Black Adam (2022) a (mildly) belated review

There’s been more hoopla -it seems- about the behind the scenes stuff regarding Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam than there is about the movie itself.

You’ve had the surprise of Henry Cavill’s cameo as Superman at the movie’s end… something which delighted quite a few fans out there, even those who may not be big fans of Zack Snyder’s DC movies yet feel Cavill makes a great Superman. Then you had the disappointment -to those very same fans- when it turned out new DC Universe showrunner James Gunn stated Cavill would not return to the character after all.

There was the strange review situation, where professional reviews of the film were quite dismal yet the regular audiences were far more forgiving (at this date and on, the movie stands at a really, really low 39% positive among those critics and yet a very high 88% positive among audiences)

Then, when the movie was released, it seemed to do quite well in theaters but petered out relatively quickly. I suspect the film in the end did very well but not well enough for DC to push Mr. Gunn into a potential sequel or force him to use Cavill again. Mr. Johnson entered into that particular fray stating the film’s box office was quite healthy and his statements seemed rather defensive, even if I couldn’t blame him. He’s clearly someone who has pride in what he does and will defend it.

I was interested in seeing the film when it was originally released but, as is often the case for me, it was difficult to find the time to go to a theater to see the film. I also, I have to admit, had my eye on HBOMax and wondered just how long after the movie’s theatrical release I’d have to wait before it was streaming on that service.

In the end, I didn’t see the film in theaters but did catch it a few weeks back on HBOMax. I honestly don’t know if it’s still available to be seen there as of today.

So… what did I think about the film?

Was it as bad as the critics said? Did they miss something that general audiences found?

Avert your eyes, gentle reader, because what I’m about to state may cause some of you to faint…

I felt Black Adam was about as good a superhero film as Dr. Strange In The Multitude of Madness.

Yes, I said it.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Sam Raimi is a director who is in his own class and his direction of the Dr. Strange film was crisp and has his characteristic fun -and wild- elements which you cannot find in the Jaume Collet-Serra (whose previous directed films include The Shallows, Orphan, and Jungle Cruise) Black Adam.

However, I felt Dr. Strange’s story was, despite some really neat elements (particularly the alternate Marvel Universe and its heroes) quite toothless. It felt like the studio imposed the story and had Raimi tone down what could have been a truly fascinating horror/superhero hybrid. It felt to me like Raimi was in a strait jacket, making a good film when he could have made a batshit crazy great one, had he been allowed to do so.

So it was that I felt Black Adam was also one of those types of films. It wasn’t terrible IMHO, but it also felt like it was ticking off the boxes and trying to be all things to all audiences. I suppose, based on those scores, it achieved that much.

But it could -and more importantly should– have been more.

There were all kinds of fascinating elements in it. In Dr. Strange, as I mentioned, the highlight was seeing the alternate universe Marvel heroes. In Black Adam, the equivalent was seeing The Justice Society and, specifically, Hawkman and Dr. Fate, two characters I’ve always loved from the comics and was pleased to see come to life.

Pierce Brosnan was simply a delight as the weary Dr. Fate and seemed to have a blast in the movie. He was easily the movie’s standout.

Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam, alas, is presented as far more one note through the film. I get it: Unlike the comic books, where he was for many years an outright villain, here he’s a hero who is supposed to skirt the edge of being one. He kills, and quite a bit, but the movie -again like Dr. Strange– tries to soften the blow of his actions with humor or quick cuts which dampen what should be rougher stuff for audiences to chew on. As with Dr. Strange, I couldn’t help but wonder what a more no-holds-barred R rated version of this film might have been.

So the bottom line for me is that Black Adam is another reasonably successful superhero studio product. There are some really great effects and some of the action presented is quite wild but the film, in the end, feels like you’re having a Big Mac.

Go to any McDonalds in the United States and order a Big Mac and they’ll all taste the same even as they will help you get you past your hunger. Sure, they’re calories and they’re relatively cheap and you get served quick but it’s not necessarily a gourmet -or memorable- meal.

Recommended, with that caveat.