After the first phases of the DC cinematic universe struggled to remain somewhat cohesive, Warner Bros producers have remained undaunted in attempting new strategies to rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After achieving both critical and commercial successes with Shazam and The Suicide Squad, they are hoping that the popularity of one Dwayne Johnson will do some of the heavy lifting. It seems that Johnson is the great, usually grinning and charming, hope that will help the DCEU to continue its gradual rise to perhaps, one day, dethrone Marvel Studios.

Well, it takes more than charisma and wit to do that, and Black Adam is definitely not the movie to launch the DCEU way higher. While the film has its fun and exciting moments, its paper thin story, weak character development, and visual presentation leave much more to be desired. On the top of those issues, “The Rock’s” take on the character is actually rather bland and wooden. The character comes across as a stiff, humorless stoic with very few indications of further development. Now I know the character is not supposed to overly comedic, quick-witted, or overly lovable, but I wish that the writing, direction and Johnson’s performance would develop the character of Black Adam into a more accessible and empathetic character.

The basic themes for a better movie are all there. A man and his people are enslaved. The man gets superpowers. Man gets revenge and becomes a controversial antihero, whose power shows corruptive tendencies. Adam’s story begins thousand of years ago in the fictional city of Kahndaq. After Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) gains the power of Shazam, he transforms into a mighty titan and frees his people from the tyranny of King Anh-Kot. In the present day, Kahndaq is under another oppressive power known as the Intergang. Desperate for the power and the means to rebel, Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi), her brother Karim (Mohammed Amer) and their associates seek out the power of the Crown of Sabbac before it falls into their oppressors’ hands. In doing so Adrianna reawakens the warrior Teth-Adam, who plans to vanquish all enemies of Tomaz and her people.

Now that Adam has been released, and poses a potential threat to the world, Government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) dispatches the Justice Society of America to deal with a possibly escalatory and volatile situation. Lead by Carter Hall/Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), JSA members Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) end up battling Adam until they agree to a stalemate. Forming a shakey truce, the warriors agree to form a team when a true villain rises after acquiring and using the power of the Crown of Sabbac.

Written by Alan Sztykiel, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani, and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Black Adam does entertain well enough and shows much promise when it ultimately reveals some of the plans for the DCEU’s future, but is rather weak and not all that exciting as a stand-alone movie. The movie comes across a loud, bombastic, Michael Bay Transformers movie, but with flesh and blood characters. The movie is so overly stuffed with action that there’s not much time to properly develop the story and characters. Some of the attempts at humor actually work, but the rest feel rather forced and land their punchlines with duds.

Again, I think that Dwayne Johnson has shown in the past that he can portray charismatic characters that earn the audience’s empathy, but in this movie, I just didn’t find Adam all that interesting. The movie has a great supporting cast in Sarah Shahi, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Quintessa Swindell, and Pierce Brosnan, but these fine actors are given so very little to do, except play dress up as constumed heroes and assume the usual poses. I also really enjoyed young Bodhi Sabongui as Amon Tomaz Adrianna’s feisty and courageous son. He brings much boyish heart to the film which it sorely needs.

So, while I didn’t absolutely hate Black Adam, I was still mostly disappointed with it. Hopefully, though, the Warner/DC execs and any future filmmakers involved will learn from what this movie got wrong and will deliver another great movie along the lines of Shazam and Wonder Woman. Time will tell, but in the meantime, do yourself a favor and wait until this movie is available on a streaming platform. I see no point in rushing out to see it.

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