BLACK ADAM – Review
By Marc Butterfield
You can be the destroyer of this world…or you can be its Savior
Black Adam is finally out, and if you haven’t seen it, do. While the first thing that separates the character from a lot of the other superhero movies in the genre, is that, for starters, he’s not a hero. He’s an antihero in its near purest form. Dwayne Johnson, master of shameless self promotion has been touting the greatness of this film for a while now, and this time, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he’s right. And what Black Adam believes is right comes from a place of ultimate struggle… and sacrifice.
Born Teth Adam, the character’s origin story is a tragic one. As penned by Adam Sztykiel and Rory Haines & Sohrab Noshirvani, the film reveals the twist of fate that not only gifted this champion of ancient Kahndaq with his powers, but also left him alone and embittered, wreaking havoc throughout the realm. The Wizards, realizing what has happened, imprison Teth Adam deep within the Rock of Eternity. This is where the black-hearted Black Adam has been entombed for 5,000 years. However, the suspension of time has not weakened him, physically or emotionally; the moment he is freed, he is clearly still imbued with god-like powers, still an invulnerable powerhouse possessing unbelievable strength and lightning-fast speed…and anger. Back with a vengeance and unleashing his own brand of justice amongst those around But forever comes to an end when Teth Adam is suddenly summoned by one word…SHAZAM!
Now, with the same mindset that got him buried 5,000 years earlier, Black Adam’s modern day journey begins. Black Adam’s return is quickly noted by Carter Hall – a.k.a. Hawkman, portrayed by Aldis Hodge – who immediately puts out the call to his friend Kent Nelson, a.k.a. Doctor Fate, played by Pierce Brosnan; Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher, played by Noah Centineo; and Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone, played by Quintessa Swindell.
Re-forming the Justice Society, the team is swiftly galvanized into action to contain the antihero’s destruction halfway around the world. Black Adam has awakened to modern day Kahndaq, in his time a great kingdom but now a shadow of its former self. The once storied and wealthy country, the birthplace of ancient magic and the epicenter of the region’s most vital, priceless resource—Eternium—is being pillaged for that precious resource. Leading the charge is Intergang; a villainous organization simultaneously mining the last vestiges of Eternium and destroying Kahndaq’s citizens’ chance for a prosperous future.
Soon, like everything else around him, the Justice Society proves to be another nuisance. And, even as Black Adam gains a better understanding of this new version of his city and country, he remains conflicted; his anger still burns and his definitive moral code never wavers as he navigates what he’s meant to be for this version of Kahndaq. At the same time there is another, more dangerous adversary growing more powerful, and this triad of opposing foes—Black Adam, the Justice Society and the leader of Intergang— are destined to clash to determine the future of Kahndaq and, perhaps, the world. On a side note: credit is given to Jack Kirby who created the Fourth World. InterGang debuted in Kirby’s Fourth World saga. While it isn’t a straight adaptation of any previous material, nor does the screenplay pull from any of their storylines, it does reference elements readers of The New 52’s The Dark Age and the latest Hawkman comics will recognize.
Teth Adam, the titular hero of the movie, didn’t ASK to be brought back, he was safely and comfortably entombed in the capital city of the fictional country of Khondaq, until some tomb raiders, chasing the real hero of this story, caused his release. But once he’s unleashed, watch out!
He handles the bad guys in a way that we all wish a lot of the other heroes would, especially given this sets brutality. They do get what they have been doling out for apparently years.
From here the film goes into overdrive with an economy of storytelling that is efficient and useful: new characters are brought in without dragging us all through an unnecessarily lengthy and protracted period of exposition. We meet them, we get a few seconds that sets them up for their role in the story, and that’s it, move along, we have stuff to do.
There are returning characters from other DCEU properties, Amanda Waller (played to perfection by Viola Davis) and fellow government stooge from the Suicide Squad, Jennifer Holland as black ops agent Emilia Harcourt as well as some surprise cameos.
Director Collet-Serra’s singular vision is made more powerful by the cinematography of Lawrence Sher, the costume design team of Kurt and Bart, stunt coordinator Tommy Harper and special effects coordinator J.D. Schwalm. The epic score comes from composer Lorne Balfe who captures the essence of the DC comic book world’s antihero. The Black Adam Theme and The Justice Society Theme are highlights of the film.
BLACK ADAM doesn’t do what a LOT of other superhero movies have gotten into the habit of doing lately, which is bogging itself down with an overabundance of side stories and useless character clips. We meet Hawkman (Aldis Hodge, who makes this DC steadfast a real bad ass) and Doctor Fate, played by Pierce Brosnan with so much heart that he makes you forget about any other superhero wizarding types (ahem, sorry BC). Plus there’s great chemistry and team-bonding between Centineo and Swindell. We aren’t spoon-fed background about them, but rather we get to see, not hear, why they matter to the events unfolding.
There is a bit of social commentary in the movie, you aren’t force-fed, but led. It matters though. And there is action. A LOT of action. It’s beautiful, destructive, especially the standard comic book bit where two factions that should be working together meet, and have to fight it out to figure out what side things fall out on. And it is done well.
BLACK ADAM is in theaters and IMAX now.
RATING: 3 1/2 out of 4 stars