To be clear, I have never read the DC Comics and I didn’t hear about the character until a few years ago. Basically, I knew about Black Adam a little before the release of Shazam in 2019. I had no idea who the character was, but now that I have seen the movie on HBOMax, I still don’t care enough to know who he is.
What I am interested in talking about is how the movie could have been great and what went wrong. That is my job as a film critic and commentator. It’s difficult, but somebody has to do it.
For starters, let’s get Dwayne Johnson’s titular character out of the way. Black Adam, or in the beginning of the film, Teth Adam, is portrayed as an ultra powerful God-like entity with superhuman strength, speed and agility. However, he doesn’t have much of a personality.
I remember watching Man of Steel in 2013 and being captivated, not only by the spectacle, but Henry Cavill’s realistic and bold performance. In contrast, Johnson, who is incredibly talented, did not translate with this specific character, even if it might have looked good on paper.
The whole point of a hero is to make them likable and understandable, but it seems that Johnson’s Black Adam is more remote and at a distance. This is a lesson to give your superheroes more depth and purpose.
Octavia Spencer’s Amanda Waller puts together another team and it is not the Suicide Squad or the Justice League. It happens to be another third-party team called the Justice Society that consists of Doctor Fate, Hawkman, Cyclone and Atom Smasher.
This would all sound great if anyone actually cared about any of these people. There is no set-up for these guys. THey are given no background and it’s almost as if they appear out of thin air, where the writers wanted to use as many DC Comics characters before James Gunn decided to reshuffle things.
In order for audiences to care, there has to be some sort of build-up and forward momentum that drives the audience to root for these characters, but since the build-up is non-existent, there is no reason to feel anything for these characters.
A good hero is nothing without a good villain. Marwan Kenzari, or Jafar from 2019’s Aladdin, plays the villain Sabbac who inherits the powers of Satan, himself and, would you believe, he’s as boring as watching paint dry.
It’s the same as the hero. When you don’t have an endearing villain that the audience can resonate with, it won’t come across as anything more than vapid. It could have been great but if you don’t have a villain that audiences can empathize with or root for, much like the hero, it won’t look that good.
I certainly hope this helps for the filmmakers when they make their next superhero movie.