“Black Adam” is a regressive superhero misfire 

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In the last decade, Dwayne Johnson has quickly become one of the most bankable actors in Hollywood. Whether it be in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, the “Jumanji” films or star vehicles such as the recent Netflix original “Red Notice,” Johnson nearly guarantees a film a certain level of success in the current blockbuster landscape. 

Johnson’s tendency to play very similar leading characters in his recent films has left some audiences bored with his current position. Each character he plays always seems to be specifically written for him, where he is essentially playing himself. “Black Adam” is no different and may be one of his least interesting roles to date. 

“Black Adam” is a film that has been in development for nearly 15 years, with talks of Johnson’s involvement dating all the way back to 2007. The film is a part of the DC cinematic universe, which, in the last few years, has been a mess to say the least. 

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After such a long period of fans awaiting the film’s release, the expectations were at an all time high. The film finally got to theaters on October 21.

The most obvious thing about “Black Adam” is that it has been through many different hands and mutations, which have resulted in an extremely messy superhero film. It feels like something that would have been released a decade ago and not in a good way. 

The story is disjointed and held together with gum and duct tape. The characters are weak and underdeveloped, and the core thesis of the film, in that Black Adam is an “anti-hero,” is laughably executed. 

The largest misstep the film takes is that it serves as a vanity project for Johnson before all else. It is always in service of making Johnson look as good and be as likable as possible. This results in the character of Black Adam feeling hollow, never feeling like his own character outside of Johnson.

The focus on Johnson ends up negatively affecting the supporting characters as well. Black Adam’s main character trait is that he kills people, while other superheroes do not. But he only ever kills faceless generic bad guys that are never portrayed as human or even remotely complex. The film is constantly reminding the audience how these people are bad and that it’s okay, or sometimes even funny, that they’re being killed.

The “Justice Society,” the team of superheroes, are the cut and dry good guys of the movie. These heroes all make up the supporting cast, mostly made up of lesser-known heroes from DC comics. Their whole purpose in the film is to stop Black Adam from killing and to neutralize him.

The plot only gets sloppier and more convoluted as it continues, attempting to pit Black Adam and the Justice Society against each other, while simultaneously making them team up against a bigger bad. 

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I never once bought this anti-hero character trait because the film never dared to make Johnson seem bad or unlikable; he simply starts as the strongest coolest guy ever and stays there. The film attempts to fabricate a character arc for him, by shoving him into a corner for 15 minutes, then simply reviving him back to save the day once again.

It’s clear that Johnson’s main intent with the film was to portray himself as the most powerful and cool hero in the film, and everything else was secondary. All the other heroes are so underwritten that almost every piece of dialogue from them feels like something thought of on the spot and scribbled down in a first draft. 

This writing is possibly at its worst when the hero “Atom Smasher” is present, played by Noah Centineo in one of the most excruciating performances of the year. The character is an attempt at comic relief but only serves to continuously bring the film to a grinding halt and spout nonsensical jokes that fall completely flat. 

The rest of the supporting cast is equally as boring, with characters like “Hawkman” and “Dr. Fate,” a duo whose exposition is simply that they have known each other for a “long time.” They are all mostly composed of their various quips and quirks rather than any real storytelling. 

This is worsened by the fact that most of the film’s two-hour runtime is largely populated by what feels like a mashup of disconnected fight scene highlights, rather than anything motivated by the plot. 

These fight sequences are ugly and boring. With the film’s editing putting the fights in and out of slow motion every few seconds, to the point of being genuinely infuriating. The action choreography is sloppy as well, usually being hardly visible due to the muddy CGI that populates nearly every frame of the film. The film’s color palette is equally disgusting, simply opting for an aesthetic that basically just invokes dirt. 

For all these reasons and more “Black Adam” is easily one of the worst films of the year and suffers from a disjointed production that seems to have been completely overtaken by its leading man. While it seems to have pleased some diehard fans, it’s a superhero film of a bygone era and has no place in the already overstuffed slate of far superior comic book content. 

Rating: 2/10

Staff reporter Zaden Dennis can be reached at [email protected] and you can find his other reviews at letterboxd.com/Zadenator.

 

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Tags: Black Adam, review, 2022, Dwayne Johnson, DC, DCEU, superhero movie, entertainment, Daily Egyptian, Zaden Dennis

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