Movies / Comics Movie Reviews

Black Adam (2022) Movie Review


By Hervé St-Louis
October 22, 2022 - 10:58

After 5000 thousand years, Teth Adam is revived by Kahndaq rebels trying to reclaim their countries from Intergang, a group of mercenaries exploiting the local eternium resource found only in the traditional land. Teth Adam is not hero and right away sets to defend his ancestral Kahndaq home from the foreigners. But his brash actions attract the attention of the US’ Amanda Waller, which sends the famous Justice Society to contain Teth Adam’s threat. Will they get the Kahndaq’s protector to utter the magic words that will transform him from Black Adam to a normal man?

Black Adam starts somewhat abruptly doing away with any convention trying to introduce the concept of super humans in the world. It just happens quickly. I found that many other shortcuts were used by the producers and the director. For example, it is so easy for Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) to jump go into the buried crypt in the mountain, one must ask why others have not attempted the same in 5000 years. How Black Adam just knows perfect English instead of his ancient language is never explained. It is just assumed that he does as when he reverts to his original form, he does not speak English anymore.

Much like the Shazam film, Black Adam is a power fantasy for small and big boys, which at the core is what Captain Marvel and his evil counterpart have always been, more so than any other comic-based super beings. This is why the vengeance theme resonates so well for the film and why audiences seem to enjoy it more than critics. This film is not attempting to moralize or to even be smart about what it is. What if one random man had powers and could exact his revenge on the people who wronged him?

When David Goyer, and James Robinson introduced Black Adam to the Justice Society comics in the 2000s, and that this introduction was expanded upon by Geoff Johns, they forever tied the two franchises seamlessly and gave a reason as to why they are not just another Justice League clone. At the time, having both Black Adam and Captain Marvel in the Justice Society was a ground-breaking move that would never happen in the Justice League. Decades later, this paid off with the introduction of the Justice Society as the group responsible for containing the global threat that is Black Adam.

I really enjoyed the Justice Society being in this film although Cyclone and Atom Smasher were not as used as the two other senior members of the team, Hawkman and Dr. Fate. Both of theses founding members of the Justice Society have a long history with Black Adam, although that was not hinted at in the film. Yet, I enjoyed how the comic history informed the choice of these two protagonists to go after Black Adam. Even Atom Smasher has some history with Black Adam that was a major part of his development in comics.

Hawkman, played by Aldis Hodge, was a punching bag, but a delightful one. I can see this Hawkman butting heads with a future Oliver Queen Green Arrow. He is a cop and a do the right thing guy. The red costume, by the way, was much like the Graham Nolan-designed one he wore in the old Hawkworld series in the 1990s. As for Dr. Fate, I wish he had had a bit more screenplay, as he often just sat around and observed his companions. He is a great character that I wish would come back in other films. Pierce Brosnan’s Dr. Fate was really a force of order and stability and that was well translated in the film.

Some silly reviewers have compared the Justice Society to other Marvel characters deeming them second-rate copies of the Falcon, Dr. Strange, the X-Men’s Storm, and Tom Holland’s Spider-man. Part of the comparisons are based on race. Hawkman is compared to Falcon because in the films both are black. Ditto for Storm and Cyclone. This is insulting at best. Hawkman and Falcon in both comics and films are very different characters, with the former having one of the most complex history and motivations in comics. Yes, both have wings and can fly, but that’s about it. How Hawkman used his morphing ninth metal mace was incredible. How he was a brawler who would come back for more punishment, even when fighting opponents more powerful than him was inspiring and a fundamental trait of the character that the producers captured quite well. This has nothing to do with Falcon.

As for Cyclone (Quitessa Swindell), in the comics, she is a red-haired white girl. Would the critic have compared her to Storm if she was a white girl? Probably not. Some of her history was hinted that, and I could see why she was a “child” of the Justice Society. Ditto for Atom Smasher. Legacy is at the core of the Justice Society and while briefly shown in the film, the Justice Society is unlike the Justice League or the Suicide Squad. I liked how Noah Centineo played Al Rothstein, the nephew of the original Atom who was unsure of how to use his powers and fight as this was his first outing. There is a lot more that can be done with the character in future movies.

And now for Dr. Fate. Pierce Brosnan gave Fate a sophisticated quality that many will claim was much like Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange. There is a lot in common between the two characters and how they used their powers in the film, unfortunately. And this is a long running theme in American superhero comics where the two major publishers DC and Marvel have had comparable characters that seem interchangeable. In any case, Dr. Fate is the original, even though he has had less spotlight in both comics, cartoons, and film. It really is Dr. Strange who copied most of his tricks, but it is understandable that for audiences, this does not matter. Many elements of his past were ignored, like his home, his wife, and who he serves.

The film was a classic superhero story where the “good” guys fight only to team up to defeat the bigger villain. That bigger villain, Sabbac, was poorly cast and not memorable. He did not accomplish much and reminded me of the Justice League’s Steppenwolf. Another forgettable villain badly rendered with cheap 3D animation. May of the effects of this film could have used a bit more polish. Atom Smasher’s mask felt like it was made of plastic. It was hard to imagine his weight as he walked on the ground. Dr. Fate’s effects were swell and took from the Inception toolbox that Dr. Strange also frequently borrows from. Hawkman’s effects just work.

But what about the Rock you say? Well, yeah, the Rock is the best actor for Black Adam. I was not watching the Rock but Black Adam and cannot think of a better actor for the role. It is his own superhero franchise now and I hoe we’ll see more of those. For me Black Adam is like the Fast and Furious of the superhero film genre. It’s fast, full of explosions and not too deep, and that’s just right!

Of note, there is a scene in the preview trailers where Black Adam attacks a few jets that is not in the movie. That scene would have helped explain why Amanda Waller felt that it was necessary to send the Justice Society after Black Adam. One thing that is important about Black Adam is that is cements different parts of the DC Extended Cinematic Universe that have never really spoken with one another. For example, we see how Amanda Waller has connections with superhero teams, like the Justice Society and even Superman. Aquaman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, and Batman are all alluded to in the film. Of course, Black Adam is related to Captain Marvel through Shazam who gives both characters their powers. DC Is finally becoming more cohesive. It’s about time.

Rating: 7 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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