Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

‘Black Adam’ helps Warner Bros. but destroys DC

Dwayne Johnson stars as the titular character in DC's newest movie, "Black Adam."
Dwayne Johnson stars as the titular character in DC's newest movie, "Black Adam."

Although his newest character is an anti-hero, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson might just have what it takes to save Warner Bros. (WB) with “Black Adam.”

That’s not to say “Black Adam” is a great film, but the film has quality parts that make it stand out from WB’s previous film, “Don’t Worry Darling.”

WB merged with Discovery, Inc. in April and has faced multiple troubles under the reign of new CEO David Zaslav. 

On Aug. 2, the company announced it would scrap the nearly-completed “Batgirl” film in anticipation of modest reception, opting to use it for tax write-offs instead. Zaslav also said DC will focus on a new 10-year plan for its films, despite not canceling the upcoming “Flash” film with its problematic star, Ezra Miller.

The company also delayed multiple films, choosing to rely on only “Don’t Worry Darling” and “Black Adam” for profits from theaters for the remainder of 2022. 

If WB is so focused on the quality of DC movies now, it’s baffling to see the studio release “Black Adam,” a film that with a little more work, especially on the script’s dialogue, could have lived up to this standard they’re aiming for.

In the film, Johnson plays the titular character Black Adam, who goes by his birth name Teth-Adam for the majority of the movie. 

The film begins with a brief explanation of how Black Adam acquired his powers, the brief part being a rarity for most comic book movies. He comes from the regionally-ambiguous Kahndaq, which in ancient times enslaved its citizens to build the city and in present times looks like a middle-eastern country with bits of Spanish thrown into the dialogue. 

In order to avoid the risk of spoiling Black Adam’s origin, which is one of the film’s most interesting parts, I’ll just say that Black Adam is granted powers by wizards in reward of a revolution against an oppressive king before being sealed away for thousands of years.

In the present day, Kahndaq is still oppressed, this time under the crime organization Intergang. An archeologist, Adrianna Tomaz, played by Sarah Shahi, awakens Black Adam to save her from the Intergang while she tries to obtain the Crown of Sabbac, a relic from Kahndaq’s old king. 

In Kahndaq, Shahi’s skateboarding and comic-book-loving son, Amon, played by Bodhi Sabongui, tries to convince Black Adam to rid Kahndaq of the Intergang. However, a superhero team called the Justice Society of America (JSA) notices the potential threat of Black Adam and heads to Kahndaq to stop him. 

The JSA is led by Hawkman, played by Aldis Hodge, who has powers of flight and a stubborn ego, and it’s nice to see his introduction to the big screen. Pierce Brosnan plays JSA member Doctor Fate, a sorcerer who draws power from his helmet and is my favorite character in the movie. 

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

Cyclone, played by Quintessa Swindell, is a supergenius with the power to control the wind. Noah Centineo steps away from being a typical Netflix heart-throb to play Atom Smasher whose suit — given to him by his uncle played by Henry Winkler in a very short cameo — allows him to grow gigantic.

The JSA tries to eliminate Black Adam as a threat, but when the Crown of Sabbac falls into the wrong hands, Black Adam and the JSA are forced to work together to save Kahndaq.

The initial few cuts of “Black Adam” were rated R for violence, and it’s apparent in some of the film’s fight scenes. At one point, Black Adam disintegrates a person’s flesh, revealing his skeleton. It’s not the first time a superhero movie has tried to be dark and gritty, but it does work well here.

Unfortunately, these scenes are also ruined by an excessive amount of slow-motion.

Additionally, the fact that Black Adam is viewed as such a large threat in the movie illustrates a larger problem with superheroes, particularly in DC movies. 

Johnson has a large amount of passion for this character, and he demonstrates it through his Tweets, particularly one that says, “The hierarchy of power in the DC UNIVERSE is about to change.”

Black Adam seemingly has no weaknesses, with the JSA trying to convince him to say “Shazam,” the name of the wizard who gave him his powers, which will transform him back into a powerless human. By logic of the members of the Shazam family also receiving their powers from the same wizard, all six of them should rank equally on the hierarchy with Black Adam. 

Johnson was likely also referring to Superman with his Tweet, who seems to have an unlimited amount of powers, only held back by Kryptonite. It’s less interesting to have characters whose powers make them near invincible and whose weaknesses make their films’ plot points anticlimactic.

It’s unclear what exactly is being changed in this so-called hierarchy, especially because a battle’s outcome would be based upon what a writer wants for it. Even if a film decided to use a fight between Black Adam and Superman, it would probably turn out to be pointless because they’re both protagonists, and the filmmakers would opt to have them fight a shared antagonist instead (I’m looking at you, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”).

Although it has its flaws and falls near the middle of my ranking of DC movies, “Black Adam” still proves a strong choice for WB. The film has already been Johnson’s highest opening as a leading man with $67 million in its opening weekend, while also being positively reviewed by fans with a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 90%. 

It seems WB has taken one of the film’s frequently repeated lines to heart: “a bad plan is better than no plan.”

Rating: 5.5/10