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Fun if Unfulfilling
When a fan of DC Comics comes into the theater, they’re hoping to achieve the lofty goal of “I hope the film isn’t awful.” Well, you can breathe easy. “Black Adam” is not awful. Which makes it all the more frustrating when the adventure it does take us on winds up being anathema to it’s own titular character by being cowardly.
Also, this origin story is one that has already been retconned any number of times in the comics, so it should some as no particular shock that this time around is yet another spin on the character and his origins. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Teth-Adam, a slave from the 26th century BC from the country of Kahndaq (an Egypt/Mesopotamia mash-up), where the King has become an evil tyrant forcing his people into slavery and to mine for eternium (a MacGuffin of the 10th degree) which carries extreme magical powers to the wielder (whenever the story needs it to, anyway). Using the
vibranium eternium to forge a crown containing the powers of a litany of demon lords. Teth resists against the King, and because of his heroism a council of Skeksis wizards teleports him away and imbues him with the powers of Shazam (presumably x-number of times more powerful than Captain Marvel (the DC one) since there’s multiple of the wizards at play.
Teth goes in and battles the king, and winds up himself put into a long slumber, only to be awoken once in again in his country’s time of greatest need (Somewhere Sir Mallory is tisk-tisking in his grave). Cut to modern day where professor and local resistance fighter Adrianna Tomaz (played by Sarah Shahi) is closing in on the resting place of the crown in an effort to keep it out of the hands of the current oppressors of Kahndaq, Intergang. Yes, really, Intergang – International Gang – get it? But what do you expect from something that had it’s origins from an issue of “Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.”
She winds up releasing Teth, and he starts kicking the teeth in of anyone who seems to be twitching the wrong direction. It’s less punching and more lightning bolts to melt peoples’ faces off, so there’s definitely a level of gore in this one that would make Deadpool squee in delight. Also, a level of deadly violence even Rorschach would probably approve of. He’s not a bring them to justice type of hero, there’s more impartial justice being served out. Think a cross between Superman and “Judge Dredd,” but with lightning. The collateral damage done at the end of “Man of Steel” holds nothing to the carnage wreaked throughout this film.
All the the goings on catches the attention of the
imperialists Americans who dispatch the Justice Society to try to rein in Teth before he levels everything in sight. But when the come to the rescue heroes show up and battle Teth, it’s clear they’re wildly outmatched, and even moreso, his having kicked the crap out of Intergang is just what the citizens of Kahndaq had been wanting. He’s their hero. However the Justice Society (made up of Dr. Fate, Hawkman, Atom Smasher, and Cyclone) are here to be the heroes. This is where the film actually has it’s strongest intellectual points – the country has been terrorized and controlled for nearly three decades by Intergang, and the Justice Society has never set foot into the country once to help it’s population. Now that Teth is on the scene, they haul him off. The citizens invite the Society to go preach international stability in another country. This is fabulous points on so many levels, and could go into deeper perspectives, but then after that moment the topic is dropped like a heated pan being picked up by mistake.
Sure, the film is fine as it stands. The battles are intense and violent. The Rock is clearly having a blast. Really, if the story would have stuck with him and his tribulations and internal character challenges it would have been far more compelling. But since it’s a “intro the characters” film (and to be fair, most comic-based properties are doing it these days), we have to deal with the others. You know the personality archetypes, and the character conflicts, and the damaged soul trope.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s far better than “Justice League” (both versions), and 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” It’s enjoyable enough, but you won’t likely remember it for long once you’ve left the theater. The few moments that do resonate are questions about use of force, selective use of policing and security when a country is less than a 1st world, but those are left laying on the table. Not to mention where the story could have made brilliant use of Professor Tomaz, but they chose not to bring in that storyline at all. And they include a prison side quest that literally brings nothing to the story other than padding 10 minutes or so onto the running time.
At right at two hours long, there are far worse ways to spend your money at the theaters this weekend (ahem, “Halloween Ends“ ). Give it a go, and let us know what you thought of it.
There is one mid-credit scene, so don’t leave until then.
Rating: 6 stars out of 10