‘Black Adam’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

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.

Special Features:

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.

‘The Batman” Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.

I have stated in the past I’m not the biggest fan of superhero/comic book films. I know they are insanely popular, and they make up most of the current box office these days.  However, they have never quite tickled my fancy. A recent exception to the rule would be 2019’s “The Joker.”  It was my favorite film of 2019. When a superhero or comic book film is dark, gritty, and focused on character development as opposed to explosions and car chases, I can get into the film and appreciate the characters and the story. I’m happy to report “The Batman” is a really, really good movie that surprised the hell out of me.

When Robert Pattinson was named as the latest Batman, a lot of fans of the franchise were disappointed and fixated on his previous work in the “Twilight” franchise. Between “The Batman” and “Good Time,” directed by the Safdie brothers, Robert Pattinson has proven he is a solid actor when given the right material.  Everyone has their favorite Batman from the various films in the franchise. I haven’t seen all of them, so I can’t say with any clarity which one is my favorite or which actor has done the best job. I don’t feel as though Pattinson was asked to do a lot here, but what he does do is slightly above average.

It’s rather tough to judge Pattinson’s performance, as there is a lot going on in this nearly three-hour film.  It wasn’t a standout performance or one that blew me away. At times, it felt like the film was protecting him and didn’t give him a lot to do. When the film was over, I was impressed with the film and not really thinking about his performance as Batman. I would have liked to have seen more from Catwoman, played by Zoë Kravitz.  Considering the film’s length, I felt as though they could have included her a little bit more in the film.  There are also stand-out performances from Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell.

It’s Halloween in Gotham City, and it turns out to be a night of mayhem after its mayor Don Mitchell Jr. is killed by the Riddler. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), of the Gotham City Police Department, calls Batman into action as he feels he can be an ally in this case.  This is not met with open arms by the Gotham City Police Department.  This will also not be the first body that is found dead by Batman and James Gordon. The Riddler is leaving behind cards with various clues, taunting Batman.  In some ways, this film had the feel of “Se7en” to it.  This is much more of a dark thriller/horror film than a superhero film, which was appreciated. It helped that the film was directed by Matt Reeves of “Cloverfield,” “Let Me In,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “War for the Planet of the Apes” fame.  He knows how to make a tightly wound thriller with human elements.

What makes “The Batman” work so effectively as a story is that the Riddler, right or wrong, has a motive behind all of his killings. He sees all the lies and coverups that are happening in Gotham City.  He just wants to expose the truth to the public. Speaking of the Riddler, I would have liked to have seen more from Paul Dano in this film.  I understand they want to build up to showdown between Batman and the Riddler, but it left me wanting more.  I imagine that is for us in the eventual sequels.  Again, I would have liked more from the Riddler and Catwoman.

There is also a moral dilemma at the heart of the film.  Bruce Wayne/Batman is looking to figure things out about his family with the help of the family butler, Alfred (Andy Serkis).  He’s piecing the clues together at the same time the audience is figuring them out as well.  There is a rhyme and a reason to everything which happens in this film.  At times, it felt like a smarter “Saw” film with some of the traps, letters, and messages that were being sent out by the Riddler.  The film is an intense ride which really packs a wallop.  That being said, I would have trimmed about 20-30 minutes from it.  That would have made it a four-star film.

I’m really surprised they were able to get away with a PG-13 rating with all of its dark material, which deals with subjects such as mental illness, grief, death, trauma, and explosives.  While I have no issues with films that are willing to be bleak and dark, it felt like an R-rated film to me, which is high praise.  I’m going to give the film three and a half stars because of the run-time.  At times, it really gets bogged down and can feel tedious.  In the end, this is a very enjoyable look at Batman from director Matt Reeves.  The way the film is shot is absolutely brilliant.  The dark, brooding cinematography and tone were very much appreciated.  I really, really liked “The Batman.”

* * * ½ out of * * * *

4K Info: “The Batman” is released on a three-disc 4K Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It has a running time of 176 minutes and is rated PG-13 for strong violence and disturbing content, drug content, some language, and some suggestive material.  One disc is the 4K, another disc is the Blu-ray, and there is an entire Blu-ray disc devoted to the special features, which are over two hours long!

Video Info: Released in 2160p Ultra High Definition, “The Batman” is simply stunning with its dark black imagery. It’s a remarkable 4K, and it’s exactly why the format is really finding its way into the homes of more hardcore film collectors.  The film also comes with Dolby Vision. You won’t be disappointed by a single scene in this film.  It’s breathtaking. For the Blu-ray, you get your usual 1080p High Definition.  The special features come on a separate Blu-ray disc as mentioned earlier.

Audio Info: For the 4K and Blu-ray, you receive the following audio formats: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, English, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are also in English, Spanish, and French.

Special Features:

Vengeance in the Making: A Making-of Documentary Featuring Cast and Crew

Deleted scenes with director’s commentary

Anatomy of a Car Chase featuring the Batmobile

The Batman: Genesis

Becoming Catwoman

and more!!

Even though the film is incredibly lengthy, I’d love to watch it again.  I really liked the direction they went with this film as far as the Riddler having an agenda behind his killings.  I also thought the moral dilemma and the code Batman lives by was really tested throughout the film.  It’s an impressive movie.  I’m not going to discredit the work of Robert Pattinson in the film, as I thought he did a fine job, but it did feel like the film really didn’t allow him to show off more of his acting chops.  He’s really hiding behind the Batman character. This might have been by design.  However, I would have loved to have seen a performance that rivaled the film.  Once again, maybe it was not the intention of the filmmaker or the people behind the film.  Still, if you enjoy your superhero movies with a dark edge to them, you will not be disappointed by “The Batman.”  There is no stone left unturned with the special features as well.  Without question, this is a day-one purchase at your local retailer.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the sequels.

**Disclaimer** I received a 4K/Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free.  The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.