A Review of The Rock’s Black Adam

I’m sure nobody wants to see this because this man makes too many movies and this movie looks generic as hell and DC has burned us millions of times. Nevertheless I will start by not spoiling the movie and make it obvious when I switch to spoilers.

Black Adam stars Rock ‘The Dwayne’ Johnson. The movie also features performances from Sarah Shahi, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge, Quintessa Swindel, Viola Davis, Marwan Kenzari, and Mohammed Amer. It was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously directed Jungle Cruise and a couple of generic Liam Neeson action movies. And it was written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani. This is Haines and Noshirvani’s first major script, while Adam Sztykiel has written such beloved classics as Rampage, Due Date, Scoob!, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, and Made of Honor. Obviously the caliber of filmmaking at work here is truly exceptional.

General Non-Spoilery Thoughts –
This movie sucked. It wasn’t good. I was excited to watch this ironically because I thought it would be funny but it was boring. The Rock wasn’t even fun to watch as this character because instead of being his usual charismatic self he tried to do a weird Drax impression. But instead of having character development and fun dialogue he just spent the whole movie saying generic shit that felt like it was ripped right out of a pre-fight conversation in Injustice. Also this movie easily holds the record for “Most times the word Hero is said in a superhero movie”. The whole movie is just people saying “Finally we have a hero” or “Heroes don’t kill” or “You don’t need to be a hero” or “Who’s really the hero here?” or “He’s a hero for us, where have you been?” over and over and over again so Black Adam can respond by glaring off into the distance and grumble about how he isn’t a hero. For about five minutes at the beginning I thought the movie would be fine and then it kicked into gear and I just kept getting more and more disappointed and irritated with the choices being made. And then everything ground to a halt for the third act, which went for about nineteen hours.
The human side characters that exist to ground Black Adam as a character and make him seem more relatable are terrible and one-dimensional. Specifically two of them are. Sarah Shahi’s character is fine enough, but her brother and son are annoying and unbearable to watch. I’ll get into that more later. But the son in particular really bugged the crap out of me.
I’ve never really liked or disliked Black Adam as a comic book character. In all the comics I’ve read he’s mostly existed as a vessel of rage that can be a protagonist or antagonist depending on the comic. I was skeptical about them making a movie about him, but I was excited to see the Justice Society of America on screen for the first time. In the comics, the Justice Society are the predecessors of the Justice League. They were the original Golden Age DC heroes that operated back in World War 2. Eventually DC created modern day counterparts for some of the Justice Society characters, specifically Green Lantern and the Flash. The Justice Society has been in and out of continuity multiple times over the years, but over time they became a legacy team with the older heroes of a bygone generation mentoring the heroes of today. So I was interested in seeing how they would insert decades of continuity into a universe that was seemingly normal until Superman showed up in 2013. Bearing in mind this is also a universe that tends to play fast and loose with their own continuity in general. More on that later as well.
I don’t know. It just wasn’t very good. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to be a fan of DC. And Marvel as well, now that thousands of white men have devoted their lives to posting constantly about how “mid” it is.My dad dislikes more than half of DC’s cinematic output, and at this point he mainly sees their movies with me so he can make fun of them and hang out with me. Although this time he made a particular comment that I thought was funny, so I will include it here:
“The more I think about it, the less good I think Black Adam is. It’s like eating an okay piece of pizza and then realizing a few days later that you still have heartburn.”
We also got pizza after the movie, so hopefully that quote wasn’t brought on by autobiographical events. I have ideas for comics and movies that I would love to bring into fruition. I’m always writing because I want to get to that point. But if people are just gonna complain about how bad they think it is, then what am I doing? And also I’m complaining now. Sigh. I don’t know. Should I even keep reviewing things? Does anybody actually enjoy this? Life’s a never-ending paradox. I guess I’ll talk about characters now.

