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MOVIES: Black Adam - Review

Black Adam is a paint-by-marketing overproduced, expensive B-movie without any heart or soul. It feels entirely designed by committee, the same way that the 2016 Suicide Squad film did or the 2017 Justice League - DC have been here before, only this time, there's no false promises of a mythical good movie out there - be it a Snydercut or even an Ayercut to back it up - what would they call this anyway, Rockcut (there's a Rock, Paper Scissors joke in there somewhere about as unfunny as the film itself)? this is the finished article, and it stinks of corporate involvement.

This is evident in the film's influences; it models Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam after Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly but Johnson doesn't quite have the screen presence of Eastwood to pull it off - the whole film feels forced to evoke that sense of coolness that it desperately strives for to the point where it goes the other way around and becomes uncool in the process. It feels like the ultimate "how do you do, fellow kids?" showreel with the new Justice Society characters being more interesting than Black Adam in their own movie, even if they feel very much like DC's version of the "we have the Avengers at home" meme; a band of international do-gooders who subscribe to the traditional morality of a superhero in that they can't kill - clashing with Black Adam's ruthless streak.

The dynamic between the Society and Black Adam is where the film is at its best - Aldis Hodge plays a commanding Hawkman much better than any other iteration of the character in live action; Noah Centineo feels like Ant-Man lite with Atom Smasher yet still finds an awkward charm inbuilt in him to come out of the film as one of its MVPs, whilst Quintessa Swindell can feel underutilised as Cyclone. It's a mismatched D or E list team of superheroes spearheaded by the experienced veteran of Pierce Brosnan's Dr. Fate - who can see the future before they head into battle - and is by far the most compelling character on this team. It ends up being a Society movie by default as this team feels like the closest the movie gets to the traditional comics protagonist - but even with the Society there's nothing new. They operate out of an X-Men-esque mansion and have their ship leave the building in the same way like it is a secret long-lost Thunderbird 6. It's a shame - as the Society have a history of excellent comics under their belt.

The world-building is overtly complex and nonsensical but I do like that there's some at least very surface level commentary on American intervention in foreign affairs here - the fictional country of Khandaq is fleshed out with enough depth to serve the film's purpose but barely touches the years of history in the comics. Its residents are the beating heart of the film - Sarah Shahi's Adrianna plays a Lara Croft-esque Tomb Raider; Mo Amer's Karim is comic relief and Bodhi Sabongui acts as Black Adam's soul and heart and a reason for him to do good in this world - it's a cheap plot device but for the purposes of the movie, it works - even if Amon telling Black Adam about his powers and history feels like a re-tread of the dynamic between Shazam and Freddy Freeman in the 2019 film - where the two characters are linked in more ways than one - sure to be a subject of a future sequel.

The action is very nondescript for a superhero movie set to an aggressively loud score by Lorne Balfe. The film feels visually at home within the DC Universe, its grand idea of its superheroes as gods is called out more than once in the film and it has a view for similiar such surprises - cameos are the watchword here and the film has time for plenty. This renders Black Adam to feeling nothing more than a popcorn munching blockbuster spectacle - and not even a good one at that - DC are better than this, as Aquaman, Birds of Prey, The Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman have proved - the action sequences individually are nothing great, you get a pop song-backed combat scene where Paint it Black is repurposed, and the whole thing lends to a collective shrug of been there, done that - at this point there's just nothing new.

The weakest link of this movie is The Rock himself - out acted and less interesting than all around him. There are multiple gags but not a single one of them lands - it feels clumsy, awkward and tonally misjudged. It's the second collaboration between the actor and Juame Collet-Serra, veteran of many a Liam Neeson actioneer, but you couldn't tell - although then again Jungle Cruise wasn't exactly a career highlight. It's a shame as I quite like Collet-Serra, he's better than this - and whilst on paper, a combination of one of Hollywood's most bankable movie stars and one of Hollywood's most bankable genres, should've at least been an entertaining thrill ride - it can't be anything other than a cheap cash-in, cobbled together to hit a marketing quota on the back of a shameful year for WB Discovery that have actively campaigned on a mission against the art of cinema at a corporate level - releasing this and Don't Worry Darling; two massive turkeys, caps it all off. If you're going to make a B-movie at least make it fun.

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