Black Adam Movie Review: An over-the-top yet tasteful superhero fest
Through this anti-hero origin story, director Jaume Collet-Serra also introduces us to Justice Society, the second biggest superhero alliance in DC, and does a commendable job with it
The DCEU (DC Extended Universe) has always had a tough time keeping up with their competition MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). They released the most-demanded Snyder Cut and are even launching their own version of the multiverse with the upcoming Flash film to win over the audience. But it turns out all they had to do was trust the lucky word, "Shazam!" The magic that got unleashed in David F. Sandberg's 2019 directorial, has once again repeated itself in a bigger and better way with the Dwayne Johnson starter, Black Adam. (For the unaware, yes Black Adam also gets his superpowers by saying the same word!) Through this anti-hero origin story, director Jaume Collet-Serra also introduces us to Justice Society, the second biggest superhero alliance in DC, and does a commendable job with it. The issue of not giving enough background to each hero is dodged by the witty screenplay, which packs an inherent urgency. By making the entire story unveils in a single day, Black Adam ensures that the focus is rightfully on the titular character.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Sarah Shahi, Pierce Brosnan
Finding the right shade of grey for Black Adam on the silver screen is tricky, especially when setting him in a cinematic universe where even the no-kill activist Batman wields a machine gun. So, how does a writer give a killing machine the nobility superheroes are known for? Well... by making his nemeses the zeniths of evil! Black Adam kills over a hundred people, rips apart limbs, massacres an army, and still comes across as a hero as his victims range from terrorists to demons. Though the story remains largely faithful to the source material, Sandberg has gone with the Rajinikanth template for its treatment. Almost every foreshadowing, callback, and scene in the film is aimed at amplifying the image of the superhero and the superstar playing it. Halfway into the film, one would naturally start to feel that every other character utters a dialogue only to give a segue for Black Adam to deliver a punchline the next moment. Some would find this and the indestructible nature of the hero to be a turnoff, but, I found them to be extremely delightful, thanks to years of conditioning by our own masala films.
The much-needed gravitas is brought into the story through its unique setting. The fictional middle-eastern town of Kahndaq brilliantly aids the mythical origins of the prime characters and the terrorism angle in the present. It felt reassuring to learn that a majorly fun superhero film has taken an effort to draw parallels to reality and show the plight and rage of people living in such regions.
Archeologist-rebellion leader Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) acts as the crucial anchor to the plot and gets the film's best line, despite the overpowering presence of her superhero counterparts. "Calling people good or bad is easy, especially if you are the one drawing the line!" The dialogue keeps resonating in our heads for long, as it can be taken as a political statement made by a Middle-Eastern woman against an American man.
Aside from these brief reality checks, Black Adam is a full-on-fun entertainer, which is right up Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's comfort alley, which has no place for logic. The glaring absence of the Intergang terrorists during the long faceoff of the heroes did bother me at a point, but it didn't take me long to forgive these flaws and indulge in the visual extravaganza in the offering.
Black Adam has lots to offer for the ardent fans of the DC comics as Adrianna's son himself is presented as a superhero geek and there are a plethora of references to the other heroes in the extended universe. The slow-mo Hawkman-Black Adam faceoff in a room filled with superhero merchandise is a blast to watch on the big screen and definitely stay back for the end credits for you-know-who's cameo.
Battle for the ultimate power is probably one outline that can suit any superhero film. Time after time, we have seen storytellers play around with this age-old trope. But we still aren't over superheroes as they refuse to give in, and always manage to rise above all odds. Thinking macroscopically, we like our heroes, not for their methods, but for this never-say-die attitude, and it is hard not to love an anti-hero who always has his heads up and refuses to surrender.