The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
I always make sure to preface my review of any superhero film by informing the reader that I go into these films as a novice. I do not know anything about the backstories, the characters, or if it’s true to its source material. However, I am a firm believer that if a film is good, it can be enjoyed without an audience member knowing anything about the superhero. It should be able to stand on its own merits. There is no denying the movie star appeal of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but I do have serious questions about some of the film roles he has picked for himself. He has proven both in wrestling and in certain films like “Central Intelligence” that he has a charisma very few can match. He is an authentic human being who is filled with charm for days, and I would like to see more of that in his future projects. This film, though, called for a different type of performance out of him.
“Black Adam” is initially set in 2600 B.C. where a crown was created by Ahk-Ton of Kahndaq in order to give him the powers of a demon. The film then moves to the present day, and it shows Kahndaq in a state of distress at the hands of Intergang, a crime syndicate that doesn’t like to play by the rules. Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) is looking to obtain the Crown of Sabbac, and she has enlisted the help of her brother, Karim (Mohammed Amer), along with their associates Samir (James Cusati-Moyer) and Ishmael (Marwan Kenzari). It should be noted she has good intentions for the Crown. Once Adrianna gets her hands on the crown, she awakens Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) from a lengthy slumber. She is under the impression that he is the hero of Kahndaq after he saves her from Intergang. Government officials from America, however, believe Teth-Adam is dangerous and not a hero, and they bring in the Justice Society to make sure he will not inflict any harm on anyone.
The Justice Society consists of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo). However, Adrianna’s son, Amon (Bodhi Sabongui), believes there is good inside of Teth-Adam as, after all, he saved his mother from Intergang. There might be some darkness and a past to Teth-Adam, but Amon believes if Teth-Adam can come up with a cool catchphrase and harness his powers for the right cause, he can be a really special superhero. There is a past with Teth-Adam, one which still haunts him to this day, and he is a complex character with an interesting backstory and more layers than one would expect.
I found the story of “Black Adam” interesting, layered and geared more toward adults than children. I cannot imagine this is the kind of superhero film that will appeal to many children. The first half does a good job of laying out the stakes, allowing the characters to develop, and letting us spend time with them where we get to know them. This is a more restrained performance from Johnson. As soon as you find out his backstory and what happened to him in his past, you understand why. This is not the Dwayne Johnson we are used to seeing in his other films, and he gives a solid and understated performance. He has to express a lot of emotions throughout the film, and he does a great job with that. Sarah Shahi is really, really good here and shows just the right amount of powerful vulnerability and humanity throughout.
With the Justice Society, the standout performer was clearly Aldis Hodge. I have been enjoying his work for a while now, and he holds his own with Johnson and even steals a few scenes. I felt like Pierce Brosnan was not given a whole lot to do with his role as Doctor Fate, but he does come across as wise and insightful with his performance. He is an observer of what’s going on and trying to come to terms with what he knows is going to happen because he’s aware of when people are going to die. The younger actors, Quintessa Swindell and Noah Centineo, are very, very effective, but again, they are not given enough screen time to really shine and show off their acting chops. I liked what I saw from them, but I wanted to see more.
Overall, “Black Adam” is an entertaining superhero film with a dark backstory that I enjoyed. The special effects, action, and pacing are lacking, however, and they hold the film back. I wish they had a tighter script as the last forty-five minutes are really lagging and keep everything from ending on the right note. I see elements of a really, really good superhero film here, but they don’t all come together. There are actors, moments, and scenes where I said to myself, “Now, this is working. Let’s stay here.” Other times, I was thinking to myself, “This is sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It is an average film but with good to great signs of life sprinkled throughout its running time.
* * out of * * * *
4K Info: “Black Adam” is being released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. The set also comes with a digital copy of the film. It has a running time of 125 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, intense action, and some language.
4K Video Info: We do get Dolby Vision here, but I have to say, I was pretty let down with the visuals of this film. Don’t get me wrong, it is very clear and crisp, but it doesn’t quite pop like it should. I understand the film is called “Black Adam,” and it’s supposed to have muted and hushed tones, but there is a way where you can use these to create an interesting 4K transfer with great visuals. I thought it looked just OK. There was not anything which really impressed me or stood out.
4K Audio Info: The Dolby Atmos track brings the power. It really enhances the action scenes without being too loud or overpowering to where it is distracting and you are reaching for your remote to turn the volume down on your soundbar.
The History of Black Adam
Who is The Justice Society?
From Soul to Screen
Black Adam: A Flawed Hero
Black Adam: New Tech in an Old World
Black Adam: Taking Flight
Kahndaq: Designing a Nation
The Rock of Eternity
Costumes make the hero
Black Adam: A new type of action
Should You Buy It?
I do not think “Black Adam” as a film or as a 4K disc is something you need to add to your collection at its current price. It was entertaining for two hours, but it did not reinvent the wheel or leave me with any lasting impressions which stayed with me after the credits rolled. I did not hate it nor did I love it. It was an entertaining superhero film which, of course, is fine, but I think fans are looking for something a little more than just “fine.” There are some good special features here, though. I was disappointed with how the film looked on 4K, as I was expecting an impressive and powerful transfer. It is just OK as well. The audio is really good, as I mentioned earlier. I can see what they were going for here and what their intentions were, but the pacing and the special effects really stop this film dead in its tracks. I recommend you check it out on HBO Max, but I would not add it to your collection.
**Disclaimer** I received a copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.