Quick Plot Rundown –
Thousands of years in the past, the country of Kahndaq was ruled by an evil dictator. The people of Kahndaq were enslaved and forced to mine for some plot device substance called Eternium. One boy led an uprising against the king and was given the powers of Shazam by a group of wizards, thus becoming Kahndaq’s champion. In the modern day a woman named Adrianna Tomaz awakens this champion in an attempt to defeat Intergang, the criminal enterprise that has taken over Kahndaq and turned it into a police state. This champion, known as Teth Adam, goes on a rampage through Kahndaq, killing several members of Intergang. In an attempt to stop this, Amanda Waller tasks Hawkman with recruiting a team to stop Black Adam. How did she know about Black Adam? Why isn’t she in prison after the events of Peacemaker? Who is Hawkman and why are we just now hearing about the Justice Society? I guarantee you that none of these questions will be answered in the film. Because who cares, right?! Also there’s a secret main villain and a twist that is incredibly obvious, because that’s what these movies do. No spoilers.

Characters –
Black Adam AKA Teth Adam – Johnson ‘The Rock’ Dwayne
As I said above, the Rock decided to play Black Adam as a very one-note, socially unaware character focused only on rage and revenge. But he never really seems that angry. Like he’s constantly killing people and talking about how angry he is. Beyond that he doesn’t have much of a character. Like I said. I also mentioned above that literally ninety percent of his dialogue sounds like it was taken from an Injustice cut scene. Most of the time someone will prompt him by saying something about how he’s a hero, or the city of Kahndaq finally has the hero they’ve been waiting for, or you’re not a hero Black Adam because heroes don’t kill. And he’ll respond by talking about how he isn’t a hero. Because make no mistake, Black Adam isn’t a hero. Or someone will say something vaguely badass-ish to instigate a fight and the camera will cut to Dwayne “The Dwayne” Dwayne giving a sinister smile. Then he shoots some evil henchmen in generic black henchmen costumes with lightning and the movie ends. It just goes forever, this movie. I don’t know. I like the Rock, but I like watching him be charismatic and funny. Also there’s an ongoing joke where the little kid that wants Black Adam to save Kahndaq tells Black Adam that he needs a catchphrase. And the joke is that he keeps forgetting to say the catchphrase before he kills someone. This movie tries to be funny many times. But it isn’t. And I know jokes. I should know what is and isn’t funny.

Adrianna Tomaz – Sarah Shahi
She was good in this. They didn’t make her Black Adam’s love interest for no reason. Her character was simple. She wants to free the champion of Kahndaq so he can rescue her country from Intergang, the criminal organization that has taken over. And she did that. But her son is unbelievably annoying.

Amon Tomaz – Bodhi Sabongui
So this kid is supposed to be the emotional heart of the film. Black Adam just wants to kill and destroy, but this kid gets to him and Black Adam does everything he can to save him over and over again. Now if I were Black Adam, I would totally just let this kid die. I know what you’re thinking. “John! What a horrible thing to say! Why would you let a kid die?!?!” I wouldn’t. If I was not myself, but nineteen foot tall hulking mass of muscle and personality vortex Black Adam, I would 100% let this kid die. First of all, the kid’s whole personality is that he loves comic books and superheroes and skateboarding. And that’s really the main thing that annoys me about him. This stupid kid will not stop skateboarding. He spends maybe 10% of the runtime of this film walking normally. The bit that really infuriates me is whenever he goes down a bunch of stairs. Him and his mom live at the top of a large building with a lot of stairs, and there are multiple scenes where he descends a flight of stairs, gets on his skateboard FOR MAYBE THREE SECONDS, arrives at the next flight of stairs and walks down. IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH WALKING THAT YOU CAN’T BEAR TO GO EVEN A SECOND WITHOUT SKATEBOARDING?! SKATEBOARDING SO OFTEN DOESN’T MAKE YOU COOL AND THERE ARE MULTIPLE SCENES WHERE YOU FALL OFF THE SKATEBOARD OR GET PUSHED BY A BAD GUY. THIS STUPID ABILITY YOU SEEM TO LOVE IS AN IMPEDIMENT. JUST WALK TO THE NEXT SET OF STAIRS LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING!!! (Sigh). Also he loves superheroes so he can teach Black Adam how to be cooler and more effective like they did in The Iron Giant. And he inexplicably owns posters and comic books from our world. Like really recent ones. I know that DC doesn’t care about the continuity of their own universe, but now they’re going to say that the exact same comic books we have that inspired these characters exist in that universe? It’s not like they’re historical depictions of actual events, because barely anything has happened in that universe yet because there’s only been like four movies and each of them retcons the events of the previous one and could easily take place in a slightly different universe from the others. And what, the superheroes came first and then DC started publishing comic books that blatantly reveal the identity of the superheroes in them to the real world? I know that this seems like a weird and pedantic thing to get irritated about, but at least Marvel thinks about these things. Marvel has their props and costuming people make fake in-universe merch instead of just grabbing a bunch of shit off a shelf and going yeah, that’ll do. He’s a nerd so we’ll just give him a bunch of miscellaneous trash. The other thing I don’t really get is where he’s getting all the stuff. I don’t personally live in a police state controlled by a generic army of henchmen, but I imagine buying comic books and posters that make symbols and icons out of the heroes that could easily overthrow your regime or inspire rebellion wouldn’t be allowed. And I’m pretty sure his mom is meant to be poor? But I’m not sure because nobody has any real character development.

