Dwayne Johnson lands in the superhero genre with a promise of renewal and corpses. With his more naughty than nice bent, is Black Adam the hero the DC Universe needed?
On paper, pairing one of Hollywood’s most popular and profitable actors with the most popular and profitable genre in cinema in recent years is enough to make any producer drool. Dwayne Johnson in a superhero movie? Obviously for those who already have the build of the job without needing to pad their suit, but who made themselves desired until Black Adam arrived on the mat.
It is easy to understand how much the presence of The Rock plays on our expectation around the film because in the state, the viability of the project was not assured. It must be said that the company of the DC shared universe has experienced many turmoil so that films like the recent The Batman prefer to disassociate themselves from it. This is not the future The Flash and its long list of problems (freewheeling actor, complicated production…) or even the moderately-awaited Shazam! The Rage of the Gods who will convince of the need to maintain these desires to copy the competition.
Additionally, Black Adam’s positioning is also problematic. Sworn enemy of Shazam (!) from time to time presented more as an anti-hero in the comics, difficult to think that the character had an interest in a title role, despite the presence of the Justice Society. It would be like making a movie about an adversary of Spider-Man, without Spider-Man. Sorry, bad example. So if Black Adam has the ambition to make an impression beyond a meta joke at the end of Krypto and the super-animals, Dwayne Johnson better have strong shoulders.
The film tells how the god-powered slave Teth Adam breaks free from a confinement of five millennia. He immediately puts in place his own conception of justice, until he alienates the Justice Society, a league of superheroes who intend to hinder him again.
A Super who Rocks
It takes 0.01 seconds for the former wrestler to prove that the divine gifts fit him like a glove. Black Adam massacres the extra with all the violence promised – but no blood, we’re still on a film for all audiences – and the actor has the stature of the job. With a darker face than what he had accustomed us to, he reigns supreme over the feature film despite a very solid remaining cast.
The film by Jaume Collet-Serra (responsible for Jungle Cruise with a certain D. Johnson) continues without respite the moments of big fights with a well dosed humor, so as to maintain the attention of the spectator. We never get bored in front of perfectly calibrated entertainment so that you get your money’s worth.
Just a house of cards…
It is in its ability to keep us awake that the film paradoxically tries to put us to sleep. Since something is constantly happening on screen, it’s hard to sit down for two minutes about the writing of the film. A well-rehearsed strategy, set up like a house of cards so that you come out with the impression of having attended a great show. However, it is enough to barely scratch to realize the deception.
As we told you in the preamble, the moral positioning of the basic character is complicated to make him the hero of his own film. Is he a villain? An anti-hero? There is a thin line between the two. And that’s where Black Adam gives us an Ayer-style Suicide Squad. Understand that the man is, here, so heroic in his actions that the dialogues must make him repeat literally that he is bad every 2 minutes. In case we no longer know who is who among the opposing forces. It looks like the Power Rangers sketch of the Unknowns. And when we explain that the difference is that heroes don’t kill (while he does), we want to tell him to watch Snyder’s Batman.
Worse, the film gets so caught up in the rug that by wanting to confront it with “heroes”, it uses a Justice Society with such an unrestrained temperament that Teth Adam can only be seen as the nice guy in the story. Black Adam isn’t even a narcissistic egoist like Deadpool, he’s a good guy who protects his friends with just tougher methods. Normal when you wake up with your left foot after 5000 years. At the end of the film, no one can believe that after a few moral speeches, he wouldn’t be able to stop the disproportionate violence.
A writing weakness that is found at all levels of the feature film, bringing elements that are never explained or skimmed over. We will never understand the why and how of the anti-gang, the relations between the Justice Society, how an unhidden crown managed to remain so for so many centuries… Black Adam has a story, but he forgot to tell it. Unless he doesn’t care because he’s looking for something else…
The shared universe baby!
We told you in the preamble that the shared universe of DC had experienced some (understatement) complications so that the pundits of Warner seemed to look away as soon as it was necessary to make a film drawn from this same universe. But Dwayne Johnson can do anything and Dwayne Johnson doesn’t want to stay in his corner to face second-class guys.
Without any subtlety, Black Adam clearly indicates that he is part of this shared universe where the Justice League (Snyder way surely) exists. Between the references, the wink appearances and the post-credits scene, the footage does not hide its ambitions to see bigger thereafter.
A fan-service which shows once again that the studio… does not master the principle of the extended universe at all. The film hangs up the wagons as it wrote its main protagonist: ladle. Beyond the underlying promises, many elements of Black Adam, already wobbly in single-player, become ridiculous when integrated into a larger world.
While the film respects the filiation of Black Adam’s powers and the whole scenario revolves around the presence of the champion chosen by the wizards, how can one justify that there is no appearance or mention of the current champion, a certain Shazam? How can we justify taking the risk of asking for help from an unstable superman when it would suffice to bring in a random Superman?
In addition, by making Black Adam a hero who does not admit it, it becomes complicated to confront him with his paper enemies. Warner shoots the same bullet in the foot as Sony with its Venom, Morbius and company: by making the villain so sympathetic, we can absolutely no longer imagine that he wants to fight with Sup ‘, Shazam and the others. Therefore, teaser this kind of confrontation has no interest, we already know the end: they will exchange two or three blows to play the fellows then they will chat over a cup of tea.
False promises like Black Adam: simple selling points to bring people to theaters and see a film based on wind. We can easily assume that the scam will work and that it will make a nice raid at the box office. Then it will certainly give way to the expected juggernaut of the stable opposite: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.