Black Adam is entertaining, quirky and investing!
Poster of Black Adam

Release Date: 20/10/2022
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Quintessa Swindell, Marwan Kenzari
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

In the fictional, occupied country of Kahndaq, university professor and resistance fighter Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) and her friends are looking for a long-lost and dangerous artifact that in the wrong hands could result in the annihilation of the entire world. Her search leads her to a place where she unknowingly unleashes a superhuman entity that was the protector and champion of the people of Kahndaq 5000 years ago. The people of Kahndaq, plagued by war, oppression, and dictatorship have been waiting with bated breath for his reappearance. This superhuman being is Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson) and upon his arrival, he immediately unleashes his brand of justice on the perpetrators who attack him with everything at their disposal.
Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the lady responsible for maintaining the order of things in the world, sends a group of superheroes known as the Justice Society of America to disarm Adam and put him back to sleep for good. Then there is also Adam’s sworn enemy who has lived among mortals and waited patiently for his opportunity to take a crack at the throne of Kahndaq and world dominion. He decides that the time is ripe for him to set his final plan into motion. All these plot points and story elements come together in what ends up being a thoroughly entertaining and exhilarating adventure that was far better than what the trailers suggested or what I could expect from a run-of-the-mills DCEU offering.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his absorbing essay as the titular character

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Dwayne Johnson is easily the most likable actor of recent times and it is this aspect of his persona that allow him to charge the whooping fees that he charges and continue to be the costliest actor in Hollywood. Every film that he stars in is watchable because of his performance and histrionics. Even the ones that are not very good. In the case of Black Adam, the story and the execution are firmly in place and that allows for him to use his persona and charm to a greater extent making not only his performance, one of the best in recent times but also letting the audiences enjoy his essay a little bit more since everything else leading up to it is also already in place and effective.

The character of Black Adam has been associated with Johnson ever since people expressed their desire to make a film on it and it shows why. He has the perfect look and attitude to fill in the boots of a mystical man who is not strictly speaking “good”. I loved this duality in the character. For a large part of the film, it is not clear if Adam was a good man. He does questionable things. He kills without remorse and when he is angry, he becomes uncontrollable in his rage. This leads to some tragedies. Johnson was not only able to realize this duality in the nature of Adam wonderfully but was also able to make the audience connect with this aspect of the character. There was enough seriousness in his rendition and the film overall for the audiences to not take everything as a joke (this has become customary in most “Marvel” offerings). This results in the action, violence, and mayhem becoming even more impactful. Suffice is to say that Dwayne Johnson is the best thing about this film and he will impress not only his fans but also anyone who walks into this film with an open mind.

Scintillating action

This was a no-brainer. We all expected the film to have great action sequences and it does. The mounting of the action sequences is enormous and that results sometimes in some of the finer details of it getting lost in the mayhem. The best example of this can be found in a chase sequence involving flying motorbikes. There comes a time when the bikes and their maneuvers are hardly visible due to the nature of the cinematography and the fast editing. But it does convey the chaotic nature of the sequences and doesn’t spoil the fun of it. The hand-to-hand combats and the one-sided thrashing that Johnson hands all the others in the film are glorious to watch.
It won’t be wrong to say that Black Adam is practically a film that moves from one action sequence to another and each and every one of these sequences is somewhat different and innovative. The fact that the Justice Society of America plays an important part in the film ensures that there is a plethora of different powers and fighting styles on display in the film to add some variety to the one-dimensional and brutal onslaught of Adam. This also adds an element of quirk to the action rendering it even more enjoyable.  

Efficient supporting cast

The supporting cast of films of this nature where the leading man practically chews up every scene is generally weak and even when A-list actors are involved, they tend to underperform or get sidelined. That is not the case with Black Adam. Each of the supporting cast members brings in their A-games and tries to infuse as much credibility and authority as possible in the narrative through their performances. Even when they are mouthing practically nonsensical dialogues, they try their best to maintain a straight face. I was surprised by how much at least two of the performances impressed me. Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Fate and Sarah Shahi as Adriana are standout performances. Aldis Hodge as Hawkman is good too even though his character is too predictable and practically ticks every prefixed box that has been defined for a character of this kind.    

The negatives

Yes! The film does have its share of negatives. The worst part of the film is its total lack of any formidable antagonist who can hold his own against an unstoppable force like Adam. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that there isn’t any antagonist and the sorry excuse of a villain that we get in the last 15 minutes of the film should have been avoided completely. The CGI of this character is so pathetic and unbelievably bad that it reminded me of the rendition of the apes in the recently released Adipurush teaser. It also doesn’t help that most of the characters pitted against Adam keep saying what an unbeatable superhuman he is and how every effort to stop him is futile.
The storytelling of the film is interesting and uses tropes that make the proceedings unpredictable and investing resulting in the runtime feeling a lot shorter than it is. It is genuinely funny too when it wants to be. However, the writing in many of the action sequences suffers from a total lack of logic and realism. Extending the problem of not having a proper antagonist, I have to add that the film throws hundreds of men and machines at Adam when at every step they see and understand that these weapons and men can’t even put a scratch on the man. Thus, sequence after sequence of the same mistake repeated raises serious questions on the sanity of these men and begs the question, why the writers couldn’t think of better and more powerful challengers to a “superman” in “black”.

Offcourse! The film and every aspect of it is limited by the nature of its content and the safe path that the makers take to establish the character of Black Adam. This is definitely a hero that will be used in other films and with other major characters of DCEU. We do get a glimpse of things to come in the mid-credit scene. Do make it a point to watch that.

Final Words

Even with all its limitations and the insane amount of time that it took to come to fruition, Black Adam ended up entertaining me thoroughly. The fans of “The Rock” will love it a tad bit more. It has every flaw and limitation that is expected of a film of this nature but the director and the actors make it easy to suspend disbelief. Add to that, some great action sequences and investing storytelling and you have a film that is a perfect one-time watch in theaters.   

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

Also Read | ‘Kantara’ wonderfully uses mythical elements associated with deity and culture

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