He may neither be on top of everyone’s list titled ‘My favourite superhero’ nor does he lead anyone’s list of antiheroes, but Dwayne Johnson’s presence as the Black Adam gives this origin film a standing it wouldn’t have received otherwise. After all, the superhero he fights mostly – Shazam! – isn’t among the top-tier of the good guys, nor Black Adam has appeared in any film opposite a major DC superhero. However, after watching this film, you would want to know more about Black Adam because he has all the superpowers that will give any superhero the run for his money, including the Man of Steel.
Nearly 5,000 years ago in a Middle Eastern country named Kahndaq, wizards bestowed superpowers on a young slave named Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) who frees his fellow countrymen from a tyrant king, before vanishing for eternity. However, when an archaeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) frees him from his resting place, he has to decide whether to save the people of the modern-day Kahndaq from mercenaries or fight those who want to capture him. Rechristened Black Adam, he chooses to do both, after it comes to light that his backstory might not have ended the way people believe it did.
The film undoubtedly belongs to Dwayne Johnson, even though there isn’t much of him in the first half. When he does make his presence felt, he takes the film to a whole new level, using his dead-pan style of dialogue delivery to great effect. He is undoubtedly the only actor who could have brought life to a terrifying character because he looks the part. Also, both Black Adam and Dwayne Johnson have a lot in common physically, while the character’s sense of morality doesn’t seem much different from the former wrestler’s personality. His expressionless face is a superpower here because he is playing an emotionless character who has been awakened from a deep slumber, from which he wasn’t supposed to return at all.
Add to that the Justice Society of America and you get superheroes fighting a superhero, a formula that has been made popular through more Marvel films long before DC. Led by Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman and mentored by Pierce Brosnan’s Dr. Fate, this team first tries to capture Black Adam, but later joins hands with him, once they realize that they might do good together, instead of separately. It was good to see Aldis Hodge as the leader of JSA, and his fans from Leverage might be happy for him since he has come a long way. Former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan may have donned a superhero costume late in life but his irresistible charm made the audience forget that this was his first foray into the fantasy world.
American actress of Iranian descent Sarah Shahi has a new take on the ‘damsel in distress,’ because she plays a single mother whose son is in trouble and she doesn’t end up as the romantic interest of the superhero. She in fact guides him on a journey that ends when he finally manages to free his people, for the second time in 5000 years. The special effects and the action sequences must be commended here as well since they keep the audience on the edge of their seat, and while many would root for the JSA, there might be many backing the Black Adam, for it is his name on the poster!
I am all for the introduction of new characters in superhero films but the makers should do it like Marvel and Sony folks do, and not like they eventually did in Black Adam. Not everyone is familiar with a superhero named The Atom, and veteran actor Henry Winkler’s cameo didn’t help either. Did he play that character in some film or TV show? No. Is he known for playing any superhero? No. Then why was he even there, if only for a video chat when his presence added no value at all? Also, the audience has seen a superhero who can increase his size and deliver a powerful punch in Ant-Man so DC missed the trick big time.
Choosing Noah Centineo for the character wasn’t a smart move either because not many knew who he was, or how he would play a character that wasn’t used in Justice League animated series. The same is the thing with Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone who reminds the audience of a character from the X-Men movies. Yes, both the characters as well as Dr. Fate first appeared on the scene and Marvel imitated them later, but that was in the comic world. In the film world, DC has to do more before introducing characters that come onscreen, describing their superpowers, and expecting the audience to recognize them from somewhere.
They were clueless when the action took place because they had no idea what to expect, and from whom! Also, the audience is kept wondering which era the film takes place in because, on the one hand, the Justice Society is there (the predecessor of Justice League) while on the other, Amanda Waller is there as well. The technology used is pretty modern but the use of audio cassettes and a skateboard (in a fictional African/Asian country) looks misplaced.
Moving on to the villain section, the antagonist was so dumb that the studio shouldn’t have wasted their time and money on him. Were they expecting that the audience would accept a supervillain just because he was there in the film, because that’s how it turned out! The overuse of CGI at some places dampened the effect and had the director kept it simple, it might have gone down as memorable, which it didn’t.
The Verdict 3/5
Black Adam is one of the first attempts by the players at the DC Universe to do something along the lines of Marvel. It is a film that shows the lighter side of the same universe that gave us Zack Snyder’s Justice League and is appreciated for upgrading itself in the right direction. Not only did they make one superhero team fight one of their own, they learned something good from Marvel Comics, and made their characters use wit, humour, and sarcasm appropriately.
However, ‘with great sarcasm, comes great responsibility’, and the producers forgot that there is more to Marvel than meets the eye. They forgot to give the protagonist a worthy antagonist, depended too much on one character, and made the audience wait for a cameo that can be termed as a last-ditch effort to save the sinking DC Universe. On the whole, Black Adam is a good first film that can turn into a bigger franchise, but only if the makers promise not to deviate from the path they are on, and use the ‘available’ talent smartly, instead of hastily. Who knows, Black Adam might actually end up saving the DC Universe, freeing them from another kind of slavery! -Ends