In ancient Kahndaq, Teth Adam was granted the almighty powers of the gods. After using them to get revenge, he was imprisoned, becoming Dark Adam. Almost 5,000 years have passed since then and Dark Adam has gone from man, to myth, to legend. Once freed, his unique form of justice, born of rage, is challenged by the modern heroes who form the Justice Society: Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone. Let’s say it from the beginning: the superhero films from the so-called DC Extended Universe have disappointed us time and again, but, once the expectations were recalibrated, the lack of enthusiasm (of the critics, that the public flocked to the cinema, especially in United States) may not be entirely justified in Black Adam’s case. This first film with Dwayne Johnson as a superhero has a catchy message and deserves a chance, despite the cheap special effects, scenes “stolen” from other films and the bombastic tone so typical of DC films.
After a preamble set 5,000 years ago in the ancient kingdom of Kahndaq, when a tyrant uses dark magic to forge a crown capable of giving the wearer phenomenal powers, the action moves to the present day, when Kahndaq is controlled by the Intergang, an organization criminal. Aware that the organization is desperately searching for the crown, and that the country’s chances of freeing itself from the yoke of evildoers vanish like a miracle if it falls into the wrong hands, archaeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) uses ancient texts to find the crown, only to wake him up with this opportunity and Teth-Adam (Johnson), a hero endowed by the Egyptian gods with powers similar to Shazam. Before long, Teth-Adam starts wreaking havoc around, attracting the attention of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and the Justice Society of America, an alliance of superheroes meant to preach world peace.
In times when audiences scrutinize an actor’s skin color lest a Caucasian be cast in a role of color, Dwayne Johnson’s choice can satisfy everyone. He doesn’t come from the Middle East, but his Samoan descent at least makes him have the perfect skin tone for this role, for which his imposing physique and the ability to express strength almost without having to move help him very well. And his limited acting possibilities are not obvious, because Black Adam is that kind of film where not the emotion, but the special effects catch your eye.
Yes, Black Adam is downright dumb in places (I’d personally smack any screenwriter or producer who thinks it’s a good idea to flood the screen with armies of zombies that you just tap them with a stick), but the fact that everything revolves around an amoral hero makes this blockbuster more interesting from a human point of view than the eternal adventures where the positive heroes would not even think of deviating a single step from the path of good. Black Adam doesn’t care if you’re good or bad, if you get in his way you get it. And here lies the catchy message of the film, not innovative or original, but definitely catchy: we are the sum of our deeds.
In terms of unoriginality, it must be said that Black Adam, although it has the advantage that its entire action takes place in a country with typical Middle Eastern hustle and bustle, feels like a collection of scenes already seen in other films. It’s not necessarily the fault of the material that inspired this origin story, but rather the inflation of superhero movies, all dealing with the same themes in much the same way. We have seen in other movies superheroes able to reach gigantic dimensions or able to control the weather, and the fact that it does not come with much new is definitely a disadvantage for Black Adam. However, the film pays off the anti-heroic essence of the protagonist much better than Morbius or Venom…
The sequence on the end credits was written endlessly. Perhaps it will excite some viewers, but it is enough to read only a few of the interviews given by Dwayne Johnson during the five years he was preparing for the role for this sequence not to be a surprise. Interestingly, the already famous conversation was not filmed during the main production, but in September of this year, after a certain actor was convinced by Johnson to reprise the most prominent role of his career.