The thirteenth installment in the reliably unreliable DC Extended Universe, Black Adam features moments of imagination and high-energy thrills, but fails to capture a needed sense of urgency and astonishment to justify its gigantic ego.
Not that I, or any film critic, would know anything about having a gigantic ego.
Almost five thousand years ago, Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson, he/him) was enslaved by a greedy, merciless king in the Asian country of Kahndaq. Endlessly long backstory short, Teth-Adam was killed following a rebellion and, today, he’s been reborn with the powers of a god.
Modern Kahndaq has been overtaken by organized crime and the people are in dire need of a hero. But Adam has become a jaded, renegade killer in the name of justice following his tragic past, and he struggles with his own potential to be that hero against the more traditionally heroic Justice Society — including Hawkman (Aldis Hodge, he/him), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan, he/him), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell, they/them), and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo, he/him) — in the face of a new threat with immeasurable power.
Is anyone else growing a bit tired of giving the DCEU the benefit of the doubt? I still regard this franchise as one that’s sort of figuring itself out and circling around its development stage…
…But it’s been nine years! And, again, we’re thirteen movies in!
The thirteenth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was Captain America: Civil War. This tickles me because, by that point, the MCU felt so lived-in and tangible and the characters were so well-established with relationships that had such a palpable history behind them.
Black Adam attempts the emotional heights of Civil War, but doesn’t earn these attempts with a solid enough definition of the relationships at the heart of this story. In one scene, a main character sacrifices themself after tearfully telling another character “Goodbye, old friend.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. I had observed this relationship over the span of one wild afternoon. Not a lifetime.
Or, I dunno, twelve movies!? I digress.
We’ve seen worse in this franchise, though; I definitely enjoyed this movie better, at least, than the massively overrated Shazam. We’ve seen so much better in other franchises. And since the DCEU has taken so much from the MCU’s model, they’ve invited that comparison… and it continues to be their downfall.