Black Adam – The Rock’s passion project is a generic superhero epic

Black Adam – The Rock’s passion project is a generic superhero epic

Repetitive action, underdeveloped characters, and a charmless lead doom DC’s latest

DWAYNE ‘The Rock’ Johnson has been trying to get a movie about DC Comics anti-hero – on his best days – Black Adam for the better part of 15 years. Unfortunately, the final product out this weekend often feels like it’s too little, too late, and buried under the weight of generic tropes and repetitive (and choppily-edited) action scenes.

Sold as the rebirth of the troubled DC cinematic universe, Black Adam teeters under the burden of all these expectations because it not only has to introduce audiences to a character with little mainstream recognition, but also clunkily tie it into previous films and tease future adventures.

Though Black Adam is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra – who directed Johnson in last year’s Jungle Cruise as well as a bunch of Liam Neeson actioners – and there are three credited screenwriters, make no mistake this is a Dwayne Johnson project through and through and unfortunately the movie suffers from his tight control.

The wrestling legend has a very curated persona that leaks into the movie. Any roughness and darkness to the character of Black Adam is sanded down and replaced with a fairly typical anti-hero with a heart of gold. Sure, he’s very violent, but the bad guys are so cartoonishly evil that you can’t really disagree with his methods.

Mostly taking place in the generic Middle Eastern country of Kahndaq, Black Adam starts off in the distant past with a long flashback of an evil king who has enslaved his people and forced them to dig for a rare material that when made into a crown will give him the ultimate power. Black Adam defeats him, but in the process is buried for thousands of years.

In the present, Kahndaq is being occupied by a mercenary army named Intergang (yes, this is comics accurate, but what a generic name). They very much have the same goals as the ancient king, pursuing freedom fighter Adrianna (Sarah Shahi in her best Tomb Raider cosplay), before awakening the dormant demigod.

Doctor Fate/Kent Nelson (Pierce Brosnan) and Hawkman/Carter Hall (Aldis Hodge) are standouts as the two senior members of The Justice Society. – Pic courtesy of Warner Bros

What follows is about two hours of generic big budget storytelling, the kind of which Marvel is sometimes guilty of. However, the MCU has cracked the code when it comes to mixing spectacle and emotion. They know when to pause and let characters talk it out, but Black Adam is in such a rush to get to the next action scene that these scenes feel too abbreviated.

Ironically, Black Adam isn’t even the most interesting character in his own movie. That distinction goes to the members of the Justice Society – a US-based group of superheroes who travel to Kahndaq to apprehend the violent Adam. They are made up of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell).

In his relatively limited screen time, Brosnan steals the movie as the DC equivalent of Doctor Strange. He brings a level of gravitas that elevates the predictable dialogue and situations. The mindbending abilities of his character also gives his action scenes a level of inventiveness the movie needs more of.

Johnson himself is fine in the movie. Normally, one would blame the director or writer for not highlighting their lead actor’s talents – The Rock can be very charismatic when he wants to be. Unfortunately, because he’s a producer on the movie and has a strong creative voice on it. This is ultimately the movie he wanted to make.

This doesn’t even get into the often rough and unfinished special effects, with the ‘end boss’ of the movie looking like he came from a 10 year old (at least) video game. In the same vein, it seems like at least 90% of the movie was filmed on a green screen, with artificiality of all the locations standing out.

Unlike the increasingly bloated running times of superhero epics, Black Adam ends up at about 2 hours and 5 minutes, including the end credits – which is not entirely unreasonable. However, because of uneven pacing and repetitive action beats, it feels much longer and overstays its welcome. Yes, the post credits scene is exciting… if only the rest of the movie lived up to it.

source – The Vibes

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