Photo: ‘Black Adam’
At this point, movies that star The Rock have essentially become their own genre as they all feature the same traits: a handful of over-the-top action sequences, tongue-in-cheek humor, wisecracks from its star, one-dimensional characters, a bland plot, etc. Sometimes they can be fun to watch for what they are. Other times they warrant a groan. ‘Black Adam’ is a project that The Rock has been attached to for over a decade, so one would assume that it would be a film rife with plenty of Rock-isms so to speak.
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And in many ways, this film does live up to that expectation. But also in some ways, it is a departure from that. ‘Black Adam’ is probably the single most “Rock” movie to date. The things we expect to enjoy, such as fast-paced action, are not only present but also amplified and even improved upon. The things that we’ve come to dread, the dull characters and rudimentary story, are also heavily on display. However, at least for me, the joy won out over the dread. While certainly not among the best the DCEU has offered thus far, ‘Black Adam’ is far from being its worst either as there’s enough exciting action to keep audiences engaged throughout the entire duration of this movie even with an underdeveloped story and weak characters.
Black Adam Is A Force Of Nature
We often scold certain movies for prioritizing style (action, special effects, etc.) over substance (narrative coherence, layered characters, etc.), and oftentimes deservedly so. This is typically what we see amongst most blockbusters today. Another tendency is that while we are supposed to be drawn to the style of these types of movies, that style becomes weary when it is the same setup and bland execution recycled over and over again from other films. Nothing distinguishes the visual effects from that in other blockbusters. While watching the film, ‘Black Adam’ definitely tries to distract you from the poor substance with the stylistic elements, but wow does it succeed in doing so. The reason for this is that it does regurgitate the same elements we see in many other blockbusters.
Black Adam, sort of carves out its own identity from this trend. The action is not just fun and exciting, but is probably the best of any comic book movie in the last few years. Part is because it serves to emphasize one thing: Black Adam is a dangerous being. Another force that helps get this point across to the audience is The Rock himself. To be clear, the script does him no favors as nearly every line of dialogue spoken by this character is predictable and lifeless. When he’s not speaking, however, The Rock knows how to carry himself and bring across the kinetic energy required for this character. The actor has been open about his long journey to bring this character to life and we can almost see that on screen. Or maybe it was just refreshing to see The Rock play a vastly different character for once.
The inclusion of the Justice Society was a bit of a head-scratcher when it was first revealed that they were to be included in this movie, but after seeing them in action, it’s safe to say that this was a smart move. Pierce Brosnan can do no wrong and absolutely crushes it as Doctor Fate. Quintessa Swindell was a fun addition as Cyclone. Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher brought out a handful of laughs almost whenever he was on screen. As someone who absolutely loathes the way humor is used in many comic book movies, most of the humor in this film (though not all of it) worked well and many of those moments came from Centineo. The humor in this film, while it may not be for everyone, at least tried to be creative and original instead of pulling the most tired and overused type of comedy that we see in other blockbusters. But hands down, the stand out of this entire group of characters was Aldis Hodge as Hawkman. Especially considering the lackluster material he was given, how Hodge was able to bring this character across as a believable and engaging figure in an otherwise over-the-top action flick is something worth discussing.
When To Slow Down
One thing that can’t be overstated is that this movie moves at an exponentially fast pace. Oftentimes that is what you want from an action movie, as a fast-paced sequence of events is what keeps the viewer engaged. That is exactly what the film did from start to finish. That being said, the rate at which this story moves keeps a lot of key plot points and moments of exposition from really developing and conveying their narrative importance. At some points, it was incredibly disappointing as it felt like some of the elements of the plot had some potential to add weight to the overall story had they been given enough time to grow. Other times, it felt like the film knew it had a fairly weak script and actively tried to rush through everything going on to keep the audiences from noticing any flaws. The villain, played by Marwan Kenzari, is not only weak, but just outright bad. Without going into spoilers, there’s also a kid who has a significant role in the film and nearly every line he was given to speak was cringe-inducing.
A Sign Of Hope For DC Nonetheless
‘Black Adam’ is far from great, but it is one good time at the movie theater. And while this semi-revamp of DC on the big screen is off to a rough start with a shaky script and an inadequately crafted story, these are issues that can easily be addressed and worked on with future films and do not inhibit the potential for the universe to thrive and grow to a similar level of success that Marvel and the MCU have known for years now. Warner Bros. may even have the opportunity to reach even greater levels of success because unlike its competitor, DC has shown that it is willing to take risks with the types of stories it tells and allows its filmmakers at least some creative freedom instead of sticking to the same tired cookbook repeatedly. With the right script and the right storytellers, The Rock can really sell Black Adam as a force to be reckoned with in the DC universe and demonstrate why this character means so much to him.
And of course, there is the post-credit scene. During the past couple of weeks, The Rock has pretty much given away what the post-credit entails, or more aptly, who it entails. So there’s really no reason to be vague about it but I will still try to do so. To summarize, it was everything fans were hoping it would be. In any other context, this would have been another comic book movie post-credit scene, but because of what it means for the future of a certain character, and the state of uncertainty surrounding them for the past few years, it may have been the most important and stimulating post-credit scene in recent memory. To emphasize it further, I saw this movie opening night in a packed theater and when (BLEEP) appeared in that scene, people lost their minds and went absolutely ballistic. Experiencing that moment with that crowd is what going to the movies is all about, and this is the type of popcorn flick to do just that.
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Pierce Brosnan, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Quintessa Swindell, Marwan Kenzari
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
By Nader Chamas
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Nader Chamas is an aspiring television writer who seeks to fuse thought provoking progressive ideals into the films, shows, and stories that he loves. Having graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Screenwriting, Nader seeks to use his writing to advance causes that do not get enough attention or input across mainstream media. Like most, Nader has his own share of his favorite franchises and stories across pop culture. However, he seeks to contribute timely and relevant topics into these stories as well as in his own original material. This is why Nader’s analysis of popular films and tv shows matches The Hollywood Insider’s practice of discussing entertainment from a socially cognizant and critical perspective.