Director Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodgem, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan, Mohammad Amer, Viola Davis

Black Adam does a good job doing what superhero films are meant to do: it gives us a hero who is not as interested in saving all the lives onscreen. In fact, he’s quite comfortable with killing. Of course the only people he ever kills are the ones that need to die.

The story begins 5000 years ago in fictional Kahndaq where a tyrant has enslaved the population to look for a substance to make a MacGuffin that does the thing that makes bad guys powerful. He gets it, but not before he is countered by a hero who takes the tyrant down in a fight that takes both out of the picture.

Enter present day, Professor Adrianna Tomaz (Shahi), who is searching for the MacGuffin with some contemporaries, including her brother (Amer). They find it, but are immediately overcome by bad guys. Tomaz brings Black Adam (Johnson) to life and he immediately starts destroying the troops going after Tomaz.

Amanda Waller (Davis) discovers Adam is awakened and immediately sends the Justice Society to subdue and secure him. This incarnation of the Justice Society includes Hawkman, Atom Smasher, Cyclone and Dr. Fate (Hodge, Centineo, Swindell and Brosnan). If you went based on who they correspond with in the MCU, you might think of them as Falcon, Ant-Man, Storm and Dr. Strange. It’s not altogether fair to compare the two universes, because some, like Dr. Fate, existed before the Marvel contemporary.

Suffice to say, the similarities end at abilities. Brosnan is a surprisingly light touch in the role of the DC Wizard. That leaves Hodge’s Hawkman to be the hard ass, who continually goes up against our anti-hero for one reason or another.

The film dabbles in comedy, where Black Adam grapples with concepts like sarcasm and keeping some foes alive for questioning. There are darker elements, for sure, as the foe is a literal demon and the titular character’s lack of emotional investment in being known as nice and fair. Awkwardly wedged into the story is what I call the “Little Jimmy” effect of having some kid of no particular skill set being touted as a hero for simply inspiring a few citizens to pick up sticks.

The special effects can be overwhelming. In fact, much of the film administers so much damage to Kahndaq that it is a wonder any buildings are standing by the end. The lead antagonist looks comically bad, much in the tradition of many of the DC baddies they are more computer animation than actual person. The last act is another version of king of the mountain. The antagonist gets what they want and just waits on top of something (this time a throne) for their plan to be undone.

At least there is a moment in the third act where it looks like this may not be the case.

The result of Black Adam, having been in the process of production for Johnson since 2006, is the actor fitting well within the role he’s been given. He’s got enough subtle acting skill to take a seemingly humorless bad guy and turn him into something kids can root for while giving the adults a hero who doesn’t mind killing the bad guy. What this or the mid-credits scene does for the DCEU started by Zack Snyder is unclear. For now, you have a decent, entertaining DC film which is not terribly different than the rest of them.

(*** out of *****)

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