The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has some of the most iconic characters in the superhero realm.
Yet, Warner Brothers continues to struggle with these legendary justice fighters.
With each step forward, this team takes a few steps backward.
Shazam! delivered a breath of fresh air into the franchise, and The Batman finally proved that someone else could wear the black suit besides Christian Bale. Then there was the Justice League debacle, and Ezra Miller proved that one man can put the brakes on the fastest man alive.
Still, there was hope Dwayne Johnson could take on the Herculean task of lifting this extended universe out of murky depths with his take on anti-hero, Black Adam.
This superhuman’s history will take audiences back 5000 years to the Middle-Eastern-inspired land of Kahndaq (yeah, it’s not a real place).
As a slave who took a stand against the tyrannical regime, Black Adam was chosen by the wizards behind the legend of Shazam.
Yet, interpretations of his heroic feats were translated differently as the years progressed.
In this modern era, only a few people know how to read the ancient text.
All of the ancient writings speak of the supposed hero’s tomb being somewhere in the city’s ancient ruins.
As the city remains under oppressive rule, Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) believes she has the secrets to releasing “Teth Adam”, the defender of the people of this land.
Once Black Adam has gained his freedom, The Justice Society of America is sent to contain this potential threat – before he causes more chaos around the world.
The originality of this whole project was having a superhero in the Middle East and having an actor able to fill the suit convincingly on-screen.
Dwayne Johnson has been working on getting Black Adam to screens for years. Constant delays and COVID have repeatedly put this project back.
Finally, it is here and the elements mentioned above are the only innovative offerings of this latest entry in the DCEU.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s film samples from the X-Men, Avengers, and even The Mummy. He delivers a familiar storyline that most viewers should be able to predict each step of the screenplay.
Despite having one of the most beloved and recognisable stars in the lead, this production fails to capitalise on what has made Johnson one of the most bankable actors on the planet.
Black Adam leans in on the dark and brooding side of this character, instead of utilising The Rock’s charisma to make this anti-hero appealing.
Around Johnson, the ensemble making up the Justice Society feels like an afterthought. They needed more development for us to care about their existence.
While Aldis Hodge is convincing as Hawkman – the leader of this mob and one of the more obscure DC characters – few people may not be able to differentiate him from Marvel’s Falcon.
Noah Centineo (playing Atom Crusher) and Quintessa Swindell (as Cyclone) are fun additions, but they feel like X-Men rejects struggling to find their place.
Pierce Bronson as Dr. Fate is the most intriguing addition to this ragtag crew and fills the Professor X role nicely, but also suffers from minimal character development.
Due to the mad dash to get their roles uploaded into Black Adam‘s storyline, most viewers will wonder why we should be cheering for this team at all.
Each has something to add, but there isn’t enough time to get to know them.
Lack of a substantial villain
Interestingly, the lack of character development is not the primary issue for this movie.
The two areas causing this project to fall over are its tone and lack of a substantial villain.
The Zack Snyder darkness remains within the overall feel of these DC productions. Yet, unlike The Batman or Joker, which convincingly leaned in hard to the central character’s violent sides, this screenplay remained dark and somber with barely any explanation for Teth Adam’s violent tendencies.
He is an anti-hero, but it takes too long to find out why he kills all of his enemies and the reason behind his constant staring off at the horizon.
Then comes the component that most weakens the effectiveness of this story – the adversary.
Every great hero needs a formidable and convincing enemy and this character is not revealed until the final act.
Understandably, The Justice Society is trying to determine if Adam is the antagonist, but no one truly believes Dwayne Johnson could be the bad guy.
This leaves us with the frustration of not knowing who to be cheering against during this film.
When the villain finally arrives, it all feels like they decided to bring in the set of The Scorpion King to add one more reference for good measure.
It is hard to know what went wrong in getting Black Adam to theatres, but it may have been better to have him included in the Shazam! sequel instead.
At least there, he could have been allowed to use his humour while remaining on the darker side of this universe.
And with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever having arrived, Black Adam is destined to return to the forgettable sands of Kahndaq.
Reel Dialogue: Are there multiple gods?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. John 1:1-2
Black Adam provides multiple discussion points for conversations about God.
Are there numerous gods who are ambivalent to society? Does magic play a factor in people’s faith? Do many roads exist which lead to one God?
Fortunately, the Bible does give us the answers to these questions and more.
After seeing the comic-book adventure, it might be worth picking up a copy of the Bible and searching for the answers to the questions which get left unanswered in the film.
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.
All images: Movie publicity