Comic book movies have spent well over a decade now trying to escape the stigma of their genre. They’ve tried to be anchored in reality. They’ve donned the disguise of other genres. They’ve pushed rating limits. Some have even been nominated for Academy Awards. “Black Adam” has a refreshing back-to-basics comic-book feel to it. But did it go a bit too basic?
Our story kicks off with a lengthy exposition that takes place in 2600BC in the fictional Egypt-esque city of Kahndaq. Slaves are being forced to mine a rare powerful material known as Eternium. (Not to be confused with Avatar’s Unobtainium). The moment before our young hero is martyred, the council of wizards take him and imbue him with their powers. These are the exact same wizards that give young Billy his superhuman powers in “Shazam!” The difference is this “hero” is driven by hate and vengeance. He defeats the evil ruler at the time but is entombed in the process.
Modern-day Kahndaq isn’t much better off. There isn’t an evil king, but instead, a mercenary group known as the Intergang oppress the locals while strip-mining the land. During an attempt by freedom fighter Adrianna (Sarah Shahi), Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) is reawoken. After quickly dispatching the mercenaries, he realizes the world has changed considerably and begins to ponder his place in it. Before he has a chance to ponder this new world, the Justice Society of America, made up of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), is sent to neutralize him. Before anyone can utter the word “jurisdiction” super-sized battles ensue with considerable collateral damage. And before anyone can reflect on that, an even greater threat emerges.
To say this script is flawed would be an understatement. It teases some great philosophical concepts on the gradients between good and evil but reduces them to one-liners and off-hand quips. The humor is is some of the best in the DECU, but some of the characters and scenarios are distractingly similar to the MCU. It’s impossible to see Atom Smasher and not think he’s just Antman wearing a blue Deadpool mask. Hawkman is little more than a combination of Ironman and Black Panther. Dr. Fate is a lesser-powered Dr. Strange. Cyclone is a lower-powered Storm whose best move is laying pipe.
Even with these flaws, the film is highly entertaining, mostly due to it’s perfect casting. Up until the final climatic battle. “Black Adam” unfortunately also copies the MCU’s biggest problem. A final battle between two characters with the same powers. What’s worse, is this final battle mirrors the same battles we’ve already seen earlier in the film.
It’s a shame that “Black Adam” falters in some critical areas since it’s a lot of fun in the areas where it does work. With a little luck, Black Adam will show up in future “Shazam” and “Superman” films. The Rock might be the injection of mischievous fun the DECU desperately needs.