Dwayne Johnson has been tied to the role of Teth Adam for fifteen years at this point. First discussed in 2007, The People’s Champ finally confirmed his casting in September 2014. He promised the film would stay true to the character, shake things up, and make fans happy by bringing the antihero to life. Fast forward another eight years, and DC’s Black Adam has finally dropped in theaters.
I don’t know what others have been saying, but for me, Johnson lives up to his promise. Black Adam is violent, kind of a jerk, and definitely not a hero. In fact, you almost don’t want to fully root for him. I got way too excited to see Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller at one point during the movie because that means this crazy guy was about to be locked up (hopefully) for good. And that’s not the only different thing you notice in this film.
Black Adam, while not overly bloody, is far more violent than most recent superhero flicks. I know what you’re thinking, but in this instance, that’s not a bad thing: Black Adam is not a hero, and he is not afraid to kill people. It works for this character. It fits his persona, and the filmmakers really lean into it. The scene where we meet Adam is just fifteen or so minutes of him absolutely slaughtering everyone on the screen. I found myself saying “OOF!” quite a few times and cringing away from the screen at how some of the poor bad guys bit the dust. I commend Johnson and crew for sticking to that, and Warner Bros. for allowing them to do it. It really makes you understand that this guy is not your average hero like Superman, Flash, or Shazam, and why the Justice Society of America wants to take him down.
This is the first time the Justice Society has been introduced in a DC film, and it’s really cool to see them on the big screen for the first time. This is Adam’s story, so we don’t learn much about the JSA members. We get brief introductions with basic info, similar to how the characters were introduced at the beginning of Suicide Squad (2016). The JSA includes Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge, Straight Outta Compton), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan, Goldeneye), and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell, Euphoria). As far as characters go, Hodge’s Hawkman is the most prominent, as he and Black Adam are constantly fighting and one-upping each other. Still, for me, he wasn’t the strongest casting. I didn’t mind the character as a whole, but Aldis just doesn’t fit right to me, and his acting is a bit off sometimes. I really liked Swindell and Centineo in their roles. Their characters are relatively new to the JSA and trying to find their footing, especially Centineo’s Atom Smasher, who’s a bit bumbling and klutzy. The standout for me was Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate. This is perfect casting; he absolutely nails the role and steals the JSA show. I really hope we get to see more of him in future DC movies. It would be a waste not to bring him back.
The supporting characters include Isis (Sarah Shahi, Sex/Life), Amon (Bodhi Sabongui, The Baby-Sitter’s Club ), and Mohammed Amer, a comedian basically playing himself. All three are pretty prominent supporting roles, but not characters that really stuck with me after the film ended. Amon is the kid “sidekick,” as it were, helping Adam re-assimilate into a modern world. Isis, his mother, is a rebel trying to keep her people free. They’re all fine actors, and they play their roles well. Dwayne Johnson really leans into Black Adam’s character; this may be his best role so far. You can tell he’s having the time of his life getting to be the bad guy for once, and it really shows. I have no complaints about his performance at all.
Besides the big bad at the end, the CGI in the film is, overall, really good, save for little things here and there that look a bit cheesy, but it’s not something that takes you out of the film. However, the CGI on the main villain at the end of the movie is a bit much. They really over-compensated with that one. The music in the film is good; they combined a bit of Egyptian music into the composition (similar to 1999’s The Mummy), which I think was a nice touch. It’s also borderline villain-theme-sounding, so kudos to the composer, Lorne Balfe, for making sure we remember that Adam is not a hero.
As far as plots go, Black Adam is engaging and entertaining, but for me, the end villain comes out of nowhere and feels a little out of place. But the film wraps up nicely and gives an opening for more, and it will be fun to see where they go from here.
Overall, Black Adam is a fun antihero movie that’s different enough from the cookie-cutter superhero films we’ve gotten without completely ruining the character. I really enjoyed it, as I think many of you will too. It’s a good start to a new era of DC movies, and I, for one, am pumped to see Johnson’s Adam collide with Zachary Levi’s Shazam in the future. Oh, and if you tear up a little at that mid-credit scene? No judgments here; I did too.
Black Adam is in theaters now.