Friday 1 March 2024

Black Adam | review by Stephen Theaker

This review originally appeared in TQF73 (April 2023).

Archaeologists in the country of Kahndaq, currently in the grip of a private security company, discover the tomb of an ancient hero. Betrayal leads mercenaries to the scene, but when Black Adam awakes, they die, most violently. The film then follows Black Adam as he connects with his country's current inhabitants, fights its occupying force, and battles a quartet of Justice Society members, sent from the US to bring him in line.

My expectations for this film, written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani, and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (previously a specialist in Liam Neeson thrillers), were not high. The trailer was not particularly exciting and I was rather dismayed by how the character had been carved out of the Captain Marvel movies, reportedly at The Rock's request. It seemed like a classic example of a film bent out of a shape by the demands of its star.

What a surprise it was, then, to find that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Whatever reasons Johnson had for wanting this to be a separate movie, vanity wasn't part of it: he doesn't appear for the first fifteen minutes or so. I won't pretend it is a classic. The final boss is a bit of a nothing and the final act wimps out and gives the people of Kahndaq zombies to fight instead of the revolution against human invaders that the film was clearly leading up to.

But there was so much more that I liked about it. There are shots that look like they were painted by Alex Ross. There is humour, but not so much that it overwhelms the story. And there is the Justice Society of America, one of my all-time favourite groups. Doctor Fate, Hawkman, Atom Smasher and Cyclone are not perhaps its most popular members, but they are all quite faithfully portrayed, by film standards. Stephen Theaker ***

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