Black Adam – between a Rock and a hard place

It’s probably way too violent for young children, but for the rest of us, especially if you are a genre fan, Black Adam is worth watching ...

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

I did not have high hopes for this latest film in the DC Extended Universe, Black Adam, one of the least exciting characters in DC’s vast array of heroes and evil-doers. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how any Hollywood decision-maker felt this “anti-hero” was deserving of his own film. Nevertheless, as a superhero slug-fest, the movie does deliver a couple hours’ worth of mindless entertainment.  

Created by author Otto Binder and illustrator C.C. Beck as an archenemy of Captain Marvel (AKA Shazam!) in the 1940s, Black Adam shares a similar origin with Shazam!,in that a young, morally pure boy is chosen by an elder wizard to become a hero… and that’s where the story of Teth Adam takes a different path from that of Billy Batson (DC’s Captain Marvel).    

2019’s Shazam! is one of my all-time favorite superhero films and a great example of what every movie in the genre should/could aspire to be. But, in Black Adam, there are several dark turns in his kindred origin story that make him into the anti-hero (or outright villain) that he is.

Born over 5,000 years ago in the ancient city of Kahndaq, Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) is brought into modern times after the Crown of Sabbac is discovered, a relic made of “eternium” that will unleash the evil powers of a demon-like creature who will take over the Earth with his armies of the dead.

Kahndaq is also being overrun and terrorized by the Intergang and their weapons of Apokolips. When Teth Adam intervenes and brings his ultra-violent brand of enforcement, enter the Justice Society (sans “of America”), which includes Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan).

This is where you will want to abandon thinking about the plot, as even one of the characters questions why the Justice Society shows up to stop Black Adam, but did nothing to ever stop the Intergang. (An even bigger logical question will arrive during the post-credits sequence – but no spoilers here.)

Blurred lines are drawn between good and bad and downright evil, and lots of pretty cool fight sequences ensue. Although their origins are vague in this film, the Justice Society characters are all well played and they all have awesome on-screen moments. Hawkman, in particular, was thrilling and deserves his own movie, so much more so than Black Adam, for sure.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Jungle Cruise, 2021), this film looks and feels like it could have been made by Zack Snyder (Justice League, 2017), but I don’t see his name attached to it anywhere. Nevertheless, it no doubt has his influence, for better or worse.

It’s probably way too violent for young children, but for the rest of us, especially if you are a genre fan, Black Adam is worth watching and is mildly entertaining. For me, I wish “The Rock” had spent his time making the long-rumored “Doc Savage” film instead, as he makes a better hero than a villain.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.