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Movie Review: Black Adam – does DC’s antihero movie actually “Rock”?

Black Adam
Movie Poster Courtesy Warner Bros and DC

Black Adam is a pretty good film. Despite some pacing and script issues, its cast are immeasurably charming and the action sequences are a lot of fun. So don’t necessarily believe The Discourse™️ online or a low Rotten Tomatoes score. But, as the song goes, if you don’t expect too much from [it], you might not be let down.

Because there are a good 30-35 minutes of Black Adam that absolutely rule. They are fun, kinetic, and everything you want not only in a great superhero movie, but just a great movie overall. Dwayne Johnson is in full blown heel mode as the titular Black Adam/Teth-Adam. Like the best heels, he has the audience eating out of his hand as they simultaneously boo and cheer for him. He delivers some of the funniest lines in the film with perfect deadpan humor, channeling action-comedy greats of the past like Arnold Schwarzenegger in T2. This is, in so many ways, the apotheosis of what The Rock has always been meant to do on screen. He is Black Adam. Black Adam is him. It’s perfect.

We’re also treated to iconic members of the JSA like Hawkman and Doctor Fate. Aldous Hodge and Pierce Brosnan, respectively, are similarly perfect in these roles.

However, here come some of the problems the film comes up against almost immediately: it’s not clear exactly who this movie is for. Because it seems to gloss over a lot of introduction and just assumes audiences know who these characters are. Because everyone knows Carter Hall is Hawkman and his backstory, right? Right?

And yet, without a definitive telling of their backstory, they seem completely divorced from their rich backstories and (convoluted) history in comics. There are things fans will nitpick as being way out of line. And yet for casual audiences all we know about Carter Hall is. . . he’s a rich guy who turns into a bird person? They try to make him more of a cool, less-brooding Bruce Wayne instead of, well, Carter Hall. Dr Fate. . . puts on a helmet and can see the future sometimes? The only saving grace is how fun it is to watch Hodge and Brosnan. Ditto for The Rock.

And then the putative bad guys of the film are Intergang. But yet they’re not really related the Intergang from the comics or any other DC villains, so they may as well have just been called Blackwater/Xe/Academi/Constellis. They’re just some evil, faceless mercenary group. But also America? But also not America.

So, this movie doesn’t exactly serve people who haven’t read the comics. And it doesn’t really serve the fans. So, who is it for exactly?

There’s a tiny middle ground of casual fans who vaguely remember Carter Hall from Justice League cartoons or an appearance on the CW shows. Apparently them? That’s who the movie is for?

A Brief Pit Stop for Spoilers

[The following contains minor plot spoilers, a music spoiler, and one spoiler of a sight gag in the movie. If you want to go in completely spoiler-free, please skip to the very end to see my final score]

And then there’s the script. Ugh. It feels like it wasn’t so much written as assembled in a darkened room by people filling out Mad Libs and pasting them together. Then studio noted to death. “This needs a joke here. Can Atom Smasher walk in holding a bucket of chicken in this scene? He’s hungry! It’s funny!”

The movie also starts with an extended flashback to ancient Kahndaq with voice-over narration to explain everything to the audience– the laziest of bad script-writing tropes. They may as well have started from the Act I climax action scene and paused mid-explosion, “Yup, that’s me. I bet you wonder how I got here. . .”

But then here’s the problem: you don’t get any Black Adam in your Black Adam movie for a full 15-20 minutes. And when he does show up, the film seems more self satisfied in it needle drop of The Rolling Stones “Paint It Black” than on the utterly epic (and really effing cool!) action scene they’ve created of Black Adam just brutally murdering enemy soldiers. I wanted to applaud but it really felt like gilding a lily and could have been achieved with a more subtle use of music.

The film’s framing device also seems odd. We spend a lot of time trying to make a family from Kandaq our main audience surrogate POV characters. The mom, Adrianna Tomaz, is an archeologist (natch) and the teenage son Amon just loves DC comics and skateboarding. It has very hard “How do you do, fellow kids?” energy.