Doctor Fate AKA Kent Nelson – Pierce Brosnan
I like Pierce Brosnan. I like the character of Doctor Fate. He’s good in this despite not being given much to do and he also has maybe three magic powers that he just uses over and over and over again. I don’t have many other thoughts about him. Also I talked way too much about that annoying kid so I’m gonna move on.

Atom Smasher AKA Al Rothstein – Noah Centineo
Atom Smasher is like Ant-Man, but he has a mask like Deadpool’s, he acts like Spider-Man, he can only grow big, and I don’t think he’s ever fought crime before. Noah Centineo does a fine job with the giant pile of nothing he was given to do in this movie, and there’s a sort of subplot about him having a crush on Cyclone because they’re characters of similar age and the possibility of romantic interest is an adequate substitute for character development. Also I’m surprised they didn’t really do anything with his character or market that he was in it more, because I know people like him because he’s in those movies about the girl that loves too many boys or whatever. And the most interesting thing about him is a five second cameo from another actor that I’ll get into in spoilers.

Hawkman AKA Carter Hall – Aldis Hodge
In the comics, Hawkman’s history is very convoluted. So much so that whenever someone goes to write a Hawkman ongoing, it’s mostly about trying to make his character less confusing. He’s been an alien space barbarian cop, an Egyptian prince locked in a series of painful memory-wiping resurrections with the love of his life, a Justice Society member, a Justice League member, and many other things. I was interested to see what they would do with him in this. I thought it would be funny if they had Black Adam ask the classic comic book movie line “Who are you supposed to be?” and then Hawkman goes off on a tangent about his hundreds of different lives and how confusing his past is. But instead they gave no background or explanation as to who he is or where he got his powers from or why he thinks it’s a good idea to assemble a team of people who have never worked together before and face up against a powerful lunatic on a killing spree. He has a mansion and a high-tech plane and cool clothes that go on top of his weird hawk costume and burn away when he needs them to. How? Why? WHO CARES?!?! LET’S NOT EXPLAIN LITERALLY A SINGLE THING ABOUT THESE CHARACTERS THAT NOW JUST EXIST OUT OF NOWHERE! WHAT THE FUCK EVEN IS THIS UNIVERSE ANYMORE?!?! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHRGHGRHGRHGGRHRGHRGHRGRHRH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cyclone AKA Maxine Hunkel – Quintessa Swindel
Cyclone in the comics is a chatty incoming member of the Justice Society whose whole purpose is to annoy and overwhelm the other characters. In this she kind of knows what she’s doing so Atom Smasher can be the newbie, but she has no real character beyond being another person on the team. Also she’s got weird colorful wind powers that envelop the screen in blurry neon CGI that looks quite a bit like the CGI for Morbius’s powers, but with more green.

Amanda Waller – Viola Davis
I like Viola Davis. She didn’t need to be in this. She was given nothing to do. Obviously the people who made this didn’t watch Peacemaker because at the end of that her daughter told the world what a horrible person she was and in this she’s just back to being in charge of stuff. So yeah.

