The eleventh film in the DC Cinematic Universe pretends to offer something different before gently falling into line.
“Some men aren’t cut out to be heroes.” A key character in the DC Comics universe created in 1945 by American authors Otto Binder and CC Beck, Black Adam was originally thought by his parent duo as an evil version of the superhero Shazam (or Captain Marvel). But his personality has evolved over time, constantly oscillating between Good and Evil. Entirely devoted to its history, the eleventh feature film in the DC cinematic universe today plays abundantly with this indecision between good and bad, hero and villain, superpower and curse…
Sort of heartbreaking spin-off Shazam! (2019) where Black Adam briefly appeared in the form of a hologram, the film opens in ancient Kahndaq, a fictional country near Egypt, where the slave Teth-Adam (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) receives almighty powers before being imprisoned for misusing them. A hulking time-skip later, and a Lara Croft-like adventurer frees him from his shackles in contemporary times. Awoken from a 5,000-year slumber to stop bullets and intercept rockets with his bare hands, this Bronze Age demigod comes to town armed with a rather brutal and expeditious conception of justice. Which is not to please everyone. Starting with the four active members of the Justice Society, determined to send him back to jail for eternity in order to protect global stability…
hero in spite of himself
Iberian director from horror (house of wax, Orphan), Jaume Collet-Serra had already directed Dwayne Johnson last year in the harmless Jungle Cruise. He signs today this entertainment with pronounced mythological accents which never flies very high. Behind his vague facade of amorality and his open refusal of a certain Manichaeism, black adam is in the end, in fact, just another very standard superhero film, which very wisely ticks all the required boxes: grandiloquent action with forceful slowdowns and digital explosions, ultimately very first degree heroism, winks supported by pop culture (slightly unsuitable references to the cinema of Sergio Leone, in particular…), meta humor which gently integrates the commercial realities of the superheroic industry into the plot… All that, of course, for all way to end in a big, naughty duel between Good and Evil. Visually very uneven, the film, on the other hand, takes care of the representation of the aerokinetic powers of the character of Cyclone and offers some nice supporting roles (including one played by the excellent American stand-up comedian of Palestinian origin Mohammed Amer, seen in the series Ramy and Mo). It’s better than nothing, but that’s about it.
By Jaume Collet-Serra. With Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan. 2:04 a.m. Out: 10/19.