Justice League Black Adam

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Black Adam
dir Jaume Collet-Serra
scr Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani
prd Beau Flynn, Hiram Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia
with Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Shahi, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Quintessa Swindell, Noah Centineo, Marwan Kenzari, Bodhi Sabongui, Mohammed Amer, Jalon Christian, Viola Davis, Djimon Hounsou, Henry Cavill
release US/UK 21.Oct.22
22/US New Line 2h04

brosnan swindell centineo
Shazam (2019) Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

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johnson and hodge
While DC explores a darker, over-serious side of the comic-book superhero genre, at least that adds an original tone to this action-packed apocalyptic romp. It also helps us overcome feelings of familiarity in the characters, situations and set-pieces. And while it's great to see Dwayne Johnson dig into a more violent role with his sardonic humour in tact, it's impossible to escape the feeling that the genre is increasingly stale.
In the bustling North African city of Kahndaq, Adrianna (Shahi) is searching for an ancient crown when her cohort Ishmael (Kenzari) betrays her and she inadvertently awakens Teth-Adam (Johnson), who has been asleep for 5,000 years and has a very short temper. A four-person team from Justice Society (Hodge, Brosnan, Swindell and Centineo), arrives to contain him, as if they could. And as Ishmael continues to attack, they work with Adrianna, her teen son Amon (Sabongui) and her brother Karim (Amer) to face the challenge. The question is whether Adam's murderous methods are helping.

Director Collet-Serra keeps the film galloping along from one action sequence to the next, barely pausing for breath. Tech is outlandish, paranormal nuttiness abounds, and there's never a dull moment. Characters use downtime to engage in witty banter and swap back-stories, adding interest without bothering about depth. And because Adam is happy to kill first and ask questions later, there's a remarkable brutality stretching right through the movie.

Johnson channels his outsized personality into scowls, delivering amusing zingers with a stern face while occasionally revealing self-doubt about whether he's a good or bad guy. His most enjoyable on-screen sparring partner is Sabongui's sparky Amon, who is remarkably fearless in the face of so much digital death and destruction. Shahi also has great presence in a central role. Hodge is terrific as doubt-free leader Hawkman, balanced by a suberbly zenned-out Brosnan as Doctor Fate. And the charming Centineo has fun in his comical role as Atom Smasher.

Aside from the story's unusually brutal tone, there's a niggling feeling that this film has been designed to take on Marvel at its own game, using a high-powered ensemble to take on a seemingly unstoppable foe, this time with ancient demonic origins and a desire to unleash hell on earth, or something. The effects and imagery are whizzy, the action just about coherent and the surge of energy infectious, as is the Arabic-inflected cast and story. But for non-fans, there's little we haven't seen before.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 18.Oct.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall