Thursday, September 21, 2023

Movie review of Black Adam: The Rock deserved better

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Shreya Christina
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In his extensive filmography, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has floated cars, defied falling skyscrapers, punched Jason Statham, plunged bloodthirsty baboons into a bottomless chasm, thwarted domestic terrorists who would want to damage a bay, punched Vin Diesel, hit a missile on a mutated wolf, fought earthquakes, knocked off missiles, skinned a mythical lion and rebelled against a pyrokinetic Polynesian goddess bent on destroying human life. Seeing a Johnson-directed movie is an implicit agreement that one will exchange money to watch Johnson defy the laws of physics and logic and accomplish an impossible feat or three.

In his movies, Johnson never dies, never loses, never gives up.

Thanks to his physique, tough personality and dependable charm, Johnson is as close to a true superhero as any human on Earth. There may not be an actor built for superheroes more than Johnson. Still, there’s a funny little wrinkle in Johnson’s movie history: Despite starring in seemingly every big-budget action franchise to hit theaters, the man once known as “The Rock” has never starred in a formal superhero movie. played.

Johnson has never been in the same cinematic universe as Batman or Iron Man; he has never met the Avengers or the Justice League. Johnson has said he entertained studio calls, but nothing ever felt good enough for him and the studios to emulate.

Black Adam shoots lightning bolts. Lightning strikes kill people.
Warner Bros.

This all changes with the release of Black Adam this week, the DC super anti-hero movie that Johnson says: is 10 years in the making. Black Adam will break Johnson’s non-super streak, and that’s a big part of what makes it special. Sadly, few things make this frustrating superhero movie stand out.

Johnson or his co-stars are not to blame, especially a very endearing Pierce Brosnan.

Rather, the problem is the choice of director Jaume Collet-Serra, screenwriters Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani, and perhaps Warner Bros. in general, to overwhelm Black Adam with so much rhythmic plot. Johnson’s ascension to superhero stardom should be as easy as watching Johnson hit some stuff; everything else should be out of the way.

Black AdamThe biggest weakness is that so much of it isn’t about Black Adam

The most puzzling decision in Black Adama film whose extensive marketing and multiple followers suggesting that it is about the antihero known as Black Adam is that the film spends a lot of time on characters that are not Adam. Strangely enough, much of the film is about a woman named Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) and her son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui).

Adrianna is a native of modern-day Kahndaq, a land that vaguely appears to belong to the Middle East equivalent in the DC universe and is oppressed by mercenaries. According to the ancient mythology of Kahndaq, Black Adam – or Teth-Adam, as he was then called – was a slave who kept Kahndaq from falling into the hands of a terrible king. That king amassed the power of demons through a crown made of a magical material called Eternium. Eternium is the only substance that hurts Adam, which seems important – as important as kryptonite, you might think – but really isn’t treated as such.

After their fight, that magic crown is all that’s left.

Adrianna, despite being well versed in the myth and imminent danger that this magical object poses, tries to get hold of the demon’s headgear to… I’m not sure as the movie doesn’t explain her plans well. to be . To prevent it from falling into the wrong hands?

More on that later, because Adrianna and Amon aren’t the only non-Adam characters we spend a lot of time with. The film also introduces the Justice Society, not to be confused with the DCEU’s Justice League.

Black Adam comes face to face with Hawkman, not to be confused with Hawkeye or Hawk guy.
Warner Bros.

The Justice Society is an international superhero group led by Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), who enlist newbies Red Tornado (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) to face the new threat. The group is also a staple of DC that has been around since the 1940s, but never received much attention (if you look it up on Wikipedia, it’s probably a blue link; it exists, but you didn’t click it).

The Justice Society dived in Black Adam without introduction, no previous appearances. At first, it all feels a bit like taking part in an ongoing round of Double Dutch. Still, the actors who play the members of the Justice Society do their best, even though we don’t know exactly who the heroes they play are.

