The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has had its fair share of highs and lows as of late. The latest film that tries its hand at creating superhero blockbuster success comes in the form of an origin story of an anti-hero in the DC Universe — Black Adam. We got the chance to check out Black Adam when it hit theaters here in the Philippines in order to review it here at This is Hype Ph.
Black Adam Review: Overview
As mentioned, Black Adam is the origin story of one of the more popular anti-heroes in the DC comic book universe. Black Adam is popularly known as a villain who often butt-heads with Captain Marvel/Shazam and the Marvel family.
In this film, Black Adam makes his live-action cinematic debut (his first ever film-debut being in the animated movie DCDC League of Super-Pets). Black Adam follows two distinct timelines — the past and the future of a city referred to as Kahndaq. The past shows us the tyrannical rule of king Anh-Kot, who intends to create the Crown of Sabbac, which is known to give the wearer great power and does so by enslaving his people and forcing them to dig for Eternium. A boy, however, gains the power of Shazam, transforming himself into Kahndaq’s heroic champion Teth-Adam which allows him to kill Anh-Kot and end his reign.
Thousands of years later a new threat arises as men search for the Crown of Sabbac to claim the power within it. Black Adam in turn is released and must protect Kahndaq and the world from such threats. His methods however are far from traditional as he has no regard for human life — killing many men and women both good and bad in the process of seeking justice. Black Adam in turn comes face to face with The Justice League of America (JSA) which consists of Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Cyclone, and Atom Smasher who try to stop him in his rampage of rage and justice.
Black Adam stars Dwayne Johnson as the titular character, Black Adam, and is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Jungle Cruise, Orphan, The Shallows). The film also boasts a phenomenal cast of actors such as Aldis Hodge as Carter Hall / Hawkman, Noah Centineo as Albert “Al” Rothstein / Atom Smasher, Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz, Marwan Kenzari as Ishmael Gregor / Sabbac, Quintessa Swindell as Maxine Hunkel / Cyclone, and Pierce Brosnan as Kent Nelson / Doctor Fate, just to name a few.
Black Adam Review: Spoiler Warnings
We will keep this review of Black Adam as much as possible free from spoilers and will therefore focus our discussion on the visual effects, overall premise and direction.
Repetitive and Over-the-top
Is it just me or do superhero movies nowadays seem to have reached their limit? They’ve become too similar and familiar to be quite honest. Debates on which came first — Marvel or DC — aside, there are so many superhero tropes and familiar powers and storylines that come out of these films, no matter what company they may come from. Black Adam is no exception to this phenomenon. I couldn’t help but shake the unnerving feeling of deja vu. I would often circle back to other superhero films and spot similarities. As much as I would love to point out a unique aspect or difference, it was just too difficult to do so. You’ll be able to notice it as well from the similarities of heroes such as Cyclone and Marvel’s Storm, Dr. Fate with Doctor Strange, and the biggest (no pun intended) similarities of Atom Smasher and Ant-Man who also happens to sport a mask that reminded me of Dead Pool. All these similar references aside however the film Black Adam seemed to provide nothing all that new or interesting into the superhero mix. Yes, the anti-hero premise was great to witness and added a little flair to the story (more on this later) but as a whole, Black Adam was just plain, simple, and repetitive.
The action scene in the film itself was honestly very repetitive as well. They were fast-paced and really pleasing to witness but there wasn’t anything all that spectacular once you hit the halfway mark of the film’s premise. Johnson showcases his brute and raw strength as well as his ability to become really quick and impenetrable but again these were overused again and again and again throughout the entire film. Johnson honestly faded into the background in this film as well as he fell into his typical style of acting that somewhat felt monotonous and flat at times. You know, the role he usually plays? The big muscle of the film? It’s exactly what we get here. The anti-hero status does play well at times but overall Johnson didn’t bring much to the role as we hoped. The saving grace against all these repetitive action scenes and storylines surprisingly comes in the form of the JSA. This team stole the show, to be honest from black Adam and it felt like their film, to be honest instead of the latter.
