*sigh* How can DC/Warner Brothers can find a bunch of attractive, talented, charismatic people, and make a movie that is so aggressively mediocre? Black Adam is a HUGE missed opportunity, one that Warner keeps making over and over again.
Thousands of years ago, the kingdom of Kahndaq (a stand-in for Egypt) was ruled by an oppressor, and their champion, Teth-Adam, defeated him. But not before the Crown of Sabbac was created to unleash demons from the underworld. The Crown serves as the Maguffin to be pursued.
Modern day Kahndaq is occupied by Intergang, which in most DC projects is an organized crime syndicate supplied with alien tech. Here it stands as a generic occupying force. Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) is an archaeologist who wants to find the Crown to keep it out of Intergang’s hands. Her son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui) and brother Karim (Mohammed Amer) get involved as well, with Marwan Kenzari’s Ishmael alongside them as the pretty obvious villain.
Tomaz finds the crown, and comes under attack. As a last resort, she reads an inscription on the ground where the crown was, and summons Teth-Adam, who kills a whole bunch of Intergang soldiers. This prompts Amanda Waller to summon the Justice Society to come in and try to capture him. Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom-Smasher (Noah Centineo) do their best, but of course are no match.
The missed opportunities in the movie start with the political aspect. Kahndaq’s people view the Justice Society as useless to them, because for all their talk of due process and “protecting global stability”, their version of the peace they want to restore in Kahndaq leaves Intergang in charge. Marvel missed the boat on commenting on similar issues with Age of Ultron and Civil War. Sokovia was nearly destroyed (and the whole world!) because of the Avengers, who may or may not have stayed to help (it was implied they didn’t really). Cap’s objections to the Sokovia Accords centered around being able to go help situations like Kahndaq’s. Black Adam could’ve outdone them here, but instead we get the usual first they fight, then they work together schtick with the heroes and villain/anti-hero.
Another miss that bugged me is how much they changed Black Adam’s story to push him away from Shazam. I would understand it, if the Shazam movie hadn’t already come out. Waller somehow knows everything there is to know about Adam out of the gate, so I assume she knows about Shazam too. Not one mention? No “this isn’t the first time I’ve seen these powers”? Ugh.
ALSO, why was Superman chummy enough with Waller that he’d go confront Adam at her request? He would HATE everything that she stands for, especially considering that the Suicide Squad in the DC movie universe was created to defeat him. His cameo (sorry if you are spoiled after this many weeks) would’ve made more sense without Waller sending him, Clark would obviously be curious about another being in his power range.
More than any of these, the biggest disappointment for me was Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam. Maybe it was Jaume Collet-Serra’s direction, or the script, but every line delivered by Adam felt like it was meant only as a one-liner, a soundbite. Maybe that’s true to the character. Doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for a movie that’s an origin story. There’s more energy from pretty much every other actor in the picture. Why do you hire The Rock to have him glower for 2 hours straight?
Okay, enough negativity. The rest of the heroic cast was great! I only know Hawkman from the Legends of Tomorrow version, so Aldis Hodge (yay Leverage!) was a bright spot. I wanted to see more Hawkman/Doctor Fate interplay, more awkward Atom-Smasher/Cyclone interactions. Heck, I want to know how long Doctor Fate, in various forms, has been around in this universe. Same for Hawkman. There’s a lot of intrigue that was glossed over.
Who knows whether or not any of it will be explored, though. With new bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran in charge of DC Studios, and WB Discovery doing…whatever it is they are doing, the future of DC comics in movies is murky at best. I feel like Gunn in particular understands what comic book movies can be, but we have to wait and see what projects continue on.
All told, Black Adam was an unremarkable but decent comic book movie. If you made it in the middle of a 15 picture run of genuinely good movies, it would be forgivable. Like how most Marvel fans shrug their shoulders at Thor: The Dark World. But with WB unable to put a solid string of more than two decent comic movies together, it makes it hard to get excited for anything happening in the future.