They also set up a ridiculous macguffin around vibranium unobtanium eternium which just strains all credulity. In a movie where Hawkman also already name-checks Nth metal, it feels so crazy for them to bring in another, lesser known magic metal. And this eternium isn’t even really DC comics eternium. It’s just Dollar Store vibranium/unobtanium: magic metal that makes future tech possible. It really feels a lot like a studio note from WB execs “They loved that vibranium in Black Panther. Can Black Adam have vibranium in it?”

And then you have a really weak villain: Ishmael Gregor, who everyone finds out later is actually in charge of Intergang? But also we, the audience, know he’s bad from pretty early on. So we’re ahead of the rest of the characters but also we don’t have ANY insight into his motivations or backstory until well into the final act.

All of this just makes me feel bad for Black Adam. It’s not its fault that it came out of a studio seemingly so adrift creatively that it feels like they’re 2 weeks away from burning down the movie studio for the insurance money. There’s some really great stuff in the film. If not for terrible advice from terrible executives, this could have been another repeat performance from this year’s The Batman. By comparison, it felt much more like it was cut from whole cloth with a single creative vision. Black Adam feels studio-noted to death.

Missed Opportunities

I am about to break two of my cardinal rules of film criticism:

1- Never judge a film for what it could have been, instead try to judge it against what it was trying to do.

2- Thou shalt not pit Marvel versus DC

So, I’m really, really sorry. But there is just so much wasted potential. So many of the film’s problems — the pacing, the framing device, the voice over, the non-backstory on Carter Hall — could have been alleviated with just a few changes. And? They could really make the film say something.

One of the first changes would be to re-center the backstory of the film and its characters on the comics’ origins. One of the things Marvel does well is translating that backstory and history into its distilled essence that is palatable for both fans and new audiences. And part of this is simplifying and streamlining concepts like Intergang and eternium. This also potentially allows for Carter Hall and Dr. Fate to have some personal stakes in the story, tying in past lives where perhaps they knew Teth-Adam, visited Kahndaq, and it was tied to Nth metal.

You also have to fix the kid, Amon. Ditch the skateboard, and then give him more to do than be John Connor in T2 trying to teach the killer robot funny things to say. Streamline some of the mom, Adrianna’s, part by giving her more of the film’s social conscience. One of the things that made Black Panther so successful was how its antagonist and side characters all illuminated some conflicts that had implications for real world issues. Black Adam tries to do that, but it’s very obvious any actual rough edges were sanded down by the studio so it feels both heavy handed and also not hard hitting at the same time– a rare feat. Just have a point, and make it. Subtly.

Subtlety is something Black Adam seems utterly incapable of doing, though. That’s ok. Its bombast and spectacle are what makes the film work in the parts where it does work. It just would have been nice if it felt a little more thoughtful.

Final thoughts on Black Adam

Ultimately, Black Adam‘s villains aren’t Ishamel, or even Intergang or Amanda Waller. The villains here are Warner Brothers studio execs who have absolutely no f@#$ing clue what to do with DC comics. This movie will elicit nerd rage from ultra fans and head scratches from general audiences.

But what it does well, it does extremely well. It is just plain fun to watch The Rock be a bad boy and tear a bunch of stuff up. Hodges and Brosnan try their best to be the heroes of this story but the clunky script slows them down. But for the half hour or so where it’s just action sequences and spectacle, it’s pretty great.

* * * 3 out of 5 stars

Around the Tubes

It’s one of two new comic book days! What are you all getting? Sound off in the comments below. While you think about that, here’s some comic news from around the web.

The Hollywood Reporter – DC at a Turning Point: James Gunn Pitches Secret Movie, Dwayne Johnson Flexes His Superman Power (Exclusive) – Remember the people praising this were also saying DC had no direction and Discovery was going to mess it all up

CBR – Minecraft Announces Batman DLC Featuring Nightwing, Batgirl and More – Cool.

