Who or what is Black Adam? DC’s latest superhero confection is many things, but in terms of 2022 cinema, it’s a welcome tent-pole for a big box-office tent that’s sagged badly since July. Black Adam should easily be the biggest hit of the last three months, and that’s good news generally; art-house critics may sniff, but without a few copper-bottomed crowd-pleasers, the entire cinematic eco-system is in danger of collapse; for a character that’s been around since 1945, Black Adam’s ride to the rescue is immaculately timed.
And one obvious reason why crowds will return is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a wrestler-turned-actor with over two decades of popularity. He’s an ideal fit for a DC Universe that’s often struggled to get the right amount of humour into their films. But Black Adam is a character that allows the Rock to play against his usual genial image; Teth-Adam is a magical champion, sure, but he’s also a cold-blooded killer, and Jaume Collet-Serra’s film has a strong, iconic opening as moody Teth-Adam is roused from his tomb, prison, or just a large box in the ground where he’s been waiting to return to our world. Who has awoken Teth-Adam from his slumbers? Not the Justice League, but the Justice Society, led by Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and comprising of Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), with Dr Fate (Pierce Brosnan) and his magic helmet along for the ride…
So Black Adam is originally a super-villain, and that ambiguity drives most of the narrative here; there’s some nice gags about how the protagonist, awoken from a five thousand year slumber, understands doors but not sarcasm; humour is the saving grace of many comic-book movies, and so again it proves here. The city of Khandaq is well sketched in as a background for several large-scale brawls, and there’s a heart-warming mother-son dynamic that Black Adam must resolve. Player’s Baby Come Back also gets several outings, in a typically silly needle-drop that this genre seems to thrive on.
Black Adam may be a venerable property, but it’s easy to see why the ever-personable Johnson would find it a good fit; as a man with the power of various Egyptian gods, the role allows Johnson the chance to flex his physical and acting muscles. There’s plenty of large-scale action, Brosnan makes some nice gags from the side-lines, and yes, there’s a spoiler-alert cameo from a famous DC IP at the end. A little darker in tone that Aquaman, Black Adam should be a successful launch for a new DC hero; it’s been over 15 years in the making, but it’s finally time for audiences to smell what the Rock is cooking, and it’s a familiar recipe for mass-entertainment that should hit the spot for hungry audiences worldwide.
Thanks to Warner Bros UK for IMAX access to Black Adam, out now in the UK and US.