Whenever a new superhero movie debuts in the cinemas, there is a debate that infects the reaction to the movie. When a Marvel movie is released, a lot of the discourse is focused on the formulaic nature of the plot and the mistreatment of the VFX department.
However, when a DC movie is released either it’s a bunch of deranged Zack Snyder cultists trying to bomb the movie simply because it’s not directed by their proclaimed messiah, or claims that DC is copying Marvel. For example, Doctor Fate debuted 17 years before Doctor Strange, whilst Hawkman debuted 29 years before Falcon, yet Marvel fans instantly assume that Marvel is the original.
All of these disputes disregard the nature of superheroes. They’re supposed to be fun and escapist, even if they are uber-capitalist dead horses that Warner Brothers and Disney can beat all they want.
On that note, Black Adam is a perfectly acceptable for a movie about the character Black Adam. It was never going to be something truly thought provoking like Inception or Dr. Strangelove. Black Adam at his core is a more violent version of Shazam. Adam has relatively few comic book appearances throughout the 80 year history of the original Captain Marvel, and he has remained consistent in his characterisation.
My personal favourite appearance of Black Adam was in the 2013 event, Forever Evil, in which the villains of the DC universe have to band together to fight a bigger threat whilst the Justice League is incapacitated. In this story, Adam is forced into the role of anti-hero, and is a perfect encapsulation of his personality and flaws.
In this movie, Dwayne Johnson seems to understand exactly what Black Adam is and plays him fairly accurately to the comic books, however it is still impossible to separate the character from ‘The Rock’. For all I know, The Rock could actually fly and shoot lightning, he just doesn’t do it because it would scare people. However, he does look spectacular in his costume – one moment which feels like it was ripped straight from a comic book cover had me squealing.
The performances of Pierce Brosnan and Aldis Hodge are the highlights of the movie. Their Dr Fate and Hawkman have a very believable rapport of weary veteran superheroes. Pierce Brosnan absolutely kills it as the Agent of Fate, bringing a sort of addictive relationship between Kent Nelson and the Helmet of Nabu. Aldis Hodge understands the violent yet heroic nature of Hawkman, and acts as a very good moral foil to Johnson’s Black Adam. The performances of both Noah Centineo and Quintessa Swindell are satisfactory, but due to lack of screen time they weren’t given much of a chance to develop as characters.
Bodhi Sabongui gave probably the worst performance of the movie, simply because some of his lines were very obviously added during post-production, giving his character a very wooden quality. His character is also just very annoying, but he’s clearly the self-insert character for the kids watching the movie, so it’s forgivable.
The main problem with this movie is the writing. It seems that the writers only had a surface level knowledge of the Justice Society. They didn’t really take advantage of the fact that one of Hawkman’s abilities is reincarnation, which would have given the conflict between Hawkman and Adam more depth.
There are many more inaccuracies to the comic books that fans of the source material would raise an eyebrow to. However, fans will be rewarded with the post-credits scene so it’s worth sticking around for that. Besides this, the plot is very choppy but simple, and some of the dialogue is cringeworthy, but nothing in this movie is outright horrendous, just very average at worst.
In summary, Black Adam is a much better movie than most of what Marvel has put out this year (Thor: Love and Thunder is two hours of my life I’ll never get back) and makes for a very enjoyable cinematic experience because of the incredible action sequences and performances from Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
Black Adam was released on October 21 and is playing in cinemas now,