“The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.” That is the tagline The Rock and Warner Bros. has been using to promote DC’s latest superhero adventure, Black Adam. Although to call Black Adam a superhero would probably be a misnomer. While not exactly a villain, he is an anti-hero who is willing to do the things that superheroes don’t, like kill people. The film is supposed to usher in a new era, not just for the DC Universe but for the superhero genre in general. Unfortunately, Black Adam is much of the same audiences have come to expect from superheroes. Yes, The Rock brings a brutality and strength that is rarely seen by the genre, but it’s nothing ground-breaking. At the end of the day, Black Adam is still just another powered up caped vigilante who is trying to find his place within the world. It’s not awful, especially when compared to many of the other DCEU films, but it’s far from the game-changer it claims to be.
Once a slave in the ancient city of Kahndaq, Teth-Adam lost his family at the hands of the cruel rulers who forced them to mine for the rare mineral Eternium that contains magical powers. Teth-Adam is then chosen as Champion by the gods to save the people of Kahndaq, but he uses his newfound power for vengeance but gets seal away as a result. When he is awakened 5,000 years later in modern day, the world as he knew it has changed, but his thirst for revenge remains. Teth-Adam’s anger, power, and fury draws the attention of the Justice Society, who vow to do whatever they can to contain his uncontrollable power.
It’s been 15 years since The Rock has been attached to Black Adam in some form of another and honestly it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the titular role. This is without a doubt the one and only superhero The Rock was born to play. And for the most part he does a fine job. Black Adam is a powerful and brutal anti-hero who dishes out the pain on his own terms and no one else’s. He is a man of few words but a thousand smirks. He prefers talking with his fists, regardless. Black Adam‘s portrayal of power is how you would imagine most superheroes would act if unchecked. He rips through people in the blink of an eye like bloody tissue paper. With most superheroes, it feels like they’re constantly holding back their full potential. It doesn’t feel like that with Black Adam.
Strength and brutality aside, Black Adam still feels rather conventional. Sure he is willing to do what superheroes don’t do and has no problems killing anyone, but he still mostly sticks to killing bad guys, in this case it’s mostly soldiers from the organized syndicate Intergang who have taken occupation of the present-day Kahndaq. He doesn’t claim to be a savior of the people and for the most part tries to ignore anyone who isn’t an immediate threat to his goals. Meanwhile the resistance fighters still believe him to be their Champion and try to teach him how to be a hero. Arguably thee most interesting parts of the film involve the Justice Society. Led by Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), and newcomers Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), all try and attempt to contain Black Adam. Brosnan’s Dr. Fate is the most interesting character of the film with his magical powers and ability to see the future. His action sequences are thrilling, and the best Black Adam has to offer. Atom Smasher is the comic relief of the group, and Noah Centineo can be hit or miss with the humor. The film does attempt bring up ideas regarding superheroes and the people they’re supposedly saving, but these more interesting moments of discussion are brief as they are only used to bridge the gaps between battles. The people of Kahndaq have been oppressed for years under Intergang rule but the Justice Society turns a blind eye to them until Black Adam shows up. Only then are the “heroes” there to save the day. I personally would have liked to see the film explore the disconnect that superheroes have between themselves and the people they’re saving.
Instead it’s just a lot of back and forth brawls between Black Adam and the Justice Society until a bigger and truly bad villain shows up in the form of Sabbac, forcing them to put aside their differences and worth together to save the day. Like I said, there is a lot of familiarity with Black Adam. Even his powers aren’t all that novel. A scene demonstrating his speed features him moving through a slowed down world while he casually dismantles an entire army as music rocks in the background. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before with the Flash or Quicksilver characters. The blood and violence are just taken up a notch. Is he more powerful than Superman? Maybe, but I doubt we’ll ever see a definite answer.
Black Adam features some brutal and entertaining action sequences but is otherwise a standard affair for the superhero genre. The Rock as the titular anti-hero is a nice addition to the overall DC Extended Universe, but his debut solo venture is far from earth shattering. His charisma and brooding stares can only take the film so far. The hierarchy of power might be a little different, but the quality remains about the same.
Unfortunately, Black Adam is much of the same audiences have come to expect from superheroes. Yes, The Rock brings a brutality and strength that is rarely seen by the genre, but it’s nothing ground-breaking. At the end of the day, Black Adam is still just another powered up caped vigilante who is trying to find his place within the world.