Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Quintessa Swindell, Marwan Kenzari, Bodhi Sabongui, Mohammed Amer, James Cusati-Moyer, and Pierce Brosnan
Screened at: Critics’ screener, LA, 11/30/22
Opens: October 21st, 2022
Comic books have been around for decades, particularly DC and Marvel. The ever-increasing popularity of both studios’ cinematic universes is largely due to the fact that there are so many characters that exist within the archives of both properties, and there are just as many ways to present them on screen in new film franchises. Black Adam is officially a spin-off from Shazam! and the eleventh entry in the DC Extended Universe, but it’s an action-packed superhero flick that stands well enough on its own and doesn’t keep its content to just its title character.
The story opens back in 2600 BC in the kingdom of Kahndaq, where a malicious king creates an all-powerful crown, and the Council of Wizards counter by making their own hero to defeat him. In the present, Kahndaq has become overrun by mercenaries, and archaeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) is concerned the crown will fall into the wrong hands. Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) is awakened and begins taking out all those who threaten the people of Kahndaq, prompting the arrival of the Justice Society to stop him, pitting two theoretical forces for good against each other as those who seek only power still pursue the crown.
This film takes its time actually showing its main character’s face, waiting a full twenty minutes to do so, and even though other characters have accents, Teth-Adam somehow speaks like an American despite his Middle Eastern origins. Taking this film’s believability to task is a foolish use of time, since it’s meant to be a visual feast and one that relies heavily on sorcery and superhuman powers. Johnson does possess the brawn and the charisma to portray this protagonist, and it’s especially entertaining to watch as Teth-Adam tries to incorporate the advice given to him by Tomaz’s son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui) to utter his signature catchphrase before sending his latest victim hurtling to his death.
If audiences haven’t seen other DCEU films, it may feel like the characters introduced in this film have appeared before and are back for more. But with the exception of Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller and a few other cameos, the rest of the ensemble is all new. The Justice Society team of veterans Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan) and Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and eager young newbies Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) is not just made up of competent actors, but the group also feature superpowers that are mesmerizing to watch and add to the film’s combat scenes that mostly involve Teth-Adam proving repeatedly invincible against gunfire and other weaponry.
Visual effects are a crucial part of this experience, one that many have surely experienced on the big screen but also proves to be satisfying on a home entertainment device. Seeing how Dr. Fate uses his abilities to duplicate himself and seem like he’s everywhere all at once is riveting, as are the combination of colors when Atom Smasher and Cyclone use their powers in concert. This is evidently a big-budget production, costing nearly $200 million, and the effort shows in the construction of large-scale scenes that deliver excitement and just keep coming.
Compared to other DCEU films and the even more frequent Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, Black Adam doesn’t rank at the top, but it is nice to see, like with Moon Knight recently, a focus on Middle Eastern characters. Shahi and Mohammed Amer, as Tomaz’s brother, are strong assets in the cast, as is Sabongui, who might be the most endearing figure in the film, ready to champion Teth-Adam and to unite the people of Kahndaq to stand up and fight their oppressors. This is a fully loaded and worthwhile start to a franchise that, with some finessing, could produce an even more enticing sequel.
Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B