Ever since 2017’s Justice League, the DCEU has been struggling when it comes to finding a path forward for Warner Bros.’s interconnected cinematic universe. Sure, movies such as Shazam! and Wonder Woman 1984 have been made along with shows like Peacemaker, but still, the world’s overall story and progression have remained stagnant with no clear path ahead.
With that said, Dwayne Johnson’s new movie Black Adam looks to bring it all on track—or at least, that’s how it sounds anytime the leading actor talks about it in his now infamous grandiose verbiage.
So, if Black Adam is truly the start of a brand new era for the DCEU, is it a good one? Well… not particularly.
The Man in Black
Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam is exactly what one would expect. The actor’s love for the character is clear, and he brings a great presence to Teth-Adam. While it may not be the most iconic take on a character in the DCEU, it’s easy to see how it may grow in the future.
Some may find his performance a little stale and wooden at times—something that seems to be an intentional choice. As the story progresses, however, his acting starts to feel more natural and authentic, giving audiences a better sense of what the character will feel like going forward.
As part of the story’s attempt at humanizing Black Adam, the movie introduces Sarah Shahi’s Adrianna and her son, who is played by Bodhi Sabongui.
While Adrianna’s part to play is nothing new or unique, props to the writers for not immediately throwing her into a love story with the leading hero (though that will likely be her eventual fate, given the source material).
As for the kid, sadly, his performance falters and can bring down the movie at times. The idea of Sabongui’s character, and his role to play in the proceedings, is a solid one; it just doesn’t always land as well as it should.
The Justice Society
While the Justice League receives basically no mention at any point in the movie, Black Adam does instead invite the JSA to come and play. This includes Pierce Brosnan’s Doctor Fate, Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman, Noah Centineo’s Atom-Smasher, and Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone.
The strongest addition to the movie, and a great one to the DCEU overall, is Brosnan’s Doctor. His swagger is relentless, and he effortlessly enhances any scene he’s in. His interactions with every character are great, and Fate’s power set always provides a visually satisfying spectacle.
When it comes to the weakest link in the JSA, it is, without question, Centineo’s Atom-Smasher. Nearly all of his comedic moments fall flat, and he generally doesn’t do much in any of his scenes—besides constantly bringing Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool to viewers’ minds, given the extreme similarities between their suits.
As for Hawkman and Cyclone, they’re both middle ground. Carter provides an entertaining foil to Black Adam’s way of doing things, and Cyclone has a naturally endearing dynamic with everyone—even if that is about all she has to offer.
When it comes to the team as a whole, don’t expect many explanations as to its history or why its two new members, Atom-Smasher and Cyclone, even joined in the first place. Also, besides the dynamic between Hawkman and Fate, the team themselves don’t really have any entertaining chemistry.
A Completely and Utterly Forgettable Villain
There’s not much that can be said about the film’s villain, Sabbac, without spoiling the film. However, even if spoilers weren’t an issue, there’s still basically nothing interesting to say about him either way.
He’s the definition of the soulless, basic and dull movie villain that people often call out in big action movies—especially of the comic book variety. The film seems to be busy trying to build up Black Adam than it is putting any effort into a bad guy for him to go up against.
Really, the JSA themselves work more as the antagonists for Teth-Adam. The movie would have likely benefited from completely removing Sabbac altogether and keeping the antagonistic focus on Hawkman and his allies.
For those hoping for another great DC villain on the big screen, this isn’t the place to look.
The Script’s Downfalls
One of the places the movie falls flat is in its script. From stale dialogue to the aforementioned forgettable villain—it simply doesn’t feel like a project that has been in the making for over a decade.
Among its many problems, the movie’s script is consistently held down by plenty of very poorly delivered exposition dumps throughout. While there is understandably plenty of important new information that the story needs to introduce to audiences, the movie fails to find a smooth way to do so.
Black Adam also suffers from a number of dull action scenes. While there are moments that are legitimately well-done and fun to watch, by the end of the film, they largely blur together—which is not something one wants by the time the final climatic act plays out.
Looks Can Kill
When it comes to another strong aspect of this film, it’s important to give credit to the costume designers. Even if a viewer becomes bored by the exhaustive exposition or countless action scenes, it would be hard to admit that the costumes are just a joy to behold.
Black Adam’s costume looks incredible, something that is only reinforced as it goes through changes across the movie.
For the most part, the JSA all look fantastic as well. Dr. Fate and Hawkman are clearly the best of the bunch, with their looks being amazingly faithful to the comics without feeling unrealistic or tacky.
Atom-Smasher’s costume looks good, but it’s hard to deny its distracting similarities to Deadpool. Cyclone probably has the weakest outfit of the bunch, but it’s never bad enough to distract from anything happening on screen—at its worst, it’s simply unnotable.
The Wider DCU
Warner Bros.’s handling of the DCEU has never been too tidy, and it certainly doesn’t clean itself up in Black Adam. In fact, arguably, it makes it far messier.
Continuity questions will plague many fans as they watch—provided they’re paying attention to those elements of the film. If the JSA has always been active, why have they never been mentioned? Or showed up to fight Steppenwolf?
Most importantly, there is a specific part of the mythos for Black Adam that is questionably missing; completely avoided, even. Those who know the DC Universe should be able to discern the elements in question, but since the film hasn’t hit theaters, it’s best to remain vague.
For Better or Worse, A New Era Begins
A new era for the DCEU is here, but sadly, it's not quite the jump in quality the cinematic universe truly needed.
The introduction of Black Adam is just as flawed as many of the previous DCEU movies have been, and there are no notable changes in direction that make it stick out in its own way. The movie fails to find a unique voice and doesn’t really have anything interesting to say.
Is it straight-up bad? No. There’s plenty of fun to be had with the film, especially if all one wants from it is superhero action sequences. But try to go any deeper than that, and there’s not much else to be found.
Even with all that said, given how big Dwayne Johnson is and how much power he seems to have over the franchise (and now the DCEU as well), fans should expect Black Adam to carry on in a big way going forward—for better or for worse.
Black Adam hits theaters worldwide on Friday, October 21.