One of Hollywood’s biggest stars today, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is so fond of Black Adam that he fought hard to make the character not a mere antagonist in Shazam! (2019) and won a movie to call his own. The actor’s wish was granted, and the first feature of the anti-hero arrives this Thursday (20) in Brazilian cinemas with an eye on fans – both comics and The Rock.
For those who don’t fit into either group, there’s little to take away from Black Adam. The film’s story – if a shred of narrative can be called that – is just there to tie together the incessant action and fight scenes, which are the main protagonists of the production. It’s like playing Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter: the game may even have some cutscenes, but you really want to go to the next fight.
If you like action, the film has everything you need. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who repeats the partnership with The Rock after Jungle Cruise) builds jaw-dropping scenes, with shots, lightning and explosions that seem straight out of a Michael Bay production. And everything happens at a fast pace, so that the audience doesn’t have time to reflect too much on what is being shown – questioning whether the plot is believable is, frankly, a waste of time.
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The story takes place in Kahndaq, a very poor country subjugated by Intergang bandits. Archeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sex/Life’s Sarah Shahi) tries to find the Sabbac crown, an artifact that gives great powers to its wearer, before it falls into the wrong hands. In the process, she ends up summoning Teth-Adam (The Rock), who has been dormant for 5,000 years.
Despite super strength and other impressive abilities, Black Adam isn’t exactly subtle. His clashes with members of Intergang draw the attention of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who calls on the Justice Society of America to stop him. Enter Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Crusher (Noah Centineo), the great heroes of the production.
Of course, no one expects a movie starring Dwayne Johnson to feature the former wrestler as a villain, and Black Adam does a decent job of establishing him as an antihero, who even fights for noble motives, but with unconventional methods — and that would certainly not be approved by other superpowers. But it isn’t long before an even greater threat appears and Black Adam must join forces with the Justice Society of America to confront the demon Sabbac (Marwan Kenzari). And, of course, many other fights with impressive special effects take place to carry the plot during the two hours of the long.
Black Adam’s biggest problem is also his big draw: Dwayne Johnson. There is no doubt that the actor is charismatic, as he has proven time and time again in his films. The point is that Teth-Adam is far from being a sympathetic character. Always with the face of few friends and willing to break anything that comes his way (especially walls), the anti-hero is not the type to win over the public’s fans. The script by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani even tries to soften it with a few jokes, but it’s not enough.
With the exception of Pierce Brosnan’s Doctor Fate, the Justice Society doesn’t add much to the story either. Cyclone and Atom Crusher don’t have much to do other than serve as comic relief or hint at a later romance, and Hawkman is far too goofy for viewers to buy the “good guys” side. It also doesn’t help the attempt at social criticism that plagues the heroes of the film, to the point that the inhabitants of Kahndaq boo them whenever they appear.
In the end, Black Adam fulfills its function of entertaining the public during 124 minutes of unpretentious fun. The production described as a change in the hierarchy of DC Comics’ heroes doesn’t reach that point, but it does very well when it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s a superhero movie with good action scenes, and nothing more. In the publisher’s current landscape, just being good entertainment seems good enough.