A Fresh Take Because of the Anti-Hero
One of the best aspects of the story of Black Adam is the anti-hero story direction. It’s riveting and fresh to be quite honest. The anti-hero storyline obviously isn’t something new as well to the table. We have seen it time and time again. It is still a very refreshing take on the story of heroes to be quite honest. We always look up to heroes from comic books due to their stature, powers, and quest for justice. When that sense of judgment of justice however is manipulated and twisted, that is when things get all the more exciting. We often see the good and not-so-good sides of our heroes such as Iron Man and Batman with their egotistic selfish sides and the latter’s quest for misguided vigilante justice. Lately, we have seen the negative effects of supposedly good intentions minus any regard for humanity or morality in the form of Wana Maximoff/The Scarlett Witch. This last example is somewhat what we get from Black Adam. We witness a superhuman who is tiptoeing back and forth between what is good and evil. He seems to be on the good side but his methods don’t necessarily show it. We also see a side to Black Adam that is filled with hate and anger — qualities that don’t really make it in the category of what a hero should be.
The film takes it further by being a meta-discussion of what it takes to make or label someone as a superhero. Hawkman tries to reason with Black Adam that his style and choices are far from desirable in becoming a hero. That’s the story that is actually told in this film. It talks about the requirements of what it takes to be a hero. Anger issues seem to disqualify you from being one. But the film actively takes a stab at redefining and molding our perspective on the matter as well. We start to question these qualifications as well. I mean, Black Adam clearly has the powers to become a hero but his personal issues disqualify him? There’s almost a stab into emotional well-being and mental health, to be honest, and that’s a pretty great aspect of the story to be quite honest. Again the film does have its moments of being very formulaic but if you take the time to analyze it a bit further there are some elements to the plot that are actually very provocative and profound.
The film also takes a stab at creating twists and turns to keep the film exciting and shocking to witness. I am someone who is honestly unfamiliar with the comic book story of Black Adam but I did have a brief knowledge of how his story supposedly unfolds. The film, however, tries its hand at creating and formatting the flow of the story in a surprising manner. Yes, there was a predictable nature to it but the execution to confuse audiences was still pretty spot-on. When the twist finally kicks in towards the latter parts of the film the “I knew it!” The moment becomes evidently clear but you are also left with a bit of amazement as to how it all actually went down. The film has to gain some props for the mere execution of the story’s so-called “big twist”.
The twist does get the job done, to be honest, but the same cannot be said for the film’s main antagonist, Sabbac/Ishmael Gregor (Marwan Kenzari q). We get a very underwhelming villain for this film and one whose buildup and characterization aren’t at all clear or engaging. Sabbac doesn’t elicit any fear or sign of being a worthy villain for this film and to be quite honest Black Adam could have done without him entirely. It felt forced to be frank for a villain to make its way into the film and in the end, even the final battle scene proved to be one of the most ineffective and weak confrontations between a hero and a villain.
Bombardment of Visual Effects
When it comes to visual effects and production, Black Adam spares no expense. It does become too over the top at times with multiple repetitive effects that become too overwhelming in terms of quantity. It does however make the film very engaging to be quite honest. There’s a level of spectacle and grandeur that surrounds the entire movie. It’s literally an explosion of the senses and it’s paired all the more with stunning visual consistency that radiates throughout the entire film. It echoes brilliantly from start to finish with beautifully ladened dark and sepia tones that allow the desert and futuristic vibes of the film to come to fruition.
Black Adam Review: Final Verdict
- Consistent visuals and Color Grading
- The introduction of the JSA
- A refreshing take on superhero films due to the anti-hero premise
- Repetitive nature of action sequences and special effects
- Dwayne Johnson gets lost in the fray due to a bland performance
- Overuse of superhero tropes
As seen in our review of Black Adam, the film isn’t that bad but it isn’t the very best as well. In the DC spectrum of films, it stays comfortably in the center as a “meh” film. It’s an average to mediocre film and we lean a bit on the former due to its overall engaging pace and the tackling of what truly makes a hero or a villain. The film has a meta-like quality to it which we found intriguing but there is just a tad few flaws that we cannot overlook. It’s a decent watch to be fair which checks the entertainment value nonetheless.
Hype Meter: 6/10
Check out Black Adam now while it’s still showing in select theaters here in the Philippines.