After toiling in development since 2014, DC’s Black Adam has finally arrived. Black Adam may not be one of DC’s heavy hitters, however, having Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson play the anti-hero raises the visibility and ceiling for how far this character can go.
The plot follows Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) a professor/activist in search of a mystical item known as the Crown of Sabbac. During her search, she’s ambushed by an oppressive regime known as Intergang. To save herself, Adrianna summons Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson). She, as well as other citizens of Kahndaq, believes Adam can save their country from Intergang and be the champion he once was 5,000 years ago.
Adam’s emergence gets the attention of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) who assembles the JSA (Justice Society of America) to head to Kahndaq to capture Teth-Adam. The JSA team consists of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Doctor Fate (Pierce Bronson).
The best thing about Black Adam is Dwayne Johnson as Adam. Johnson has the charisma and onscreen presence needed to pull of the good/bad character. Not to mention he has the size that makes every action sequence involving Adam seems very believable. Johnson also has fantastic comedic timing and his dry humor while bouncing jokes off of Hodge and Bronson is when the script is at its best.
The second best thing about the film is Hodge as Hawkman and Bronson as Doctor Fate. They’re perfectly cast and do very well with the screen time they’re given. Sadly, the script does them no favors by not providing any context to their relationship, who they are, and why they work as a team. Like a lot of things in the film, they’re dropped into the story and the audience is expected to understand what’s happening.
Black Adam’s struggles boil down to two things: the script and an overabundance of plot.
The script is lazy at best and doesn’t do a good job establishing the who, what, where, and why’s of the story. The film introduces the JSA (we’ll get to that later) and doesn’t explain who the characters and where they’re from. Besides joking describing what Atom Smasher and Cyclone do – this happens during their meet-cute by the way. Does Waller just have them on speed dial or do they work for her? Doctor Fate has cool powers – what are they and what can he? Hawkman looks strong and can fly and carries a weapon– what can he do? There is an emotional moment in the third act that has zero weight because they relationship between the two characters is never explained.
Intergang is at the center of Kahndaq’s and who they are and what they’re up to isn’t discussed at all. We’re lead to believe they’re mining for a rare element but that’s not discussed. Intergang could’ve been an interesting secondary villain but they’re reduced to nameless faceless bad guys that get destroyed by Adam.
As far as the plot, it’s overstuffed with ideas that are poorly executed. There’s a bad guy who has evil intentions but they aren’t ever explained. There’s political unrest in Kahndaq involving Intergang that could be its own movie. Adam’s back story could be its own movie. The JSA and who they are and what they do could be its own movie. Adam waking up after 5,000 as the champion of Kahndaq could be its own movie. All of these ideas are smashed into one movie that doesn’t allow enough time to flush out any of them.
Black Adam is a mixed bag. It’s really good when it’s funny and Black Adam is going full Black Adam with some great kills. When it’s not, the film is an idea/information dump for plot points that are poorly executed and/or developed. The most frustrating thing…there are a few minor tweaks that would make Black Adam and standout in the genre. Instead, the film lacks the patience to tell a coherent story that could’ve the foundation for an amazing franchise.