Black Adam (2022) Review
The turbulence that has recently shaken up the success of Warner Bros. Discovery has threatened to watch their entertainment empire fall after troubles stack upon one another. Between the massive changes made with the streaming service HBO Max, the Batgirl cancelation followed by the DC Extended Universe redirection, and the number of controversies that keep the leading cast in Warner Bros. Discovery projects has remained to be unfavorable for the studio's reputation. The DC Extended Universe has yet to secure a consistent cinematic universe despite attempts to reapproach the model through different creative perspectives headlined with the comic book publisher's most famous names. 15 years after its initial announcement, Black Adam reiterates that it isn't time that has taken a toll on the DC Extended Universe, but the lack of consistent quality.
Black Adam knows somewhat what it wants from Dwayne Johnson as the titular anti-hero, though it feels like it's filling its picture-per-rate deals with remaining cast members. There's a distinct lack of chemistry between the freshly-assembled Justice Society of America, who introduce themselves on a flimsy script. They're deprived of any meaningful substance, spitting out one-liners that fail to land. The balance between an effortless sense of cool while yearning for a sense of humor falls completely flat, leaving the film to be simply unfunny. The humorless, hollow screenplay doesn't exactly know how to handle itself as it wants to grasp the intensity of more dramatic superhero pieces that have proceeded it while tackling the comedic beats that made Shazam! so successful. The overall aimlessness of Black Adam - feeling lost in its narrative guided by misdirection - warns Warner Bros. Discovery and their DC FIlm team that CGI-ed mass destruction is not enough to save an effort to rebuild a brand.
Accusations against the DC Extended Universe for misusing its characters have been given a new victim as the superficiality of Black Adam contradicts any signs of progression for the studio. Foundationally, it's a showcase of wonderless ancestral superhero storytelling, without much of a story to support itself on. It strips itself down to the bare-boned and uninspired "good vs. bad" while marketed as an elaborate forthcoming of the DC Extended Universe's next phase. Black Adam primarily displays how DC has built its mainline live-action universe from the outside in: depending on high-volume talent to attach themselves to projects before taking the steps to craft a comprehensive work of fiction. There's a great disregard for audience expectations, needs, or desires by instead offering an expensive-looking excuse for an origin story. A villain, or primary antagonist, has the fluidity to take any form; emotional, physical, mental, or metaphorical. Black Adam's Sabbac barely makes his way into the film, whose takedown mirrors a high-rendered video game cutscene. Sabbac's late-stage introduction in Black Adam does not justify the ill timing of his arrival. It only strains an already-thin plot.
Perhaps Black Adam's greatest strength is its post-credits scene, which features a thrilling cameo that promises to delight DC fans. The grand reveal is credited to Johnson's doing and might be his greatest contribution to the DC Extended Universe yet. 4/10.