The overall DC cinematic universe seems to have gone wrong from the start. “Justice League”, which was supposed to be the answer to Warner Bros. on “Avengers”, turned out to be a failure in the eyes of society. And other parts of the DCEU did not shine at special heights. At the same time, individual films based on DC comics have been excellent lately, as evidenced by “Batman” with Robert Pattinson and “Joker” with Joaquin Phoenix. But film studios do not stop trying to develop the film universe to at least an acceptable level. “Black Adam” is the next such attempt. We tell you in the review below how successful it turned out.
“Black Adam” / Black Adam
Superhero action genre
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge, Sarah Shahi, Quintessa Swindell, Pierce Brosnan
Release year 2022
The story of the film tells about the named superhero Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson). 5,000 years before the immediate events of the story, he rebelled against tyranny in his kingdom of Kandak, for which a council of wizards granted him the power of the six gods. But she was imprisoned almost immediately, since Adam’s anger could harm peaceful people as well.
The hero was released from a kind of prison by archaeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sara Shahi), who simultaneously participates in the resistance movement in Kandak. After all, the country remained enslaved. But the appearance of Black Adam can significantly change the course of history. This is guessed by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who monitors metahumans around the world. It is she who sends the Justice League of America to deal with Adam before he has done anything wrong.
There were enough problems with the production of “Black Adam”, as established in the DCEU. Adam was originally supposed to appear in “Shazam” as the main antagonist, but the idea was abandoned. That’s why Shazam and Adama decided to separate them into their own solo films, in order to properly present everyone, and leave the confrontation of the characters for later.
At the same time, the project turned out to be extremely personal for the main actor Dwayne Johnson. He admitted that he has loved Black Adam since childhood. Therefore, while working on the film, he was also involved in the production and active promotion of the picture, and also tried to help with all elements of the film. Johnson is attracted to Adam by the character’s rebellious nature and his desire to always go forward, which is paralleled by a clear moral code.
After all, Black Adam is actually not a superhero, but an anti-hero. He is mad at world justice, he does not seek to save everyone in the world. And he is ready to destroy enemies in the most terrible and cruel ways. His anger also regularly harms ordinary people, whom Adam is supposedly trying to protect.
The entire film is built on the character’s ambiguous nature. Moreover, the authors do not try to romanticize his nature, as is often the case with anti-heroes. For example, the same Venom or Red Cap formed a strong enough sympathy around them. “Black Adam” is built in such a way that you won’t be able to love the hero with all your heart until the very end.
Yes, Adam destroys enemies in such colorful and brutal methods that the film practically enters the territory of gore-fetishes. However, the rating of the film is still PG-13, so do not expect special revelations. But every action-packed moment in which the titular anti-hero incinerates everyone with lightning bolts and rips off limbs from soldiers is punctuated by a demonstration of the consequences of such uncontrollable power.
The presence of the Justice League of America in the film works for this development of the mood of the story. At the stage of advertising, it seemed that it would only get in the way. And its introduction into the plot looked like a strained connection to the DC equestrian universe. However, the Union actually provides an interesting contrast to Black Adam, developing the main ideas of the film.
For the first third of the running time, it seems that the Union are narcissistic egoists who ignore the problems of ordinary people outside the US and resemble bureaucrats from the world of superheroes. Adam in their background, who does not waste time on words, but immediately acts, looks like a real fighter for justice. But the further the film goes, the less attractive Black Adam begins to seem. And all the more sense appears in the actions of the representatives of the Union, and they themselves begin to look more human than the uncontrolled “protector” with the powers of the gods.
At the same time, another interesting topic of the film is revealed. After all, it unfolds in the remote and rather closed state of Kandaku, the problems of which the world’s superheroes are in no hurry to deal with. The country is occupied by foreign mercenaries, people live in fear. And the emergence of an undeniable, colossal force instead of empty promises is a real path to salvation for the locals. That is, “Black Adam” also raises the issue of the absence of almighty good even in the world of superheroes, in which someone will still be forced to suffer and endure.
It is unlikely that the authors wanted this, but when watching it, you can see a lot of parallels with the war in Ukraine. Condemnation of terror instead of real actions, occupation and suppression of national identity, ignoring the problems of the entire country for the sake of illusory world peace, uniting the nation for the sake of freedom – all these themes are present in “Black Adam”, and enough time was devoted to their discussion. You don’t expect such dark allusions to reality from a film comic, but the film is all the more valuable as a work of art.
It is additionally interesting that until the very end of the film, there is no extremely evil powerful force, as it is established in the stories based on the comics. Adam and the Union fight against ordinary people. Action-wise, this creates a lot of vivid scenes, and on a script level, “Black Adam” seems to proclaim that the main evil potentially lurks in the heart of Adam himself.
Unfortunately, such ambiguity is destroyed in the last quarter of the film. Before that, “Black Adam” had every chance to become a new word in superheroics, which instead of classic epic battles at the end would offer the sad absurdity of what is happening. But at the end, an objectively “evil, cunning villain” still appears – and at this moment, the movie returns to the tracks of standard superheroics without revelations. Which is not entirely bad, given the well-implemented ideas in the main part of the script, but such a change of vector still hurts the innovation of the story.
But the final battle turned out to be extremely bright, that cannot be taken away. “Black Adam” in general looks cool from the point of view of special effects. They are not just perfectly executed here, but also regularly please from an artistic and creative point of view. Especially when Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan) appears on the screen, every spell of which is pure aesthetic pleasure.
The film does not descend into gloom, as DC does. There are enough genuinely funny moments in it, which at the same time are competently staged and do not turn into an outright cringe. Movies and especially Marvel series are often guilty of the latter. The humor in “Black Adam” is built on the inexperience of the characters, who found themselves in unusual circumstances, and from different angles.
And every character in the film seems important and necessary, even if their role in the key events is not that big. Due to this, local history is woven into a strong rope, which may well become a new support for the extremely shaky DC film universe. The importance of the film for the DCEU is hinted at by the scene after the credits, in which one old and long-awaited acquaintance will appear. So the main confrontations are still ahead.
Pros: quality production, interesting ideas for superheroics, good acting, appropriate humor Cons: the last quarter trades the film’s innovation for standard superheroics Conclusion:
Dwayne Johnson talked about “Black Adam” as if it were a new word in superhero cinema. And in the film they almost succeeded, but the ending was a bit disappointing. However, even without that, Black Adam is a great piece of work and one of the best comic books in the DCEU