Review: Divisive superhero film ‘Black Adam’ is surprisingly enjoyable

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in "Black Adam." (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/TNS)

After largely negative early reviews, I was slightly nervous to see Warner Bros.’ “Black Adam.” However, despite some formulaic elements, the Dwayne Johnson starrer — the first film in a widely publicized plan by the studio to reboot the DC film side of things — is actually a fun watch.

“Black Adam,” which was released in theaters on Oct. 21, follows Teth-Adam, played by Johnson, an anti-hero hailing from the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Kahndaq. 

The reviews led me to believe that “Black Adam” would be all spectacle. But while there is still plenty of action, the film also has genuine heart, although it struggles to present itself during the first act. 

Throughout the film, Teth-Adam struggles with whether or not to rise above his villainous destiny and become a hero. 

Johnson’s athletic physique and screen presence are more than enough for the character, who is somehow more deadpan than any other action heroes he has played over the course of his career.

However, some of the film’s heart is provided by a solid supporting cast. Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) and her son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui) in particular are closely intertwined with Teth-Adam. 

As Adrianna, Shahi seems to be channeling her inner Marion Ravenwood, rather than the Zari Tomaz iteration of the character fans have already seen played by Tala Ashe across five seasons of the series “Legends of Tomorrow,” who has similar powers to Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone.

Aside from Johnson, Pierce Brosnan is the other highlight of “Black Adam” as the clairvoyant Doctor Fate, whose character resembles Marvel’s Doctor Strange, though Fate comics preceded Strange by over 20 years. 

At times, when the film’s attempts at a serious tone weigh it down, Brosnan and Noah Centineo as Atom-Smasher feel as if they were plucked from a better superhero movie. 

It’s likely these members of the Justice Society of America — a superhero organization within the DC universe — will find themselves in another movie. “Black Adam” is itself a spin-off from 2019’s “Shazam,” which was originally supposed to feature Johnson’s character as the antagonist. The last scene of the second act and post-credits scene provide a template for how the film could be integrated into the greater DC extended universe. 

However, when “Black Adam” embraces the comedy that comes from its premise, it helps to make the 124-minute runtime fly by.

The plot of “Black Adam” is not the most original. Several superhero movie story beats are covered but the film breezes through at a slower pace that doesn’t bore the viewer and is not as frenetic as the similarly divisive “Thor: Love and Thunder” that released earlier this year. 

Of course, it helps that the characters are multidimensional, and don’t make nonsensical decisions on a dime.

Speaking of the characters, while the film’s cast isn’t as sprawling as the annual Marvel epic, there are some I haven’t mentioned, such as Mohammed Amer’s hilarious take as Karim. 

There are a few more characters who make brief cameos, too. I won’t spoil them, but let’s just say that fans of Zack Snyder and James Gunn’s DC projects will be plenty satisfied. 

It is hard to deny that “Black Adam” exists primarily to set up other DC movies. However, it doesn’t mean that the film can’t be enjoyed in and of itself.

Tyler D’errico is a junior geomatics major at Fresno State. You can read his movie and television reviews at tylerdreviews.weebly.com.

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