Score/Soundtrack –
The composer, Lorne Balfe, has previously graced our ears by writing the score for Megamind, Penguins of Madagascar, The Lego Batman Movie, and Top Gun: Maverick. So he’s obviously quite talented. I thought the score for this was fine. It sounded a lot like your typical Marvel score, particularly Black Panther. The soundtrack absolutely sucked though. It was all over the place. They threw out so many different songs so often that I began to wonder if it was 2016 and I was still watching Suicide Squad for the first time. Because the idea of my brain inventing a weird fever dream reality with a pandemic and the world getting worse every day just so I can convince myself that I’m not watching Suicide Squad(2016)? That’s entirely plausible. I think the funniest part for me is that at the beginning of the film we’re treated to a flashback of what Black Adam was up to all those years ago, which then hard cuts to the modern day with Bullet with Butterfly Wings by The Smashing Pumpkins. I’m sitting there in the theater taking a drink of water and after about five or seven minutes of 300 style action in the ancient times I hear “The world is a vampire” and I almost spit I was laughing so damn hard. There’s a bit where Black Adam watches a Clint Eastwood movie on the TV and later he’s fighting a guy but they play it like an old fashioned duel with the hokey western music and everything. The Rock’s hand twitches at his side for ten seconds and then he just shoots everyone with lightning. And I’m sitting there thinking “What kind of movie are you trying to make here? This gag makes no sense tonally with what you’re trying to do.”

Cinematography –
The Director of Photography, Lawrence Sher, previously worked on all three Hangover movies, Due Date, War Dogs, Joker, Garden State, Whish I Was Here, and I Love You, Man. I only mention this because six of those movies were directed by Todd Phillips and two of them were directed by Zach Braff. Which means this guy is the go-to DOP for two very different directors. I find that interesting. Also I Love You, Man is a cinematic triumph and is easily one of Paul Rudd’s best movies. I thought this movie looked fine. There’s always a risk that the cinematography in these movies gets lost in the CGI of it all, and despite that one shot of the The Rock diving toward the ground that people love to make fun of, I think he did a solid job.

Go away now. I’m gonna do some spoilers and stuff.

Again, I’m sure you don’t give a shit.

But this is custom now.

I just have to do this.

I don’t want to add all this filler, to be clear.

I would love if I could just do the review.

But there’s one of you out there that would get really sad if I spoiled Black Adam.

So for that one person who loves The Rock more than anything, this is for you.

But yeah, spoilers now.

