Black Adam scores a much-needed hit for the DC Comics movie universe thanks to a strong cast led by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a comic book inspired script.
This is a film that non-comic book fans will be able to understand and follow, but will make comic enthusiasts flip their capes. There are Easter eggs everywhere and some serious screen time for lesser lights of the DC Universe like Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher, and Cyclone.
This is the movie that comic fans have wanted to see for years, ever since they noticed just how much Johnson resembles the anti-hero Black Adam.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who also directed Johnson in Jungle Cruise, uses Johnson’s charisma to full advantage with many scenes of the wrestler-turned-actor simple staring at the audience.
That’s fine, since his stoic scenes are more than balanced by the countless action sequences as Black Adam fights for the freedom of his homeland, the Middle Eastern country of Kahndaq.
The hero’s journey begins with his resurrection after 5,000 years imprisonment. He wakes up cranky and just wants to evict the outsiders who control his land. Unfortunately, this includes destroying everything in sight.
A handful of members of the Justice Society of America are sent by the shadowy Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who runs the notorious black ops agency Task Force X (also known as the Suicide Squad), to corral Adam. Why the respected Justice Society would undergo a mission for the morally bankrupt Waller is a mystery not addressed.
She convinces the JSA leader Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) that Adam is a danger. He enlists long-time JSA stalwart Dr. Fate (the brilliant Pierce Brosnan) and rookies Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) to assist him. Centineo gets all the quips, but Swindell could have used more face time.
The film features the best version of Hawkman seen in years, thanks to Hodge’s magnetic presence. Hawkman, like Dr. Fate, has been in comics since the 1940s but has never enjoyed such a star treatment. It would not take a great leap to imagine seeing Hawkman star in his own movie. Hey, if Aquaman can do it…
Through much of Black Adam, the audience will be rooting for Adam and agree the JSA should mind its own business. But there are a few twists and turns in the plot, some telegraphed, others unexpected, that make this an enjoyable night out.
The special effects are insane as the characters battle over an ancient middle eastern city, with humans and non-humans being blasted into oblivion.
The Earthbound human characters in the film are quite likeable and lend some humanity to the spectacle. Sarah Shahi and the young Bodhi Sabongui play pivotal roles by helping Adam realize his true purpose.
Taking a cue from Marvel movies, Black Adam includes an after-credit scene that evoked cheers from the audience. The scene hopefully means a sequel which could help cement DC as a theater contender.
Black Adam opens nationally on Friday and is rated PG.