Caught between The Rock and a fast pace…

With the audiences and critics both returning thumbs-up verdicts on James Gunn’s spectacular The Suicide Squad, its streaming spin-off Peacemaker, and Matt Reeves’ The Batman — it feels fair to say (especially in relation to the tumultuous Snydervese years) that DC is currently on something of a hot streak with their screen time.

Next up in the court of comic book adaptions is Black Adam — released in cinemas across the UAE today, October 20. And taking into account the additional weight of legal controversies hanging over some of the Justice League franchise stars, the pressure on this movie to further the upward DCEU trend feels Atlantian.

So does this Jaume Collet-Serra-directed entry to the Shazam saga represent a third consecutive cinematic lightning strike in the same place for house DC?

To be continued…

Rock star

It was only ever going to be a matter of time before we saw Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson pull on the spandex for one comic franchise or another. On any given morning he aleady looks capable of punching a hole directly through space-time without the crutch of CGI (fun fact — his first super suit was filled with padding which eventually had to be removed because *flexes* his own native muscles were bigger than the prosthetics) and his trademark deadpan quips dispatched in front of and behind the camera just scream sassy superhero.

He’s not a hero here though, a fact he’s obliged to point out several times in the movie in which he plays the titular role. And although, as the popular saying goes — not all heroes wear capes — their absence on DC characters capable of unaided flight is, more often than not, a red flag.

Paint it black

In the early stages of the movie, we’re treated to an abridged Black Adam origin story. Around 5,000 years ago, in the fictional Middle Eastern civilisation of Khandaq, a boy slave discovers a sizeable nugget of the most prosperously named rare earth mineral since Avatar shadily introduced us to unobtanium. Instead of handing over the chunk of ‘eternium’ to a tyrant king, the boy defies royal orders, makes a break for it and performs a mocking jay-esque symbol of rebellion before being captured and sentenced to public martyrdom.

There’s a last second reprieve from execution — the young Black Adam is transported to an unearthly plane where he’s met by a coven of festival wizards who endow him with the powers of a demi-god (what can he say except, you’re welcome?) and he returns to earth to vanquish Khandaq’s abusive ruling junta with gusto.

His enthusiasm for the murderous task ends up getting him a lengthy stretch on the naughty step. Fast forward to the modern day and following the botched hijacking of an archeological relic — Black Adam is finally freed from his time-out shackles. He picks up the rampaging — admittedly mostly directed at maliciously-motivated private security — where he left off, and in doing so attracts the attention of the Justice Society. A quartet of super-powered stepdads led by Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), and that also includes Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan); Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell); and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo). They smell exactly what The Rock’s character is cooking and whilst not at odds with the intended end result, are not particularly fond of his recipe for achieving it.

Is it a bird, is it plane sailing?

Black Adam does have its faults. The CGI whilst often stunning also snags on more than a few glitchy moments. And in pivotal parts, the dialogue suffers from that classic DC trait of feeling clunkily saccharine or coercively comical – but maybe that’s a more accurate reflection of comic canon than Marvel’s self-aware, tongue-in-cheek polish. And in any case, by now I think we can chalk that up to house style.

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For me, the strengths outweigh the limitations. This is an enjoyable action movie — the frenetic set pieces, which make up a significant portion of the run time, are almost invariably beautifully choreographed. And it’s hard to imagine a better casting fit for The Rock’s long awaited supe debut, he contributes so much to the role that it feels unlikely the film would have been made if he’d have turned it down. The plot twists are well crafted, the mid-credits scene is pretty much guaranteed to send fans into a froth of ecstatic incoherence, and there are next to no prior reading/watching assignments required to get the most out of the movie.

Verdict: If you don’t ask too much of it, Black Adam is a film you can enjoyably spend an evening chewing popcorn through. Our advice — sit down, tune in, Rock on… 

Black Adam is released in cinemas across the UAE on October 20. Book tickets: Here.

Images: Provided