Black Adam Spoiler Review
Hey, you made it. Welcome to spoilers. Anyway, there’s a twist in this movie. Because at the beginning we’re told that a little boy started an uprising and was given the powers of Shazam. But what we don’t find out until the end is that the dictator has the boy’s mother killed and brutally injures the father, who is played by The Rock’s big head pasted onto a skinnier body. More on that later. The boy gives his father the powers of Shazam in order to save him, but in the process becomes mortal once more and the dictator’s soldiers shoot him with arrows. And then Teth-Adam kills the dictator out of anger and destroys Kahndaq with this lightning explosion thing he does when he’s angry. So the wizards imprison him. Thousands of years later, the last descendant of Kahndaq’s former dictator tricks Adrianna into finding this crown thing that will give him the ultimate power his family was meant to have. This man is Ishmael, and he is played by Marwan Kenzari. He finds out that the powers of this crown can only be unlocked if he is killed by Teth-Adam while holding it. This sends him to hell where he is endowed with the powers of Sabbac(Anti-Shazam demon guy) and he comes back to life as a shitty-looking CGI devil man. At this point Black Adam has agreed to be locked up in Amanda Waller’s weird underwater prison that she suddenly has, where he turns into human form and a tube is put down his throat so he can’t say Shazam. Why doesn’t Billy Batson come in and check up on why some evil old dude is flying around and shooting lightning and yelling Shazam? Couldn’t tell you. Anyway Doctor Fate goes to stop Sabbac on his own and he puts a magic dome shield thingy around this building that has some throne Sabbac needs to sit on to summon the undead(Random plot point that I don’t think was foreshadowed at all) and because Doctor Fate has been using his future predicting powers all movie long to determine that Hawkman is going to die, he is sacrificing himself instead in order to save his friend. And while all of this is going on he lets Black Adam out of his prison from afar and gives the “Believe in yourself, you can be a hero speech”. Black Adam fights a bunch of guys and nearly dies. Then he jumps into this weird water doorway and almost drowns because we need the death fakeout summon your power moment. Doctor Fate is killed by Sabbac, Black Adam flies in, says his catchphrase(“Tell them the man in black sent you”) and kills Sabbac with the help of Hawkman. The annoying little kid galvanizes the thirty people that live in Kahndaq and they fight back the weird skull zombies that just inexplicably show up out of nowhere. And Hawkman just lets Black Adam go at the end despite spending the whole movie telling him not to kill. Oh, and if we’re counting movie clichés, you bet your ass there’s a bit at the very end where Black Adam, now in a more comic accurate costume with a cape, says he can’t go by Teth-Adam anymore, and the little kid says “What will you call yourself? You wear a lot of black and your name is Adam…”(Not exactly the dialogue, but it’s almost as stupid) which Black Adam responds to by looking at the screen and the title of the movie pops up.
Also I don’t typically agree with public discourse about the violent nature of superhero movies because I’m desensitized to all that stuff and none of them are that visceral. He does kill a few people in fun, PG13 ways. But I do agree that maybe there shouldn’t be Halloween costumes that little kids can wear? I don’t have kids, but if I did, I wouldn’t let them dress up as a remorseless killer who gets absolutely no comeuppance for his actions in any way. I’m referring to Kevin McCallister from Home Alone in particular, but Black Adam fits that category as well.

The Villain
The villain is bad and uninteresting. The twist is unsurprising because they got the same actor to play the dictator and the modern day descendant. It’s another DC movie that ends with a big CGI fight between two characters with similar powers and the villain also looks terrible. People make fun of She-Hulk, but damn. This guy looks like shit. And I know they can do better because five seconds before we see the weird demon man villain, he’s given his powers by cool looking demon people. Ugh.

More Ranting About The Justice Society
At one point Kent Nelson says to Hawkman that the world needs the Justice Society. Do we? Who are you? Where did you come from? Were you around in World War 2? Who was on the team before and why didn’t you get any of them instead of grabbing two random kids that haven’t met each other before, one of whom has no idea what they’re doing? How are you allowed to enter a foreign country and just do whatever you want? You say you’re a global outreach team that helps people who can’t help themselves, but based on the pushback the people here give you and the way you respond to it, I seriously doubt you’ve ever done that before. Hey, Doctor Fate? If the world needs the Justice Society then why does it seem like they haven’t been active in years? And Hawkman, why do you have a fancy mansion and a high-tech plane and a bunch of other sciency stuff? In the comics, you’re a rageful brute with wings and a mace. But in this your background and personality matches the character of Mister Terrific, another Justice Society member. Why aren’t you that character instead? Who are any of you people? Just explain literally anything about any of your backstories and I’ll be happy!
There’s a plotline where these idiots come storming into Kahndaq to fight Black Adam and they destroy everything. Actually that plotline is the whole movie. But anyway the Kahndaqi people boo the Justice Society and cheer Black Adam because the Justice Society have done nothing for them and Black Adam has done everything. I’ll give them credit here, because kind of talking about how more could be done to help other countries and then dropping that plotline entirely is a beautiful metaphor for global politics. Well done.

