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‘Black Adam’ (review)

It’s been 17 years since Dwayne Johnson was initially chosen to play Black Adam.

The expectations, budget, and cast have grown to include the talents of Viola Davis, Pierce Brosnan, and Aldis Hodge with Jaume Collett-Sera directing.

But it seems like we could have waited just one more year for a full-grown movie that would be worthy of the significant talent attached to the project.

Thankfully there is still enough to enjoy that it becomes a mildly forgettable diversion instead of a drag-worthy disaster.

Black Adam debuts in the DCEU with a very ambitious script from writers Sohrab Noshirvani, Rory Haines and Adam Sztykiel.

5,000 years after Black Adam gained his powers and went on a vengeance-fueled spree against the king who enslaved him, his homeland of Khandaq is under siege again.

This time, from foreign invaders known as Intergang who are in search of a rare mystical metal (sound familiar?) called Eternium.

This would be a great straightforward story, but the plotlines continue.

Because he is an ancient threat, Viola Davis shows up for the briefest of cameos so Amanda Waller can assign Black Adam’s capture to Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and his 3-person team.

Introducing a lore-heavy character as long-awaited but mostly unknown as Black Adam is difficult enough without adding the debut of a new super team and all of their bios. When we add the vague anti-colonialism plot for the human element it becomes too much ground to cover and do anything real justice.

What we do get is an idea of the great potential of each character, if only given the chance.

Hodge is dynamic as Hawkman, delivering team leader energy in spades while constantly losing his temper when Black Adam tests his concepts of heroism and justice. It’s a shame that we only see his present, with no coverage of a backstory or even which iteration of Hawkman he is supposed to align with.

Pierce Brosnan brings a welcome weariness to Doctor Fate that grounds his scenes, while Sarah Shahi holds the moral compass as Adrianna, the local archeologist that called forth Black Adam.

I wish this was something I was looking back on, something that had the time to show proof of concept and receive a bigger investment in narrative and focused story-building. But 17 years later we’re getting something that would have been impressive in the early 2000s and feels like a pet project now.

Several times in the film, Hawkman tells Doctor Fate, “A bad plan is better than no plan at all.”

So is lackluster movie better than no movie at all?

It certainly isn’t the case for most comic movies, where there is always another story to try. Hopefully because of how much is riding on Black Adam guiding the DCEU into a new phase, there will be a few more chances to tell a deeper story where the tension between villain and hero could be better explored.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Beau Flynn, Dwayne Johnson, Hiram Garcia, Dany Garcia
Written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani
Based on Characters from DC
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi,
Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan

 

 

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