Dwayne Johnson Like a Rock as Star of ‘Black Adam’

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CHICAGO – Once again Dwayne Johnson finds himself in a vehicle unworthy of his considerable charms and talents. Johnson stars as “Black Adam,” a demigod from a mythical middle eastern country who was given power from a counsel of wizards to protect his homeland from injustice. He’s woken from a 5000 year sleep to protect the country again from foreign interlopers… while a scholar and her son are trying to keep an ancient crown – with the powers of hell – out of the wrong hands.

Black Adam is not so much a hero, but more of a villain in some of the comic stories. Here he’s been transformed into more of an anti-hero with a real problem with anger management. He keeps killing the bad guys that he’s just supposed to knock senseless. So the Justice Society steps in, composed of Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and are dispatched to put a lid on this loose cannon. After reducing half the city to rubble they come to an uneasy truce and join forces to fight against a greater foe who wants to literally unleash hell on earth.

Black Adam
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

DC Comic Universe films, with the notable exception of Batman, seem to want to bludgeon their audiences over the head with effects. And Black Adam features more punches than a heavyweight boxing match … but there’s a repetitive sameness to it all that once again feels like an exercise in squandered potential.

Johnson smolders better than anyone, and there’s the potential for a rip-roaring good time here. There’s some halfhearted “comedy” involving a young boy who is trying to teach the newly awakened demigod about how to deliver a good catchphrase, plus Johnson has a little fun while playing a character who is unfamiliar with the concept of trying to solve any problem with anything other than violence … this generates a few chuckles. But Dave Bautista did this same thing to much greater effect as Drax in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Which scored frequent guffaws.

The other superheroes seem like they’re aping other better Marvel characters with a definite X-Men vibe, but there’s no story to support them or make you care about much of what happens. Pierce Bronsnan’s Dr. Fate is kind of the Professor X while Atom Smasher reminded me of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, as the new kid just trying to figure out his powers. And those special effects then takeover and just turn everything on screen into that familiar glob of chaos we’ve seen countless times before.

Rock ’n Roll with Dwayne Johnson in ‘Black Adam’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

All in all, this is a case of squandered potential with sound and fury a plenty but signifying nothing. Dwayne Johnson manages to lift this DC comic extravaganza up to the level of a lesser Marvel movie through the sheer magnitude of his charm, but both he and the audience deserve better.

“Black Adam” opens in theaters on October 21st. Featuring Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, Quintessa Swindell, Sarah Shani and Bodhi Sabongui. Written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


© 2022 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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