Inexplicable Cameos
Another Peacemaker cameo comes in the form of Jennifer Holland, reprising her role as Emilia Harcourt. Even though she definitely doesn’t work for Amanda Waller anymore because Amanda Waller shouldn’t be in control of anything anymore, she’s in this so we can see a familiar face and go “Hey, she’s in that other thing I saw!” The weirdest part of her cameo is she’s wearing this weird black leather shiny trench coat jacket outfit in the middle of a weird aquatic prison. I don’t know why she’s wearing it. It makes no sense. I would love to know who in production said “Let’s put her in a weird shiny leather suit that makes creaking noises whenever she moves at all.” But I like that character, so I don’t really mind. Also Jennifer Holland and James Gunn got married in real life recently, so congrats to both of them. I’m sure they’re reading this.
A cameo that I definitely did not expect was that of Atom Smasher’s uncle. In the comics Atom Smasher is a legacy hero. He’s the godson of the original Atom, who was not a man who could shrink, but a small and buff man. His godfather had no powers, but his grandfather did, which is how Al got his powers. In this they’ve simplified it. Al Rothstein is the nephew of the original Atom Smasher(Inexplicably also named Al), who loans Al his suit. And Uncle Al is played by none other than Henry Winkler, who, like Stellan Skarsgård before him, appeared in the movie via FaceTime and was probably paid a million dollars to say a few lines into his phone. But I love Henry Winkler, so I’m glad he’s in this. We’re never going to see any of these characters again, but I wouldn’t mind an Atom Smasher movie with Noah Centineo and Henry Winkler, even if it would just be Ant-Man but not as good. Ugh. Get your shit together, DC.

Skinny Dwayne
Another hilarious bit in this movie is when the cameras finally stop hiding Teth-Adam’s human form in a stupid attempt to keep the twist going, and we see the Rock’s big head pasted onto the body of a skinnier person. And it looks ridiculous. It is so hilarious to me that they couldn’t make this look good because last year they put Ryan Reynolds’ head on a body builder in Free Guy and it looked fine. Eleven years ago they made Chris Evans look like a tiny little man and it was such a good effect that I thought they got a small actor and made him look big. But this was embarrassing. Don’t try to convince me that the Rock’s big head would fit on a skinny man. I’m no fool.

That Post-Credits Scene That Isn’t Really A Spoiler Because The Rock Is Literally Using It To Promote The Film
Superman is in this, and he’s played by Henry Cavill! Aren’t you shocked and awestruck by this news?! Wait, what? You’re not shocked by the news of Henry Cavill’s triumphant return to the role that made him a star? How come? Oh, you mean you saw the dozens of posts the Rock made that blatantly spoil the post credit scene because he wants people to see this movie? Oh well, that’s a bummer. I wish you didn’t know about the two seconds of screen time Henry Cavill has where Amanda Waller sends him to talk to Black Adam and the Rock smirks because Superman couldn’t possibly be powerful enough to defeat him. I get that you want everyone to think you’re a DC fan, the Rock. I get you’re on the pulse and you know what people want to see. But chill out. He keeps talking about how he wants to fight Superman and the Justice League and the Suicide Squad, maybe all in one movie and bring in Kevin Hart as another character. Slow down. Stop trying to make DC the Black Adam Cinematic Universe. Your favorite character isn’t that interesting. Just shhh, the Rock. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. Shhhhh.

Overall Rating – 4/10(The more I think about it, the less I like it. Even though Morbius is an objectively worse film, this one made me far angrier. I don’t expect anything good from Sony, but DC should know better. Hopefully Warner Brothers is being truthful about letting James Gunn run things and we’ll get better movies like The Suicide Squad going forward.)
The Rock Rating – 3/10(I wish I had rewatched The Tooth Fairy. Or The Game Plan. Or Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Or even Jungle Cruise. All movies where the Rock is much more charming and fun to watch. I even would’ve preferred rewatching Jumanji: The Next Level, which from memory was a fairly generic sequel that mostly copied the previous movie and didn’t add anything interesting. I should rewatch that, and see if I was wrong. Nah. The Rock has wasted too much of my time already.)

So I doubt anyone is still reading this, but I’ve decided I’m going to keep doing these reviews. Because for some reason I’m becoming irrationally angry about this movie, and it’s always better to air your grievances on a blog and sound like a crazy person than to keep your weird emotions bottled up. So as a form of therapy I will continue to rant about these movies and keep trying to think of and write stories of my own. I am a person on the internet, after all. I’m contractually obligated to broadcast my weird opinions. Hope you enjoyed this, if you are in fact still here. There are probably other blog posts coming soon, but be sure to come back in a couple weeks when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is released and surprises nobody by being a better movie.

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