — the crude design not exactly doing favors for yet another generic power-monger. 

In culminating in a Pirates of the Caribbean-esque climax, a literal hell-on-earth sequence that sees legions of minions wreaking havoc on Kahndaq, Black Adam unfortunately hits a low point late, embracing the worst impulses of the superhero genre. However, the screen sludge that results is not enough to kill the joy of seeing Johnson rise to the occasion, nor the goodwill that the movie overall has built up to that point.

Nice threads

Moral of the Story: One of the better installments in the up-and-down DC Extended Universe, Black Adam mostly does its job with keeping the audience entertained with a lot of action and visual spectacle and balancing fun with some more serious themes of slavery and oppression. But unfortunately it is another superhero movie where the bad guy seems to be more or less forgotten about. Dwayne Johnson clearly takes his role seriously here, even if the portrayal (from what I understand) veers away from the comics version of the character. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 125 mins.

Quoted: “Yeah, Mom. Who do you want to teach me violence?”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Man of Steel, meet the Dark Knight. . . ?

Apparently, this was not the Comic Con to miss.

As things were getting wrapped up at the Warner Brothers booth at the 2013 edition of the big geek-fest (trust me, I’d go if I could afford to), they intentionally left some of the best/biggest news for last — that there will indeed be another movie starring Henry Cavill as the man of steel, as well as co-starring a Batman whose identity we will not know for a long while. Since Christian Bale has announced his definitive retirement from the iconic role, we will have a new actor donning the cape and the cowl.

I would be more stoked about this announcement of a follow-up to Man of Steel, never mind the fact that two immensely popular DC superheroes will be sharing screen time, but I am a little worried/irritated by the fact that we will yet again undergo changes in the world of Batman. I was initially taken aback by changing out actresses for Rachel Dawes (dropping Katie Holmes and replacing her with Maggie Gyllenhaal was more or less a seamless transition, but this change was still noticeable in places and still a distraction for the first couple of viewings). Make no mistake, switching actors in a role of this caliber means a hell of a lot more than that. (No offense, Katie or Maggie — both of you were great, but let’s be honest, you’re not the centerpiece of that trilogy.)

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy really struck the ‘holy trinity’ of the movie/entertainment industry’s biggest concerns — all three films were critical, commercial, and financial successes. To me, no one has done Batman better. Nor will this level of complexity and darkness be approached for a long, long time (if ever again). Nolan created true cinematic magic, and if you were to change out one of the most significant pieces of that magic trick, I believe the show could fall apart. Case in point — who the hell exactly follows up Bale’s brooding, somber Bruce Wayne/Batman?

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And I know, it was pretty clear awhile ago that Batman wouldn’t ever be involving the charming Brit again — I’ve been prepared for a change for awhile. But I only assumed we’d have several, several years in between Bale’s departure and the Justice League film for all of us to kind of move on from that era.

I feel as if such an upcoming project were to reintroduce Batman to us, there would be some obvious issues. First of all, there’d be a whole new persona to get used to. We’ve spent nearly a decade gawking at how “accurate” Bale’s version was — I put that word in quotes because I believe he more or less redefined the character in his work. Second of all, a lot of complaints about how Man of Steel was tackled seemed to weigh on the side of either “too much” or “too little” exposition of its central steely character.

Those who thought the opening sequence was rushed ended up experiencing the rest of the story as far too bombastic and epic to really justify Cavill’s moodiness; those who thought there was a bit too much explanation as to who and why Superman is coming to be (on Earth, anyway) are probably going to have an even harder time coming to grips with what lengthy exposition is bound to be present in Man of Steel 2 (I’m going to call it that for now, who knows what this thing will actually be called in two years). In short, I just can’t see a situation that will not include some kind of background story for Batman as he gets into it with Supes.

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…aaand I’m out. Peace, Gotham.

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aw, dammit I wanted to meet Christian Bale, too!!! 😦

Look, please don’t get me wrong: I loved loved LOVED both franchises. I was among those who thought Snyder and Nolan really entreated Man of Steel with a power and grandeur that likely will go unappreciated until the sequel comes out. But hearing the news of introducing Batman NOW seems a little weird to me. I know talks of a Justice League movie are definitely occurring, and that’s exciting as all get-out. But I feel they are rushing this a little. But these are, obviously, just my initial and personal feelings. I want to hear from you.

What do you guys think? With Bale clearly out of the running for the Batman role again, how do you feel about someone else taking over? How do you think Superman and Batman will mesh in a movie (at least, this soon)? Do you think I’m just being a little too skeptical/critical too early? TOO SOON??? 😛

Whatever it is, I’d love to hear your thoughts!!!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no — it’s . . . . SuperBatman?? Wtf.. . . ?

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Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com