Comicbook – Flash Star Ezra Miller Pleads Not Guilty to Burglary Charge That Could Carry Up to 26 Years in Prison – That could make a sequel difficult.

Book Riot – Paranormal YA Comics and Graphic Novels for Chills and Thrills – What would you add?

Black Adam

Black Adam gets new character posters

Ahead of a new trailer being released this Thursday, DC‘s Black Adam got six new posters spotlighting the heroes and anti-hero of the film. The new posters show off Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), and the entire cast.

Black Adam comes to theaters on October 21, 2022.

The Rock Delivers a New Look at Black Adam as the Trailer Debut Ticks Down

Black Adam, the highly anticipated comic film starring Dwayne Johnson aka the Rock, has had a few video and photo teases so far. We’ve yet to get a full trailer and a solid look at the costume. Things are starting to change as we’re getting both.

Johnson posted a fresh look at him in costume and reminded us of the trailer premiere on June 8th.

“The Hierarchy Of Power Is About To Change”

Black Adam is scheduled to be released in the United States on October 21, 2022.

Black Adam

DC League of Super-Pets Gets a Trailer

In DC League of Super-Pets, Krypto the Super-Dog and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime in Metropolis side by side. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto must convince a rag-tag shelter pack—Ace the hound, PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle and Chip the squirrel—to master their own newfound powers and help him rescue the Super Heroes.

Dwayne Johnson stars as the voice of Krypto the Super-Dog in Warner Bros. Pictures’ animated action adventure feature film DC League of Super-Pets, from director Jared Stern.

The film also stars the voices of Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Marc Maron, Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, and Keanu Reeves.

DC League of Super-Pets comes to theaters internationally beginning 18 May 2022 and in North America on May 20, 2022.

DC League of Super-Pets Gets an Official Trailer

The first official trailer for DC League of Super-Pets is here giving us a better idea of the film’s plot.

In DC League of Super-Pets, Krypto the Super-Dog and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime in Metropolis side by side. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto must convince a rag-tag shelter pack—Ace the hound, PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle and Chip the squirrel—to master their own newfound powers and help him rescue the superheroes.

The film has an all-star cast including Dwayne Johnson as Krypto the Super-Dog, as well as Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Marc Maron, Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, and Keanu Reeves.

The Rock Teases the Black Adam Costume in a Behind the Scenes Photo

Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, posted a behind the scenes photo of the anticipated film Black Adam. In the photo, we get a sense of scale for the film and a tease of the costume itself. Black Adam has been an interesting DC character playing both hero and villain and rival to Shazam. Expectations are the two characters will eventually clash in a future film.

In the post, Johnson wrote:


This image of Black Adam from behind gives you a tactile sense of the absolute massive scale and size of our movie.

You also see a little of the intricate and beautiful textured detail of Black Adam’s body suit.
(this is not your typical DC or Marvel padded muscle suit)

And finally you get a glimpse of the enormous and appropriate destruction.

As we all know, superheroes have a code of justice and don’t kill the bad guys.

But, Black Adam does.

The hierarchy of power in the DC UNIVERSE is changing.

Man in black.
Protector of his people.

Check out the photo below!

Dwayne Johnson Black Adam

DC League of Super-Pets Finds its Voices

There’s a lot of films based on DC properties in the works but we’re excited for DC League of Super-Pets bringing the powerful animals of the DC Universe to the screen. Today, the voice cast of the film was announced through a video posted by Dwayne Johnson.

Suiting up and lending their voice are:

  • Dwayne Johnson as Krypto
  • Kevin Hart as Ace
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Kate McKinnon
  • John Krasinski
  • Vanessa Bayer
  • Natasha Lyonne
  • Diego Luna

DC League of Super-Pets is coming in 2022.

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