Black Adam

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There hasn’t been a lot of love for Black Adam (2022). The casual fan of superhero comics doesn’t know who the characters in the film are and even more people are annoyed that the film is so formulaic. There’s no getting around the fact that Black Adam is structured almost identically to the theatrical cut of Justice League (2017). But in defense of DC Comics and Warner Bros. aren’t all of the twenty-plus films that make up Marvel and Disney’s MCU just various iterations of the same basic plot?

In the ongoing “war of the fans” I tend to think that the DC films, despite their numerous faults, are better simply because they are more interesting. Films like Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) and Shazam! (2019), with their auteurist pretensions, are anomalous in the superhero genre because they quietly defy the standards of the genre. While Disney seems to have taken notice of this fact as they gear up for more Marvel movies while Warner Bros. is unable to make heads or tails of their DC Comics properties. This is why the majority of DC Comics movies are, at best, mediocre.

Unfortunately for Black Adam it’s more comparable to Zach Snyder’s Justice League (2021) than to Shazam!. Black Adam is a film that tries desperately to capture the hearts and minds of the viewer without every realizing that what the genre requires is more camp and more visual stylization. Black Adam either feels like you’re watching someone else play a video game or that you’ve just tuned in to the second half of an episode of Smallville (2001-2011).

It may be difficult to dislike Dwayne Johnson but he lacks the acting chops of a Michael Keaton or Christopher Reeve so the dramatic “heart” of Black Adam has to rest with the supporting cast. Luckily for Black Adam Pierce Brosnan and Sarah Shahi posses that singular ability that grows gradually more scarce among actors today: the power to say absurd things with equal parts camp and conviction. It’s not surprising that Brosnan can walk that fine line given his tenure as James Bond and Remington Steele.

The best thing to come out of Black Adam has nothing to do with the film directly. Since the film was released Johnson has been active on social media advocating for a DCU (DC Comics Cinematic Universe) with the character Superman at its center. After years of The Dark Knight (2008) copycats someone involved with production in the superhero department of Warner Bros. is actually recognizing that Superman as a character is fundamental to the success of DC.