A spin-off of 2019’s Shazam!, Black Adam tells the story of Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson), a slave who was given godlike powers 5000 years ago to overthrow the city of Kahndaq’s corrupt king. In the present day, Kahndaq is again oppressed, this time by the forces of a syndicate known as Intergang. Teth-Adam is awoken from a magical slumber by archaeologist Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) to become the city’s protector once more, but much has changed in the world in 5000 years, and Adam must work out his place in this new world, be it as a hero or a villain.
Black Adam’s primary selling point is its morally grey anti-hero protagonist, with Adam being unconcerned with effortlessly killing his foes, but it doesn’t have any particular insights about being a hero or the morals of killing – in fact, it doesn’t have any particular insights about anything. The writing wants to be seen as thought-provoking but doesn’t commit one way or another about what thoughts to provoke, leaving the movie as a whole feeling oddly directionless.
Similarly, it wants Adam to be an edgy figure but doesn’t want him to be too provocative in a way that could potentially alienate audiences, and these two factors cancel out to create a completely run-of-the-mill superhero with more violent special effects. This also affects the ensemble superhero cast, as without a strong narrative core there aren’t really any dynamics for them to work with, and no opportunities for substantial character development.
What Black Adam lacks in compelling writing, it makes up for with fun characters, who are given personality beyond their lacklustre script by a strong cast. Dwayne Johnson is great as Adam, bringing the heel heat and babyface pop from his wrestling career to great effect. The Justice Society of America is also charming enough, thanks to its actors, even if they don’t get to swing with their full weight here.
Black Adam is an overwhelmingly, aggressively mediocre film. It exists entirely to set up other offerings in the DC Extended Universe and does so competently, but without any real narrative ambition. It’s a movie that hasn’t got anything to say, not bad enough to be offensive but not good enough to inspire any sort of emotion in its audience. It’s predictable and dull, but it does have The Rock as a superhero, which is better than nothing.
Black Adam is released nationwide on 21st October 2022.
Watch the trailer for Black Adam here: