Dwayne Johnson strides toward the camera as Black Adam.
“Dwayne Johnson is the best part of Black Adam, an otherwise underwhelming film that repeats many of the mistakes of prior DCEU movies.”

There are pros and cons.

  • Dwayne Johnson's fun performance
  • Pierce Brosnan's Dr. Fate is breakout character
  • Silly, popcorn entertainment

There are pros and cons.

  • Messy story
  • Predictable, CG-fueled final battle
  • Confusing, contradicting tone

It is reasonable to not know that the "DC Extended Universe" is still being developed. It's amazing that any project made it to the screen despite all of the chaos surrounding it.

Black Adam has finally arrived in theaters, a feat seemingly accomplished through the sheer force of will of its star, Dwayne Johnson, who has been dragging it towards production for more than a decade now.

It's an ok film, too, but it falls far short of being the course-correcting cinematic spectacle the DCEU needs.

Dwayne Johnson strides toward the camera as Black Adam.

Assembling the team

Johnson is cast as Teth-Adam, a former slave who was granted the powers of Egyptian gods to protect humanity, only to end up destroying his homeland in order to avenge his family's murder. Imprisoned for more than 5,000 years by the same wizards who gave him near-invincible power, Teth-Adam is awakened by an archaeologist searching for a relic to free modern-day Kahndaq. The Justice Society of America, a team of superheros tasked with maintaining international peace, will have to decide if Teth-Adam is an ally or enemy after his resurrection.

The cast includes Johnson, as well as Carter Hall, who is also known as Hawkman, and Kent Nelson, who is also known as Doctor Fate, among others.

Sarah Shahi plays the archaeologist who awakens Teth-Adam, Bodhi Sabongui plays her son, and Mohammed Amer plays her brother in the movie. Marwan Kenzari is a member of the Intergang who is trying to get the crown.

It's a crowded cast, but as the title suggests, Johnson's superpowered character is the focal point of the story, and his performance often drags it back to center whenever the meandering, overstuffed narrative starts to wander.

Dwayne Johnson stares at Aldis Hodge in a scene from Black Adam.

No hero

Black Adam feels like a project unsure of what it wants to be, and it borrows elements from other DCEU films before it. If the DCEU films kept a consistent tone, Warner Bros. would be happy.

The tone of Black Adam is influenced by the silly superhero hijinks of the year before, as well as the darker, hero-averse version of the DC comics universe. Johnson's Teth-Adam, who is compelled to remind everyone that he's not a hero and is okay with killing people at least once every five minutes, bounces between angsty contemplation of his tragic backstory and trying to nail down a pithy slogan.

It is puzzling that the film made Teth-Adam's willingness to kill villains his primary characteristic. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and countless other DCEU heroes have killed hundreds of villains, so the suggestion that Teth-Adam's approach to justice is somehow at odds with what the world understands superheroes to be feels forced.

Dwayne Johnson launches lightning from his hand in a scene from Black Adam.

Who’s hitting who?

Black Adam borrows from one of the most-maligned recurring elements of DCEU films to date, closing with a villain battle that is sobogged in digital effects that it would look just as comfortable in a video game.

This is an issue that isn't reserved to just DCEU films, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made that mistake more than once, too, but it's been disappointing in some of the studio's best films so far.

It is a pity that Johnson is reduced to a head in a motion capture suit in Black Adam because he is one of the most capable action actors in Hollywood.

Piwerce Brosnan puts his hand on Dwayne Johnson's chest in a scene from Black Adam.

Super standouts

The film is at its best when Black Adam allows Johnson to have fun with the part.

The charm and charisma of Johnson is what makes Black Adam better than it is. He is the rare actor who can pivot between heartbreaking pathos, smirking humor, and intimidating self-assurance, and he puts all of these in the film. Black Adam is one of the worst DCEU films to date, but with him, it is an entertaining experience that sits within the highest tier of entries.

While the crowded cast is light on stellar performances from anyone other than Johnson, Brosnan delivers a memorable performance as the enigmatic Doctor Fate, who feels like the supporting character most deserving of another appearance in the DCEU. The spectacle of Swindell and Centineo's powers makes them fun to watch in limited screen time, but they don't have much to do as characters when they're not engaged in battle.

Too little, too late

Although Black Adam is an entertaining film thanks to its star's performance, even Johnson can't manage all the heavy lifting required to turn the film into a franchise-changing project.

Black Adam offers a lot of potential but is too reliant on its star and vision for the DCEU that it doesn't have much to offer. Black Adam will most likely be satisfied with audiences looking for an escapist adventure without any meaningful mental or emotional connection to the story. The film's return on investment isn't likely to be as good for those looking for something deeper.

Black Adam isn't a project that the DCEU needs to turn around and get better. It is enjoyable. That will have to be done for now.

Black Adam is a film by Warner Bros. Check out our Black Adam's ending explained article for a full synopsis of the film.

Editors' Recommendations