Some may like that Black Adam could be called “Action Scene: The Movie!” For the rest of us, it’s CGI exhaustion. This is nothing new in the DC Extended Universe: Nearly every single one of them exhausts their story in the first act, leaving nothing but action scenes to follow through the middle, all leading up to the big video game climax.
Black Adam may be more fun than most of the recent DC offerings, but it merely glosses over any kind of characterization in lieu of pure spectacle. Full of side characters who are way more interesting than Dwayne Johnson’s titular character, it’s not the worst time you can have at an action movie, yet it still falls flat before the not-so-secret mid-credit scene arrives to finally raise any kind of interest.
In 2600 BCE, Anh-Kot (Marwan Kenzari), the king of Kahndaq, crafted the Crown of Sabbac to give himself great power. In an act of revoltion, a slave boy is given the power of Shazam and kills Anh-Kot. In the present, Kahndaq is now under the rule of the Intergang, with archeologist Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) trying to locate the Crown, awakening Teth-Adam (Johnson), who proceeds to slaughter anyone in his path.
Now, the JSA (Justice Society of America) — Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan),Carter Hall/Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Albert Rothstein/Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) — arrives, to help stop Adam from taking down all of Kahndaq himself.
Black Adam has always been billed as an anti-hero. Never having read the comics myself, at least director Jaume Collet-Serra does manages to get this point across. Stoic, snarky, and monotone, you never question Black Adam’s intentions. He’s here to kick ass and chew bubblegum and it’s clear he’s never chewed bubble gum. Writers Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani manage to work in some decent world building and connect it to the greater DC Extended Universe in a more cohesive way than usual.
Black Adam is relentless with its action scenes. It leaves very little time for the audience to even try to catch their breath, with just enough of a break for characters to share quips before we’re off to the races again. There is one sequence in the middle that’s so long, I managed to doze off and when I woke up, it was still happening.
The amount of slo-mo used throughout the film also seems like it’s trying to break Zack Snyder’s records. Being from the director of The Shallows, this should come as no surprise. Let alone that the not-Justice League is just thrown at audiences with no backstory whatsoever. You barely know who anyone is, or what they can do — especially Atom Smasher — but at least they have good enough rapport to root for.
Be all this as it may, at least it’s a more fun than usual DC outing. Warner Bros. continues to struggle to meet the quality of Christopher Nolan’s Batmans, Man of Steel, or even Shazam! (still the best of the DCEU), but it does feel like it’s getting more on track after James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad Peacemaker.
Go in expecting a spectacular spectacular of action through to the credits. And by now you probably already know what the mid-credit scene is. Just know that what you’re being served is a flaming pile of style over substance in a race to get a movie out to try to keep the DCEU alive while they sift through the ashes of Batgirl and The Flash — while we’re stuck waiting for Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Which keeps feeling further away.