Property Review: Black Adam

Black Adam
Warner Bros. Pictures, 2022

The Rock rolls as antihero

There is nothing more impactful in comics than the “waking the sleeping giant and now you’ve made him mad” trope. Each company has something like this in its repertoire, and for DC, it came in the form of Black Adam.

Set in the present day, Black Adam tells the story of Teth-Adam, a man born in ancient times that loses his family and becomes the titular antihero. Adam rose among his people to stop injustice and cruelty with the same gods who empowered the superhero Shazam but soon found himself just as cruel and brutal as the tyrant he fought against in his grief. Imprisoned for humanity’s own good, Adam is awakened by descendants of revolutionaries seeking to liberate his now-modern home from oppression and tyranny.

The modern-day elements of the story are your average run-of-the-mill points. Adam, once awakened, destroys a lot of things and interacts with a young boy who knows the legend of the antihero. But where it shines is its cast. Say what you will about Dwayne Johnson’s meteoric rise in the film industry, but the man has passion. And that shows in Adam. Johnson’s physical strength and charm keep the character interesting and give a much-needed dose of empathy. You can understand and sympathize with why Adam might be just a tad bit angry upon awakening, and you can understand his grief at what his home has become in the modern day. It’s just something about how Johnson cuts an imposing but ultimately warm figure in the virtual god that makes you root for him despite the menagerie.

Of special note are the supporting heroes that oppose Adam’s roaring rampage of revenge. Aldis Hodge as Hawkman and Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate are fantastic. Hawkman’s by-the-book attitude makes things a little predictable, but you can’t knock the fact that Hawkman just wants to stop the foolishness while Adam seems to revel in it. Their multiple fights are something fun to behold, and Hodge more than shows up to do his part in making it fun. Brosnan’s elder statesman role is perfection. We’re already biased because it’s Brosnan and he’s great in just about everything he’s in, but he takes Doctor Fate to an incredible level and brings a nice touch of humanity to the role. Also, understanding just how powerful Doctor Fate is takes a delicate approach because you don’t want him to outshine the lead in Adam; Brosnan has the chops to do it and it works perfectly.

Rounding out the support roles, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher and Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone are equally fantastic. Their humor and young naivete bring a lightness to things when there’s a lot of “Adam is mad and killing” to go around. Sarah Shahi, who we know from the original L Word on Showtime, is serviceable and does a good job of being a frantic mom who’s smart. She does the work and that’s what you expect from her character, nothing more. Marwan Kenzari is a good villain and provides a good bad guy for Adam to terrorize. Bodhi Sabongui is cute as Amon and makes the “modernizing the ancient guy” elements work when he’s in play.

Having invested in the character and this film, we’re not sure where the criticism of the film came from. It’s a good superhero origin story with beautiful special effects and good acting. All involved provided a fun ride for a good character who is well-known in the comic world. It’s a shame that it came to a grinding halt with the changeover in DC’s management. Maybe one day there will be a return on the investment with Johnson in the titular role again. Black Adam — while not making it in the black at the box office — didn’t leave a black mark on the DCEU’s record despite critical reviews.

Like the comics: 8
Acting: 8
Story: 6

Total score: 22/30 or 7.3

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

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