Review: “Black Adam,” a Superhero Series That Started on a Rock.


Not long into “Black Adam,” a young boy looks up at Dwayne Johnson’s muscled hulk and says, “We need a superhero right now.” Kid, you talk for yourself. Do we need another superhero with a complicated backstory that goes back thousands of years and has to do something crazy?

Do we really need another group of low-level heroes to make it hard to see what’s important? We’ve seen almost 40 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and 12 in the DC Cinematic Universe. You can almost smell the smoke now, can’t you?

“Black Adam” isn’t bad, but it’s boring and takes ideas from other movies like a supervillain of intellectual property. But Johnson is a natural in the lead role. He combines strength with humor and is able to say the lines that need to be said in a wooden way.

It’s hard to believe that he hasn’t been the main character in a DC or Marvel superhero movie until now. I mean, come on, he looks like a superhero even when he’s just wearing regular clothes.

Black Adam

Like Marvel’s “Eternals,” “Black Adam” starts off slowly with the complicated story of our setting: Kahndaq, a fictional Middle Eastern kingdom in 2,600 B.C. with wizards, a bloodthirsty king, a magical crown, and Eternium, a rare metal ore with energy-manipulating properties (hello, Vibranium from “Black Panther”).

In the present day, Kahndaq is ruled by the cruel organized crime group Intergang, and its people are ready to rise up against them. They think that Black Adam (called Teth Adam when he first appears), who has been in a tomb for 5,000 years and is now free, could be their leader. Is he a good or bad force? (Or a new branch of the franchise?) All of them are right.

Still, the other DC superheroes aren’t sure about the new guy, so they send what can only be called Plan B in the form of leftover members of a fake group called the Justice Society of America. There’s Doctor Fate, who is played by Pierce Brosnan as a cheap version of Doctor Strange.

There’s also Atom Smasher, who is played by Noah Centineo as a nerdy and always hungry giant. Aldis Hodge plays a one-note Hawkman, and Quintessa Swindell plays Cyclone, who can control the wind. They seem to have left the superhero who could open jars at home.

Black Adam is stronger than all of them together. He can fly, move as fast as The Flash, catch rockets, deflect bullets, and use his own blue electricity. Most of the time, he just floats, which is a strangely passive thing to do. He says, “I kneel before no one,” which might explain why.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra and the design team do a great job in every way, but the screenplay by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani is a rehashed mess that jumps from one violent scene to the next like a video game to cover up a plot that is both undercooked and overcooked.

At one point, when everyone was tired of all the violence, they brought in skeletons that rose up like a legion from hell, which was exactly what we wanted.

Black Adam

They have some funny parts that DC hasn’t always done well. A recurring bit with “Baby Come Back” and teaching Black Adam satire are fun, but a joke about Clint Eastwood falls flat, and there may have been three natural endings before the final, manipulative one. (The script says, “This can only end one way. Don’t believe it.)

In the middle of all the punching superheroes are two people: a rebel leader and her pre-teen son who loves skateboarding and comics. Sarah Shahi and Bodhi Sabongui, who play them, do a great job. Mohammed Amer is a comic who makes people laugh when they need it most.

The idea of a hero is most interesting, and it’s also the best place to start. The members of the Justice Society are shocked to find out that the people of Kahndaq, who have been oppressed for 27 years, don’t see them as heroes.

Even though he is a bit more violent, Black Adam has come to help. Residents wonder where the superpowerful people were for almost 30 years while they were suffering. This is a nice jab at the West.

“There are only good people and bad people. Hawkman says in a confused way, “Heroes don’t kill people.” “Well, I do,” says Black Adam. Shahiby’s character says that it’s easy to call someone a hero when you’re the one drawing the line.

A lot of references to other movies, like “Tomb Raider,” “Back to the Future,” and a lot of “Star Wars” (including the terrible line “You’re our only hope”), are pretty sad. Sometimes the movie is aware of itself, like when the kid tells Black Adam to come up with a catchphrase that will sell lunchboxes.

“Tell them, ‘The man in black sent you,'” he says, but it doesn’t make much sense. Wait, someone else sent him? Is Johnny Cash what they mean? In fact, that might be a hint. Most likely, the filmmakers were thinking about making money by selling those lunchboxes.

The Warner Bros. Pictures movie “Black Adam,” which comes out in theaters on Friday, is rated PG-13 for strong violence, intense action, and some language. Running time: 124 minutes. It gets two and a half out of four stars.

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