‘Black Adam’ is about as memorable as The Rock’s hair is long

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Jackson Piercy
Staff Writer

Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson) strutting about. Photo courtesy of imdb.com.

As cynical as I have recently been with the superhero genre at large, I will admit that DC is making more strides in its recent history than stumbles. For that, as much as they’ve stumbled in the past, I have no choice but to applaud them. Is this a stride or a stumble? At this point, this is a film that will find its niche later down the line than most. 

I appreciate efforts at worldbuilding, as long as it doesn’t detract from the individual picture’s spectacle. With a bonafide star like Dwayne Johnson (should I still call him the Rock?) at the helm, we are bound for a good time. If “Top Gun: Maverick” showed us anything, it’s that the age of the movie star hasn’t entirely passed us, even if we aren’t exactly in its heyday.

The nation of Khandaq, so ancient that it has even outlasted Mesopotamia, has found itself once again in the sights of outside imperial forces. Freedom fighter Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) and her son Amon (Bhodi Sabingui) have found a way to smash through the arms of imperialism once and for all. Deep within a tomb in the desert, Adrianna unleashes the long-dormant champion of Khandaq, Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson). Having all the power of your typical Superman-type, though Adam doesn’t share the sensibilities of the Justice Society of America — Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) — and the Society decides to intervene on Adam’s less-than-typical heroic activity. Outside of the superhero shenanigans, Khandaq not only has a champion return but also an ancient enemy in King Ahk-Ton (Marwan Kenzari). To fight the king, the Society and Adam must put aside their differences to defeat a common enemy, but the question remains — can they coexist?

I feel like “Black Adam” is much more ambitious than the regalia of this film may let on. Sure, we have ourselves a silly Dwayne Johnson skinsuit lightning adventure, but seemingly bubbling under the surface is a subplot about how countries will only intervene in the name of freedom when it aligns with their interests, and leave well enough alone when they don’t feel like they need to be there. On the face of it, I think it is an interesting enough plot to drive an entire movie, but unfortunately, this plot is discarded about halfway through the film. 

I appreciate the effort to make a statement on international relations, but when your star is the kind to bodyslam bad guys — not a bad solution to imperialism — there’s a tendency to lose a chunk of your nuance. In that, everyone outside of the main superhero cast really becomes bullhorns to a plot that goes to the wayside to eventually become stereotyped toward the end of the movie where they punch the CGI evil guy until he explodes or whatever. There’s a film that really wants to make those statements that they hold in high regard, and a movie that is about throwing mercenaries into the sun that are fighting for screen time. In a fight like this, there aren’t really any winners. It’s a shame, because I enjoy the action and think a bit more than I expected of a film that doesn’t ask much of the audience outside of those moments.

It’s unfortunate to find movies like these that are trying to do too much, but I think it is better to make an effort than none at all. I won’t say it detracts from the product as a whole, but I will advise that you to at the very least keep the lights on instead of turning the brain completely off for this picture. If you’re seeing it for The Rock, however, you will certainly not be disappointed!

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