Black Adam: Film Review 

Black Adam:  Film Review 

Tristan Medd, Staff Writer

Another day, another superhero movie…sigh.

Black Adam, a.k.a Teth Adam, is a storied DC character. Hundreds of years ago, he gained Shazam! powers from several ancient wizards in order to destabilize a tyrannical monarchy that rested control of his home country in Egypt. In his rage, however, he slaughtered innocent civilians and destroyed his home. Because of this, Adam was deemed unworthy of his powers and imprisoned in a sacred cave. Awakening in the present day, he is tasked with helping his ancestors escape the oppression of military occupation. This movie has many positives and negatives, but the negatives seem more pressing to me.

It’s not worth covering artistic filming techniques in this movie – lighting choices or shot decisions – because there are none. It is made clear from the beginning that this film will do nothing new in the way of superhero films. The first thing you have to realize when entering Black Adam is that if you know anything about the hero from comic books, previous shows, or movies, you are in for a rigidly formulaic (sort-of) anti-hero romp. This is the main problem with this movie, and has been one of the main problems in almost all DCEU movies to date: unoriginality. The structure remains rigid: hero’s introduction; hero encounters opposition; hero gives up their power for “the greater good,” and in the end, the only one who can save the day is the hero, now having boldly regained their powers by using “friendship” or something equally tedious. Though there are some twists and turners throughout the film, many of them have little impact on the viewer’s emotional attachment to the characters, because the film does very little to establish an emotional attachment to many of the its all-star cast.

Because Black Adam is so unoriginal, I exited the theater knowing that I’d forget most of the characters in a week, as none of the main cast (besides Pierce Brosnan) add anything new to the lexicon of hero archetypes modern audiences have learned to expect. Teth Adam is a stoic and severe hero who will go to any length to do what he believes is right, precisely like Marvel’s Winter Soldier. Hawkman is a dedicated leader, an adamant bringer of justice, and morally good to a fault, very similar to Captain America, Superman, and Colossus. The two teenage superheroes, Atom Smasher and Cyclone, are just carbon copies of Spiderman and Scarlet Witch (in power, not in personality. Cyclone barely has a personality). The only semi-unique character in Black Adam is Doctor Fate, and even he resembles one X-Men character or another. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with DC copying Marvel’s tropes (mainly because they are just staying faithful to their original IP), these stereotypical superheroes lend little to an already generic story.

While the Black Adam’s heroes may be boring, however, their characters never become outright bad. The humans, on the other hand, are bad. The token young adult protagonist in this movie adds nothing to the plot besides cringeworthy meta-commentary in a misguided attempt to appeal to a “younger” audience. The mom, while marginally better, still seems empty. There is nothing very descript about her, and she ends the movie feeling just as directionless as she enters it. The viewer can’t enjoy the villains in Black Adam either, as it is increasingly unclear who the real antagonist is. For the film’s first half, the enemies are the oppressive soldiers, yet during the second half, the villain becomes hell itself. After this switch, it feels almost as if the movie has completely forgotten about the original villains, and they are never mentioned again. I have many other, more minor concerns concerning Black Adam’s structure and morals, but for the sake of space, we shall switch to the positives.

The two biggest positives in Black Adam are the acting and the action. It is immediately obvious that the action is the focal point here, and everything else is simply a contrivance that gets us from one action scene to the next. This plot trivialization doesn’t matter all that much though, because the action is done very well. I admit, during the fight scenes it’s hard not to be impressed by the scale, choreography, and CGI. These fights are fast-paced and awesome, and I can’t fault this movie for relying on them. The acting is a major positive, and Pierce Brosnan, Dwayne Johnson, and Aldis Hodge all stand out. Aldis Hodge is just a great actor overall, and I don’t think he proved anything in this movie that he hadn’t confirmed in the past. Pierce Brosnan does the character of Doctor Fate justice, as he perfectly portrays an aging man burdened with the power of foresight and the task of protecting a person who has been meaningful to him for a long time. It’s incredible to watch how easily Pierce Brosnan can slip into this character, and this role is a tribute to his acting ability. The Rock takes on his first role to make me forget that he was The Rock. Usually it’s hard for me to ignore that I’m watching Dwayne Johnson act which ruins the immersion, but he is so perfect for this character that I genuinely started seeing him as Teth Adams.

All in all, this movie is better than I expected; it is half-decent instead of outright boring. Black Adam doesn’t chart any new waters, and it won’t blow anybody out of the water, but if you’re a fan of Teth Adam, or a fan of mindless action backed by a predictable story, I would recommend giving it a watch.