“The Rock,” Dwayne Johnson, built his entire career playing superhero. From his nickname and physical build he always seemed to be some kind of flesh and blood version of Ben Grimm aka “The Rock Man” from the Fantastic Four. Finally, and after many years as a superhero without papers, he managed to be part of the DC universe. Black Adam is a new superhero who somehow tries to renew the staff of a team that seems to depend a lot on what the Dark Knight or the Man of Steel can contribute, seconded in recent years by some good film versions of Wonder Woman and Aquaman . Of commoner origin, the leading character of the film expresses his rejection of the oppression that the ruling classes exert on the dominated classes. It all begins in the year 2800 BC, when a despot king keeps the population of a fictional country under a predictable tyrannical rule.
Then some sorcerers will give him powers with which our hero will face the tyrants on duty. That old spell will be the one that in turn the heroine of the film, played by Sarah Shahi -a remarkably wasted character-, will discover millions of years later and the one that will take our hero to the present time. The beginning of the film undoubtedly refers to the libertarian spirit of Spartacus to pass without a solution of continuity to the present, integrating the origin of history into the contemporary world. Once the story takes place in the present tense, that genesis will intersect with the anarchic spirit of the Suicide Squad saga without the subtleties that Gunn brought to this franchise.
Black Adam plays with the implausible and something of that canchero tone is what allows the story not to be crushed by a sea of solemnity (as happened ostensibly in batman vs superman and in many of Zack Snyder’s movies).
In Collet-Serra’s film there are no transitions between the two temporalities and that is perhaps the main problem with the story. Another notorious difficulty is that some of the characters who support the good of The Rock lack any kind of dramatic interest. In suicide squad It is the group and the particularities of each one of the team members that makes said team interesting. film retaking the adventurous spirit of great films of the genre such as gallows twelve (Robert Aldrich, 1966) or The big escape (John Sturges, 1966). That group plot is not fully developed in Collet-Serra’s film. The bad guys are bland and unrememberable, and in a superhero movie the villain has to be someone to remember. Gene Hackman as Luthor in the founding Superman of Donner, Jack Nicholson in the Batman by Tim Burton and Heath Ledger in the second part of Nolan’s hooded trilogy are perhaps the main examples of the vital role that evil plays in the film adaptations of the classic heroes of the DC comics. In Black Adam that doesn’t happen. The villains are forgettable and the hero’s past is thus reduced to an argumentative excuse to mount the dispute between the forces of good and evil. The justice society will be the group that will be formed first to face this kind of anti-hero and then to accompany him in the final battle. Within the team, Doctor Fate stands out, played by Pierce Brosnan, who is a kind of sorcerer similar to Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Brosnan’s character is well outlined and manages to move without falling into any kind of bombast or cheap shot. Doctor Fate somehow is the one who sustains the plot at a time when the film could have entered into a narrative drift. The other character that sustains the tension of the story is the Hawkman played by Aldis Hodge.
The film from the beginning is thought of as a great action film and that obvious peculiarity of superheroic cinema that critics point out as a defect is in Black Adam which ends up being the great virtue of Collet-Serra’s film. Already in Nolan’s founding Batman trilogy there is an aestheticization of chaos that will be from that moment on the characteristic brand of superhero cinema in the 21st century and what characterizes most of DC’s products. This aestheticization linked to the logic of the video clip is the true power of the Black Adam starring Dwayne Johnson. The film is a great excuse for that choreographic game that leads Black Adam and his colleagues to face those painted cardboard villains who in the past were pharaohs and are now multinationals that want to seize the wealth of the land.
This ideological line, on which Collet-Serra’s film develops its plot, is another of the marks of the story and what ends as in Suicide Squad giving a surprisingly realistic and complex tone to the story above adaptations that have the approval of critics such as the Avengers saga to use a shining example. Taking up the idea of Suicide Squad where superheroes are a kind of pawns who do not understand the logic of all their actions, in Black Adam there is also a rather opaque representation of good. On the one hand, Johnson’s character plays with the stereotype of the anti-hero who doubts the methods to be used when confronting a violent world (just like Batman), and on the other hand, the agents themselves who are in charge of coordinating the work of the good ones do not seem to be pure men and women either.
As in good superhero movies, a great war choreography covers a large part of the film and it is in this character of staging that anarchic world where most of the virtues of a film that is in tune with the world can be found. In which we live. Collet-Serra seems to have enjoyed having the multi-million dollar DC toy available with its hypnotic video clip aesthetic to immerse us in his version of the apocalypse.
The question that one asks himself when finishing Black Adam is if a couple of interesting characters will be enough for the DC factory to be able to build an entire universe from now to the next few years, but those questions, more than a movie, should be asked to the business structure of a multinational. As long as finance continues to think about the future of corporations, honest and heartfelt action movies like Black Adam aren’t bad.
Black Adam (United States 2022). Direction: Jaume Collet-Serra. Screenplay: Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani. Photography: Lawrence Sher. Music: Lorne Balfe. Editing: John Lee, Michael L. Sale. Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Shahi, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, Quintessa Swindell, Marwan Kenzari, Viola Davis. Duration 124 minutes.
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