Black Adam promised very little, but delivered surprisingly more than we bargained for. There was a lot of buzz surrounding Warner Bros’ new offering from the DC pantheon and most of it was sadly not very good. Despite a very patient die hard fandom aching for the film’s release, rumours rippled that the only things that viewers would actually enjoy were a banging soundtrack curated by Lorne Balfe and the titular Black Adam’s (played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) winning smile. However this reviewer found that beneath a corny exterior Jaume Collet-Serra’s Black Adam offered a unique and all together thoroughly enjoyable moment of old fashioned superhero escapism.
Set in the fictitious Middle Eastern country of Kahndaq, we are led on a mythic quest for freedom that spans thousands of years of oppression and culminates in the current unspecified white colonial forces being overthrown by Teth-Adam himself in a blaze of lightning and destructive rage. He is then hunted and trapped by the Justice Society, only to emerge when Kahndaq needs him to fight off a literal demon from the bowels of hell. Confused, I sure was.
While the (mostly) fantastic visual effects transport you through deserts and gunfire to otherworldly playgrounds of gods and demons, you are urged along relentlessly by the absolutely stunning soundtrack. Truly, it was the highlight of the movie. Another high point was the diverse casting that reflected and enhanced the storytelling beyond just including token people of colour to tick a box. The supporting cast felt relevant and appropriate to the cultural setting and context of the film.
It might be good fun, but there are some detractors that might have you squirming uncomfortably in your seat. The dialogue at times is strained and contrite, which clashes horridly with Teth-Adam’s brutal rage-filled revenge murder quest that takes up a considerable duration of the film. That is not to mention the bizarre extended metaphor as Collet-Serra tries blatantly to link Johnson’s character’s blood thirst with Clint Eastwood’s antihero in Man with No Name. That falls flat and is promptly abandoned in the latter half of the movie.
There is also the awkwardness of The Justice Society – made up of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell). Unless you are a well read DC fan, they all seem like a collection of B Grade superheroes roped in to quash a mystic hissy fit.
Yes, to enjoy this film you will need to suspend the part of your mind that looks for flaws and cringes at overly cliché one liners, but it really is worth it. It definitely could benefit from letting go of the need to sanitise stories in order to please mass audiences and leaning in to the darker aspects of Black Adam’s rage and giving him the destructive epic he deserved. However, if you are looking for a few hours of super hero fueled escapism, just say the word – SHAZAM. (7/10)