Black Adam REVIEW – Overstuffed Top Tier DCEU

Black Adam review
Black Adam review

Black Adam looks more like a Zack Snyder film than any DC film not directed by Snyder himself. There’s a great emphasis on slow motion, the colors are wildly desaturated, and in the film’s first sequence there’s a thick grain over every image. Beyond the look, there’s the fact that the opening flashback (to 2600 BCE) feels extremely similar to the opening of Znyder’s 300 as voiceover offers a brief history lesson on the fictional nation of Kahndaq. It places the film firmly within the visual world of the DC Extended Universe that began with Man of Steel, and yet manages to tell a surprisingly standalone tale. All the more surprising because it’s so stuffed with characters.

There’s a pretty immediate sense of “you’re either in or you’re out” with Black Adam’s narrative. The voiceover explanation of how wizards imbued a young hero with the power of the gods to fight an evil king seeking the power of demons is high level superhero stuff. And when Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson), as the titular hero is known for most of the film, is reawakened in the present, the film wastes no time introducing us to four more supers who are sent to contain the possible threat Adam presents.

It’s a comic book movie with broadly sketched comic book characters, who are brought into the story with quick three sentence or less bios. Hawkman, aka Carter Hall (Aldis Hodge), can fly and has a mace, Doctor Fate, aka Kent Nelson (Pierce Brosnan), can see the future and use magic, Atom Smasher, aka Al Rothstein (Noah Centineo), can grow to the size of a skyscraper, and Cyclone, aka Maxine Hunkel (Quintessa Swindell), can manipulate wind. Together they form the Justice Society, and remarkably, unlike previous DC films, these introductions don’t feel like advertisements for other movies or TV shows. These characters are here for this story and the movie clearly communicates what the audience needs to know before we can see them use their powers in action scenes.

While we’ve seen superpowered characters smash into each other and use fire/lightning/magic/etc. energy attacks countless times at this point, Black Adam’s action scenes stand out. Cyclone’s genuinely visually novel (to the screen) power allows her to create, you guessed it, cyclones that offer a gorgeous mix of bright colors which pop against the otherwise chromey beige backdrop of the film. The major focus on slow-motion in these action scenes offer us genuinely epic images of these larger-than-life heroes in action. These near still images are essentially comic splash pages that allow us to simply drink in the splendor of the fantastical scenes in front of our eyes.

That those fantastical scenes are in part in service of a story about the importance and necessity of revolutionary violence against oppressive forces only makes Black Adam more special in the current superhero movie landscape. The movie introduces Kahndaq as a nation that has been ruled and occupied by invading forces for millenia, evoking Palestine and Iraq with an early scene at a checkpoint. A moment where Adam points out that the Justice Society has never come to Kahndaq to help its people and is only here now to maintain “global stability” without any care for the occupied people is downright shocking in a major superhero movie in the best way.

Black Adam is the rare movie whose component narrative parts work well, but don’t cohere into something as good as the sum of those parts. The way the movie moves between its many plots is, to be quite honest, clunky as hell. Several scenes show us the burgeoning attraction between Atom Smasher and Cyclone, and while the two young actors are charming and have chemistry, these scenes feel wholly unnecessary and out of place. The introduction of the Justice Society is done mostly smoothly, but the movie struggles to balance its three major conflicts, leading the final battle to arrive rather abruptly after a genuinely bewildering lull in the narrative momentum.

There’s also some issues with the score, which mixes orchestral music and trap beats in an attempt to follow Ludwig Göransson’s Oscar-winning score for Black Panther but can’t quite seamlessly bring the two together, causing it to be awkwardly distracting. Also, while much of the humor in the film actually works, there’s an extended bit about the necessity for a catchphrase that becomes annoying by the film’s end.

Black Adam is by no means a perfect movie, or even a perfect superhero movie, but it delivers exciting action scenes that feel unique in a blockbuster landscape littered with uninteresting superhero action scenes, and its serious consideration of the moral grays of revolutionary violence feel, well, revolutionary. And without spoiling anything, it’s the first film in nearly a decade that has included a mid-credits scene that feels like a promise and not a threat.

READ NEXT: 20 Best Superhero Games of All Time

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.

Black Adam review
Black Adam offers exciting and unique superhero action in a movie that meaningfully questions the black and white morality of most superhero movies.