Every time Dwayne Johnson wears spandex, be it in the wrestling ring or on screen, you can count on him to deliver a rock-solid action-packed performance. By all accounts, in Jaume Collet-Serra’s latest release Black Adam, he does exactly that.
Written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani, the film is a new addition to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) of Warner Bros.
“DC is not interested in copying what Marvel is doing in any way,” Johnson told Variety in a recent interview while hinting at a crossover between the two big production houses. By all means, Black Adam is not guilty of aping Marvel, or for that matter, not even its predecessors in DCEU. It takes a rather different approach, which tones down the dark, gritty world of DCEU — think Man of Steel (2013) or Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
Johnson plays Teth Adam, an ancient warrior in a fictitious region named Kahndaq that has been battling with oppressors for the most part of its existence. Nearly 5,000 years after he was granted superhero powers by the ancient wizards — and his consequent imprisonment by his oppressors — Adam breaks free from his exile, only to be perplexed with how much the world has progressed.
As he tries to make sense of the new world, a team of superhero villains is sent to take him down. Called ‘The Justice Society’, the team comprises its leader, Carter Hall a.k.a. Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), the sorcerer Kent Nelson a.k.a. Doctor Fate (played by the uber charming Pierce Brosnan), Albert “Al” Rothstein a.k.a. Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Maxine Hunkel a.k.a. Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell).
Things get fast and furious from the get-go, and the rest of 124 minutes follow the same momentum. For action-loving cinephiles, there is never a dull moment. The crisp editing and fantastic graphics ensure that Black Adam is a fitting debut for The Rock in the DCEU.
With Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam, DCEU has learnt from Batman vs Superman mistakes. The humour quotient, which its previous films have often struggled with, emerges as a breath of fresh air in Johnson’s titular project. It is rather circumstantial than forced. At one time, Doctor Fate subtly teaches Adam the use of sarcasm in a conversation, and it is amusing to see how the latter put it to use.
Even the supporting cast, especially Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz, does its bit. None of the characters get lost in the larger service to Adam’s character. Each has a purpose to fulfil, and most of them get the job done.
Not all is gold
Despite the great cinematography, Black Adam isn’t a perfect film. While the continuous action-packed sequences are interspersed with a decent script, the climax seems a bit abrupt.
Superhero films are not necessarily known for creating path-breaking cinematic moments and often resort to high-voltage drama sequences to entice the audience. Black Adam is no different in that sense. But at least it sincerely attempts a fresh approach, compared to the franchise’s previous films.
The film is not so much a ‘hero vs villain’ cliche or Adam saving the world from the bad guys. It is more so about Adam coming terms to with the purpose of his existence and his character arc from being an anti-hero to embracing a heroic situation when the opportunity presents itself. Johnson’s magnetic screen presence makes it all work out.
The mid-credit scene is an ode to what Johnson had said before the release, “Hierarchy of power in the DC universe is about to change.” Trust Johnson to deliver what he promised, and his fans — including me — are all here for it.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)