Such an average movie! (Black Adam review)

Promotional image of DC Comics character Black Adam played by Dwayne Johnson.

Over the weekend I was able to check out the newest DC Comics film: Black Adam (2022). Famously, the film is starring the insanely charismatic Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the titular character, though strangely enough Johnson’s performance felt empty and devoid of any life. By far this must be one of the most lacklustre performances by The Rock. I get that Black Adam in the comic book source material is an arrogant, moody and stoic anti-hero, but this film depicts him in an immensely dry fashion. Most of Black Adam’s screen time is him either fighting or spouting cringy dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, it was cool to see the display of power this film was able to showcase, but every time Black Adam is on screen, he is just demolishing everything. I would be much more compelled by a character driven emotionally resonant approach to the character of Black Adam.

This leads up to one of the most glaring issues I alluded to before with Black Adam and that is how much it prioritized action set pieces over interesting storytelling and character development. The movie is literally just action scene after action scene. The very few character moments in between all the fighting felt tacked onto the film so that they could check an obligatory filmmaking box. These character moments never felt sincere nor authentic, but instead feel like they are just exposition and trying to transition you to the next big fight spectacle.

However, something that the film does very well is the way it utilizes the character of Black Adam to truly depict the belief system behind an anti-hero. Nowadays most superhero media that depicts the concept of an anti-hero only scratches the surface of the inherent darkness behind their approach. Often, they are just meaner and more violent than a stereotypical superhero. Black Adam on the other hand fully embraces the role of an anti-hero by having the character make morally unconventional decisions. The film showcases that there are many threats in this universe, and not everyone is going to agree on the best way to deal with these dangers. Furthermore, the film tackles the debate around superheroes killing their foes by showcasing this dichotomy through the lens of the Justice Society and their beliefs that heroes don’t kill, and that of Black Adam who believes killing is acceptable for the greater good. In particular, Hawkman is portrayed very well by actor Aldis Hodge and serves as the moral foil to Black Adam. Additionally, Doctor Fate played by Pierce Brosnan adds a lot of humour and wit to the heated debates between Black Adam and Hawkman. Both sides are lent credence by the actions each character takes, and it is up to the audience to decide where they align on the debate.

As passionate as Dwayne Johnson is for this character and the overall movie itself, his weak performance is hard to overlook. The film is visually appealing and has great action spectacles. The supporting characters are all serviceable besides Hawkman and Doctor Fate who stole the show for me. If the film focused on storytelling and character development, I might have enjoyed Black Adam more. I see great potential with this character and most of all the Justice Society and I hope to see them in future DC Comics projects. But as it stands, this is one of the most average movies I have ever seen.

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