Studio: New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures
Theatrical Release Date: October 21, 2022
Digital Media Release Date: November 22, 2022
Physical Media Release Date: January 3, 2023
Description: From New Line Cinema, Dwayne Johnson stars in the action adventure Black Adam. The first-ever feature film to explore the story of the DC Super Hero comes to the big screen under the direction of Jaume Collet-Serra.
In ancient Kahndaq, Teth Adam was bestowed the almighty powers of the gods. After using these powers for vengeance, he was imprisoned, becoming Black Adam. Nearly 5,000 years have passed and Black Adam has gone from man, to myth, to legend. Now released, his unique form of justice, born out of rage, is challenged by modern day heroes who form the Justice Society: Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone.
Johnson stars alongside Aldis Hodge as Hawkman, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone, Mo Amer, Bodhi Sabongui, and Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Fate. Collet-Serra directed from a screenplay written by Adam Sztykiel and Rory Haines & Sohrab Noshirvani, based on characters from DC, based on characters created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck. The film’s producers are Beau Flynn, Hiram Garcia, Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia, with Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Dave Neustadter, Chris Pan, Walter Hamada, Adam Schlagman, Geoff Johns, Eric McLeod and Scott Sheldon executive producing. The director’s behind-the-scenes creative team includes Oscar-nominated director of photography Lawrence Sher, production designer Tom Meyer, editors Mike Sale and John Lee, costume designers Kurt and Bart, Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer, and composer Lorne Balfe.
New Line Cinema Presents a Seven Bucks/Flynn Co. Production, A Jaume Collet-Serra Film, “Black Adam,” smashing into theaters and IMAX internationally beginning 19 October 2022, in North America on October 21, 2022. It will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.
By James Harvey
Packed with larger-than life characters and spectacular action beats, Black Adam lets Dwayne Johnson finally strut his stuff as one of DC Comics’ most powerful characters. Playing the title character, Johnson is undeniably captivating on the big screen as Teth Adam, constantly catching the eye thanks to his larger-than-life presence and personality. However, outside of giving Johnson his long-overdue superhero showcase, Black Adam doesn’t really have much to offer.
Black Adam beings in ancient Kahndaq, where Teth Adam is bestowed the almighty powers of the gods. But, after using these powers for vengeance, he was imprisoned, becoming Black Adam. Now, 5,000 years have passed and Black Adam has gone from man, to myth, to legend. Suddenly set free into an unfamiliar world to save it, Adam’s unique form of justice, born out of rage, will find itself challenged by today’s super heroes.
As usual, spoilers will be kept as light as possible.
To get right to it, Black Adam isn’t a bad movie, not at all. It actually ends up being a pretty good time, even though it struggles to reach and wrap up its final act. While there’s plenty here that works, with some moments that legitimately soar, the film’s predictable and under-developed story unfortunately ends up pulling Black Adam back down to Earth.
Black Adam leans hard into its comic book roots right from the get-go, for good and for ill, giving Johnson a perfect outlet for his larger-than-life persona. Seeing him as Adam duking it out with other DC Comics characters simply feels right. This movie is bursting with energy and doesn’t skimp on the flashy action, and Johnson looks right at home at the center of the film’s myriad of over-the-top battles. When it comes to the visuals and most of the characters, Black Adam feels slavishly ripped right from the source material in all the right ways.
Unfortunately, Black Adam falls short when it comes to its formulaic and paint-by-numbers plot. And so much is under-explained, or not even explained at all, that Black Adam occasionally feels like its missing its first two acts. Viewers familiar with the comics should catch on pretty quickly, but those new to the Black Adam and JSA mythos may feel a little confused or lost, and are expected to just roll with it.
It doesn’t help that there’s no real rhythm or pace to Black Adam. The story just listlessly moves from one scene to the next without any sense of urgency or importance. While there’s some excellently staged moments and intriguing reveals, they’re lacking that sorely needed oomph to make them stand tall alongside the film’s impressive fisticuffs. The directing by Jaume Collet-Serra is passable, though he seems mostly preoccupied with aping the visual stylings and cues established by director Zack Snyder’s recent DC Comics-based big-screen efforts. Black Adam nearly jumps off the screen when the capes and cowls come out, and they’re legitimately thrilling to watch (especially whenever Dr. Fate gets on the screen), but the air gets sucked out of the room pretty fast when the punching stops and talking starts.
With a couple exceptions, the script just doesn’t give this talented cast anything really meaty to bite into. The dialogue tends to be pretty stilted and lifeless, and jokes amateurish. For some members of the JSA, it feels like their respective stories have already been handled elsewhere in a different movie or comic book, and they’re just here for the requisite The Avengers-esque team-up. Getting the film’s lion share is Black Adam himself, of course, along with Dr. Fate and Hawkman. Other JSAers Cyclone and Atom Smasher are also along for the ride, but outside of a couple short moments, they really don’t have much here to do and, honestly, could be removed from the movie with little to no impact.
Black Adam is serviceable, but the story doesn’t really go beyond the bare essentials. Bizarrely, the movie doesn’t even really reference Shazam! or the Big Red Cheese himself, despite their tied origins and established roles as opposing enemies, not to mention the key role of The Wizard (played by Djimon Hounsou) in both films. It’s just whatever’s needed to move Black Adam from anti-hero to slightly-nicer-but-still anti-hero by the end credits and not really anything else, but it needed more. Stronger writing, better character work, a heftier script, and a thrilling big bad are sorely missed here. And yes, there is a massive, climactic battle with a mutual foe for Adam and the JSA to smack down, but that villain is so underdeveloped that it genuinely feels like the movie forgot about him.
Despite everything, when the movie works, it’s a lot of fun, and the cast is clearly enjoying every single moment. Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Fate is a revelation here, stealing every scene he’s in and playing a key part in some of the film’s most visually impressive moments. Hawkman is also a sight to behold. Aldis Hodge, who recently portrayed John Stewart in Green Lantern: Beware My Power, is excellent with the role and material given to him. It doesn’t hurt that he cuts a striking figure, especially when decked out in his armor. And, clearly, Johnson is perfectly cast as Black Adam , so much so that, yeah, he is Black Adam. Characters Cyclone and Atom Smasher get to shine once or twice, but the focus is clearly on the trifecta of Adam, Fate and Hawkman.
On the surface, Black Adam appears to hit all the right notes, but looking a little deeper it’s clear to see there’s not much there beyond the flash, and Black Adam needed more than just a bare-minimum origin story to truly stand-out in the crowded super hero market. What we get here is serviceable, though we do get a couple surprises (including a pretty big one that was immediately spoiled), but this movie is far from being the game-changer it purports itself to be. In the end, the story and writing just doesn’t deliver on the same level as the film’s solid cast and impressive set pieces.
Dwayne Johnson and most super hero fans will gobble up Black Adam, though some will definitely be disappointed by this flashy movie’s lack of sizable substance. Not the worst, not the best, Black Adam ends up clunky final product. The movie’s paper-thin plot and underdeveloped script ultimately ends up being a bit of a buzzkill, since it clearly deserved better, but the movie’s still entertaining enough. Johnson is a natural in the role, and his commanding presence makes it easy to overlook Black Adam‘s assorted shortcomings. Black Adam won’t appeal to all but, for the right audience, it’s another solid DC Comics cinematic exploit. Cautiously Recommended.