Black Adam Review: The Man in Black Brings Back the DCEU

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been working on bringing to life a movie focused on Khandaq's favorite son for nearly 15 years, and with Black Adam introducing both the Justice Society as well as new facets of the DC Cinematic Universe to the silver screen, does Johnson's effort produce what many consider to be the return of the DC Cinematic Universe? Luckily, the answer to this question is "yes," but not without a few bumps along the way. 

Black Adam follows the story of Teth Adam, a warrior of the country Khandaq who was "blessed" with the same powers as Shazam but used them to stop his enemies permanently. Locked in a state of sleep for thousands of years, Adam wakes up to a very different, modern world and is faced with challenges in the forms of a premiere DC superteam, The Justice Society, and other threats to his nation. 

Johnson, as an actor, is amazingly charismatic and despite playing a being that has been locked away by wizards' spells for thousands of years, the actor has a fantastic grip on not only what sets Black Adam apart from many of his fellow superheroes, but also, the inner turmoil of Teth Adam. Black Adam, as has been made apparent in the lead-up to his first titular feature-length film, is neither a hero nor villain, having no issue with atomizing enemies using his magical electricity but ultimately working to better the lives of his fellow countrymen. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done in the past, setting a standard for many other superhero projects including those that arrive from the DCEU, Adam isn't shy about dropping some zingers as he blasts his way through members of Intergang, a notorious organization that has taken over his country during his long sleep. What works with this approach is that the one-liners feel appropriate for Johnson's character learning more about the world around him. The jokes don't lessen Teth Adam, rather they work within his character.

While the film might have dodged an R rating by pulling back on some of the violence, there's enough here to show how Black Adam's approach differs from the likes of Superman and Batman, having no issue with throwing enemy combatants through helicopters in slow-motion sequences that might put Zack Snyder's previous works to shame. In a movie that is heavily reliant on action beats, Black Adam does deliver when it comes to giving viewers scenes that we haven't seen before in standard superhero fare. When Teth Adam goes head-to-head with the Justice Society, those are definitely some of the best moments of the film, action or otherwise. 

Speaking of the Justice Society, the quartet of heroes from DC Comics' catalog is played quite well by their individual actors. Pierce Brosnan gives an aloof, albeit omnipresent, take on the servant of order, Dr. Fate, while Aldis Hodge's Hawkman might steal the show in terms of his brutality, code of ethics, and spectacular wingspan as Carter Hall. The two new recruits, Atom Smasher, played by Noah Centineo, and Cyclone, played by Quintessa Swindell, add a bit of levity when it comes to bringing the fight to Black Adam and, while they could have used a bit more to work with here, they shine with the time they are given. While the origin stories of the JSA aren't laid out in full during Black Adam's run time, we are given more than enough to root for them, whether they're fighting against the savior of Khandaq or the mystery villain that is waiting in the wings.

Despite these strengths, we have to get into some of the flaws that were ever-present along the way. Clocking in at a little over two hours, Black Adam flies through exposition and backstory faster than Teth soaring his way through a missile barrage. At the very start of the film, the entirety of Teth Adam's history is supplied in a fast exposition dump that not only lays out the dark version of Shazam's backstory but the current state of affairs for his country to boot. Black Adam feels like the equivalent of an entry in the Fast And Furious franchise, where the action is there, and the characters have the right amount of chemistry, but it could have benefited from taking a breather and letting events and/or character interactions sit for a spell.

Black Adam does unfortunately also fall into the same pitfall as the Marvel Cinematic Universe when it comes to its "villain problem," as there is a nefarious force that appears toward the end of the movie that doesn't feel much like a character, but more like a challenge that our heroes must overcome that stretches the special effects budget for good measure. Black Adam and the Justice Society shoulder a great deal when it comes to the movie's run time and when they're on the screen, the film clicks, but when they're not, the problems that lie in the script become that much more apparent. 

Is Black Adam the movie that will singlehandedly bring back the DC Cinematic Universe to stand toe to toe with what Marvel has built? No, but it's certainly laying the groundwork for this to be a possibility down the line. Black Adam is a fun, frenzied, and flawed film that answers the prayers of many while also giving viewers an action-packed thrill ride with plenty of charisma from its key players. (I would also be doing the movie a disservice if I didn't mention the amazing "pop" my screening received during the post-credit scene, which might just rival Captain America picking up Thor's hammer for the biggest reaction ever heard in a theater.) It's a roller coaster ride and, if you walk in with that mindset, you're going to have a good time. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Black Adam is set to be released exclusively in theaters on October 21st.  

(Photo: Warner Bros. Discovery)