The DC cinematic universe has been struggling, quality wise, for quite some time now. When new CEO for Warner Bros. Discovery recently made headlines for scrapping the entirely filmed Batgirl, he also announced he was going to focus on quality before quantity when it comes to DC. Then explain to me what Black Adam was, David Zaslav?
Black Adam tells the story of a slave trying to free his people by starting a revolution nearly 5,000 years ago. The almighty wizards we’ve seen before in Shazam! seemed him worthy of their powers, but just as quickly they noticed he would use those powers in the worst way possible and imprisoned him. Now he’s freed from his tomb, ready to unleash his somewhat uncommon ways of justice on the modern world, while the same evil that was threatening him millennia ago is ready to rise again.
This over two hours long, bursting with visual effects, monstrosity starts off kinda promising when we follow Adrianna (Sarah Shahi – The Rookie) in search for a crown that holds the combined forces of the most powerful demons that rule Hell. Shahi is one of the two actors that can move on from this disaster with their head held high. She’s believable as the do-gooder, who also tries to keep her family intact as things go awry. The other actor who saves face, to my biggest surprise, is Pierce Brosnan (Cinderella). He plays Doctor Fate, who can see the future by touching an extra-terrestrial helmet and wields the power to shift reality.
The rest of the cast is laughably bad, or have no purpose in this story whatsoever, making them look like a complete joke. Noah Centineo (Charlie’s Angels) plays Al Rothstein aka Atom Smasher, with the charisma of a brick. Aldis Hodge (One Night in Miami), Quintessa Swindell (Trinkets), Marwan Kenzari (Aladdin) and Bodhi Sabongui (The Baby-Sitters Club) all give the most one-dimensional performances I’ve witnessed thus far in a DC-movie, to the point of actually hating their characters. This is partly also the writers’ fault.
Adam Sztykiel (Rampage, Scoob!), Rory Haines (The Mauritanian) and Sohrab Noshirvani (The Mauritanian) have written an action packed superhero flick that’s riddled with plotholes, lame jokes and annoyingly repetitive callbacks that made me look at the critically panned 2016 Suicide Squad in a whole different light. Compared to Black Adam, that movie is a masterpiece.
“Dwayne Johnson-fatigue” is a real thing, and even though the Rock has taken a big step back from popping up on screen more than three times a year, his performance in Black Adam is the definition “Go on girl, give us nothing”. There’s no character development whatsoever, and besides him getting angry at everyone all the time and shooting lightning bolts out of his hands, there’s little to nothing to his character.
Jaume Collet-Serra, director of personal favourites Orphan, House of Wax & The Shallows, now has me questioning his talent as a filmmaker. Whatever vision he had for this (supposedly) $200 million costing green screen extravaganza is as bland as unseasoned chicken, but not only does it lack real direction, it’s the departments that could save this movie from being a complete disaster that are equally as horrendous. Lorne Balfe, known for his majestic score of Mission Impossible – Fallout, composes a monotonously uninspired mess that surprisingly fits the quality of the film, while the numerous music cues just start and end at the most random moments, building forth the cringeworthy momentum the movie has going for it. A movie that needs at least one slow motion moment in every minute of its runtime is a stretch – literally. Did the editors just give up?
Black Adam is worse than the trailers made it look, and that’s a talent in itself. This has “flop” written all over it, and honestly, moviegoers deserve better. Hollywood, wake up.
Reviewed at Kinepolis Antwerp, October 19, 2022. Running time: 124 min.
PRODUCTION: A Warner Bros. release of a DC Entertainment, Flynn Picture Company, Seven Bucks Productions & New Line Cinema production. Producers: Beau Flynn, Dany Garcia & Hiram Garcia. Executive producers: Richard Brener, Walter Hamada, Dwayne Johnson, Eric McLeod, Chris Pan & Scott Sheldon.
CREW: Director: Jaume Collet-Serra. Writers: Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines & Sohrab Noshirvani. Cinematography: Lawrence Sher. Editing: John Lee & Michael L. Sale. Music: Lorne Balfe.
CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Shahi, Viola Davis, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge, Quintessa Swindell, Odelya Halevi, Marwan Kenzari & Mohammed Amer.