Review: ‘Black Adam’ misses the mark

Despite Dwyane Johnson’s best efforts, the film is a dull entry into the DC Extended Universe


Photo Courtesy: Warner Bros.

Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam.

by Noah Lyons, Staff Writer

After years of rewrites, production hold ups, and a global pandemic, DC’s latest film “Black Adam” is finally hitting theaters. 

Black Adam stars Dwayne Johnson as the titular antihero, alongside an ensemble cast of Pierce Brosnan, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, and Quintessa Swindell. The film follows the origin story of Black Adam, a man who receives the power of the Gods. As he re-enters society, his violent form of morality is challenged by the Justice Society. 

There is an intriguing moral dilemma in the film. Black Adam believes in punitive punishment, in which he kills his enemies or deals them significant injuries. While on the other hand, Hawkman of the Justice Society (Aldis Hodge) advocates for a procedural approach, hoping to gain intel from enemies and allow them to re-enter society. 

The two characters plead their cases throughout the film, accompanied with lots of punching and collateral damage.

While the story is set up to explore their differences in philosophies, it never goes beyond a surface level. The biggest problem with “Black Adam” is its lack of direction. 

The film contains some brutal kills and explosions, but it is constrained by the PG-13 rating. While the filmmakers do not hold back on deaths, they lack narrative weight. It feels too dark for a PG-13 film, but not edgy enough for an R rating. 

The tone of the movie is inconsistent as well. Much like 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” it is a dark and drab-looking film. Most of the color palette is gray, orange, and black. The “Black Adam” story is also quite tragic. Considering the film’s look and the character’s origins, the quips and one-liners do not fit very well. 

One of the bright spots of the film, unsurprisingly, is Johnson. His physique and presence embodies the character from the comics with ease. In almost every role he has, he does a solid job––nothing more, nothing less. In a movie that misses the mark in many other ways, his performance is a strength.

As for the rest of the cast, Atom Man (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) are often sidelined or neglected. Shahi and Hodges’ performances are serviceable but unmemorable. Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan) is a charismatic presence, but he starts to feel like a less compelling version of Marvel’s Professor X.

The look of the movie is not much better, with dull cinematography and lackluster special effects. This is especially evident in the third act, as the villain and Black Adam duke it out behind a green screen.

What we are left with is a film that lacks an identity. DC’s other 2022 film, “The Batman,” fares much better. Its tone is consistent throughout and the actors do a terrific job behind a compelling script. Even 2019’s “Shazam” carves a niche as an easygoing family comedy. In an over-saturated world of comic book movies and TV shows, “Black Adam” does little to stand out. 

“Black Adam” is not a terrible film. Dwayne Johnson does the Dwayne Johnson stuff. Plus, there are some cool explosions. Outside of the two-hour experience though, there is not much to hold onto. After years of rewrites and a hefty price tag of $195 million, “Black Adam” lacks substance and spectacle.