“Black Adam” Review

MeJo Liao

“Black Adam,” though high in potential, turns out to be an uninspiring film that attempts to address societal issues but instead ends up being a whirlwind of cheesy lines, spandex-waving, laughable CGI and predictable plot twists (assuming you could understand the plot to begin with).

“Black Adam” begins in 1600 B.C.E. when the people of Kahndaq are forced to mine for eternium under King Ahk-Ton, who plans to forge a crown powered by six demons (totally from Lord of the Rings). One young boy starts a rebellion and is about to be executed when wizards infuse him with powers, turning him into the indestructible Teth Adam who defeats King Ahk-Ton. In modern-day Kahndaq, the country is still oppressed- this time by the Intergang. Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) and her colleagues Karim (Mohammed Amer) and Ishmael (Marwan Kenzari) travel into a mountain in search of the long-lost crown, accidentally resurrecting Teth Adam in the process. Her son, Amon Tomaz (Bodhi Sabongui) is determined to turn Teth Adam into a modern hero, while a Justice Society comprised of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) attacks Teth Adam under the belief that he was disturbing world peace.

It is hard not to compare the storyline to the daydreams of a sixth-grade superhero fanatic, both in lack of originality and plot discrepancies. Dr. Fate, whose helmet allows him to see the future and manipulate universes, is suspiciously similar to Doctor Strange, Hawkman resembles Marvel’s winged (and much more entertaining) Falcon and Atom Smasher (sarcastic humor and everything) can easily be seen as the DC version of an Ant-Man that can only grow taller. Teth Adam resembles an antihero version of Superman, even sporting his own spandex suit and krypton (in the form of eternium). Director Jaume Collet-Serra, however, does not utilize this weakness often and Teth Adam’s invincibility makes many of his battle scenes predictable. Cyclone, who can shift air into deadly green tornadoes, seems to be the only original character with potential. Disappointingly, her battle scenes consist of only slow-motion shots, providing DC a chance to flaunt their error-ridden CGI. Given that she is the only one of two female roles in the film, it is discouraging to see her only used in the “look-pretty” scenes. Many of these characters also seem two-dimensional due to their lack of backstory, so there was little to no emotional connection between the characters on screen and the audience.

The plot of the film was no better. The Justice Society’s (ripoff Justice League) reason for attacking Teth Adam was unclear and added to the overall confusion in the story. The Society represents a patriarchal western mindset, and the film attempts to comment on its ignorance of everyday people’s suffering. Potential discussion of these issues is quickly brushed aside in a few lines, replaced instead by intricate battle scenes that, although impressive, lacked sentimental stakes and soon became monotonous.

Despite all its flaws, I would be remiss not to mention Dwayne Johnson’s spectacular performance. His deadpan humor and portrayal of Teth Adam were perfect for the film. Pierce Brosnan acted brilliantly as Dr. Fate, expertly offering audiences a loveable character of many emotional complexities sprinkled with wry humor. Johnson and Brosnan’s performances, however, starkly contrast with the distractingly flat acting of their costars. The script did not help, from Anon’s overdone attempts to give Teth Adam a catchphrase, to Teth Adam’s cringeworthy sayings, like “I kneel to no one.”

Ultimately, in “Black Adam,” DC attempts to swallow too much, coming out with a film containing too many loose ends and no emotional value.