Draped in baroque robes with gold laces, Brosnan brings dignified elegance to the magician he plays. Hodge is charismatic and transcends a character who is naturally crazy – I mean, his mask has a beak. Swindell and Centineo have a friendly, easygoing chemistry.

If this was a movie just about the Justice Society, it would be… power have a good time. But in the end, the film uses all these moving parts to tie itself into a knot. And wait, isn’t this movie called? Black Adam? And doesn’t it play in The Freaking Rock?

Black Adam works best when leaning against his star

We meet Black Adam during Adrianna’s treasure-hunting adventure after she accidentally leads a warlord and his henchmen to the magical crown (great job). Unbeknownst to Adrianna or the people trying to kill her, the demon circle also marks Black Adam’s grave. In a last ditch effort to save herself, she chants a magical incantation, accidentally releasing him. And wow, it’s violent.

Adam vaporizes, maims and explodes the men one by one via lightning, super speed, super strength – or sometimes all three at once. At one point, he shoves a grenade into someone’s mouth. Usually superheroes aren’t allowed to kill people, but Adam definitely doesn’t hesitate to kill in style. However, this no-nonsense killer has a heart, as he takes it upon himself to protect Adrianna and her son.

It’s also this deathapalooza that catches the eye of the Justice Society – fighting first against, and then alongside, Black Adam, in all his former glory.

Waking up a superhuman who’s been asleep for 5,000 years and teaching him about the modern world is probably the movie’s best gimmick and Johnson’s best use. Adam is extremely barbaric, but that’s largely because he lived in a world of kill or be killed. It is disturbing to Adam that Adrianna has not yet learned Amon how to use violence properly, and he earnestly demands to know who will teach the boy the correct violence. His dedication to hurting people is played for fun; Adam doesn’t understand how modern society works, and we can all agree that no good person will teach a child violence. There is, however, some irony: Warner Bros. spent a lot of time promising us Black Adamthe movie, gets more violent (the movie reportedly initially rated R) and metal (one of Black AdamThe poster slogan is “power born from rage”) than other superhero movies.

Johnson started out in WWE, and that form of entertainment, like comic books, likes melodrama, theater, and battles between good and evil. It makes perfect sense that someone raised in professional wrestling would get what drives superheroes and supervillains.

Director Collett-Sera likes to flank Adam’s violence with Johnson’s wimpy comedy, the crossroads of himbo and protective father. Adam is a man without time; he doesn’t understand television or weapons (he calls them “weak magic”), and it’s fun to watch him try to make sense of a world 5,000 years old without him. He doesn’t know what a superhero slogan is or why it might be beneficial to keep one or two prisoners alive. He soon learns that if you don’t kill all of your enemy’s henchmen, you can grill them for information or even send them back to their bosses with a pithy message.

While the movie has its moments – when it riffs on how violence has its place in our world; when it shows how funny and charming Johnson can be – it’s constantly throwing something else our way, mainly Adrianna and Amon’s demonic artifacts.

“Don’t touch my helmet!!”
Warner Bros.

The film leaves many open questions: What’s the point of freeing Kahndaq if an evil force unleashes hell on Earth and there’s no more Kahndaq? Why didn’t the Justice Society bring in heavier hitters when dealing with a divine threat? Why is this apocalypse crown put in a kid’s backpack? Why am I watching a movie about all these bad decisions, including Adrianna telling anyone who will listen she won’t give up the demon crown and multiple scenes of Amon on a skateboard sputtering from one end of a hallway to the other? Why isn’t this movie about how awesome Black Adam is?

The way this movie is constructed feels like someone thought Black Adam would be too esoteric or, bizarrely, Johnson isn’t enough of a star on its own to deliver the goods. Despite what the film’s massive marketing push might suggest, the director and screenwriters seem completely uninterested in creating a superhero unlike any we’ve seen before. Instead, it’s an accumulation of a bunch of stuff we’ve seen before and a mountain of fluff that isn’t compelling – too bad, because for the first time in ages, Johnson seems poised to give us a superhero movie that’s way more than we bargained for. .


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