Sunday, December 25, 2022

Black Adam

Movie Name:
Black Adam
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Quintessa Swindell, Marwan Kenzari, Bodhi Sabongui, Mohammed Amer, James Cusati-Moyer, Jalon Christian
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 2
Watch it on Amazon Prime

Synopsis and Review
The team of Dwayne Johnson and director Jaume Collet-Serra reunite, after working on the successful Disney feature, "Jungle Cruise". "Black Adam" is another comic book adaptation, this time hailing from DC comics, with a character which has been around since 1945, and one that originally started as a villain battling Shazam. The film takes place in the fictional Kahndaq, and we're originally introduced to a young slave boy who in 2600 BC is rebelling against the oppression of a tyrannical leader. He is given the powers of Shazam to fight that oppression and successfully defeats the ruling of Ahk-Ton. In the present day, Kahndaq is dealing with Intergang, a mercenary organization that has tentacles everywhere. Adrianna Tomaz is an archaeologist who is trying to discover the crown of Sabbac, and she is doing so with the help of her brother Karim, while also taking care of her young son Amon. When she retrieves the crown, Intergang quickly ambushes her and her team, forcing her to speak an incantation which awakens Teth-Adam, whom she believes was the original savior of Kahndaq. As he comes to her rescue in a rather brutal and unmerciful way, other entities become aware of his existence, including the Justice Society who is sent to bring him in. Their fight leads nowhere, until they realize why Intergang is looking for the crown, and they power she unleashes. Teth-Adam and the Justice Society have to unite efforts in order to solve that challenge.
The challenge with most comic book adaptations lies in making these features more than your standard formula with dazzling visual effects and actually populate these stories with dimensional characters that are more than just eye candy or a collection of catch phrases. "Black Adam" tries to break away from the formula by also introducing and placing front and center this anti-hero, who is not as selfless nor as humane as other more well known counterparts (such as Superman or Shazam for instance). However for all the narrative threads Jaume Collet-Serra sets in motion, Black Adam ultimately is very much an under-developed cypher, someone who even though has been awaken thousands of years later than when he was originally created, questions nothing, does not feel maladjusted, and seemingly understands this new context in which he operates pretty much automatically (including the language). The supporting characters all suffer a similar fate, in the sense that they're briefly introduced, before either becoming part of a generic background (including the typical young boy in peril and the family member who is the comic relief), or transitioning into being foes/future allies without much thought placed on why they're actually there or what their intentions/ambitions are (even the villain itself, is part of an underdeveloped narrative thread, and that digital character is also quickly dispatched). In the end the moral ambiguity that is suggested by the path of this central character, is never truly expanded upon, and all the supporting characters provide very little color to what is happening on screen. The cast also seems to be working across different productions, with Pierce Brosnan trying to bring some gravitas and depth to his character, whereas his more direct counterparts seem to be in a CW show. Dwayne Johnson also fails to bring something unique/different to this character. He has by now locked in the eternal look of what can be described as a mix of "I'm perpetually at the brink of destroying something/Everyone owes me money" with "This is all silly, and I'm about to wink at the camera", which for some can be considered "edgy" and "cool", but for the most part it just comes across as lazy and repetitive. The visual effects are also a mix bag, with some impressive scenes mixed with 3D renderings which are perplexingly bad. For all the noise this film seems to stage and capture, it's ultimately a not very convincing feature.