At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Black Adam “2022”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Black Adam “2022”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Superhero/ Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Bodhi Sabongui, Pierce Brosnan, Mohammed Amer, James Cusati-Moyer, Uli Latukefu, Djimon Hounsou, Viola Davis, Jennifer Holland/Runtime: 124 minutes

*sigh* alright dear reader I know there have been quite a few of you out there who have been awaiting my take on this slice of superhero cinema so let me first make one thing clear right now. That being that, despite my by-now established and trademarked brand of comical cynicism, I really did have hope that Black Adam was going to be a genuinely great film. Indeed, not only because Dwayne Johnson had been patiently and passionately cultivating a big screen live action adaptation of this character for going on darn near two decades, but the support cast assembled (especially Pierce Brosnan) seemed fairly well-chosen, the first trailer did seem to show promise, and the helmer chosen to direct this slice of cinema did have some movies to his name that I happened to enjoy including his trio of movies that he did with Liam Neeson. With that in mind, I am just going to rip this particular Band-Aid off as quickly as possible and be done with it. That being that in aspects that are good and aspects that certainly are not good, this slice of cinema is one that serves as a spot-on representation of the spot in the road that movie goers have traversed as we have made our way through this iconic era of superheroes in cinema. I say that because, even if you push to the side the key fact that this is a 200-million (yes you read that right) slice of cinema revolving around a character who, appearances in video games and animated direct-to-DVD as well as television shows aside, isn’t really that known to the public at large, this slice of cinema is one that contains a story that operates just like the first chapter in a new series about this antiheroic character that seems him placed in a world that does give off the vibe of being quite recognizable whilst also establishing a skirmish that is fairly closed off. Oh, sure the world coming to an end is threatened, but by no means does this film traverse the planet nor is its origin narrative one that is typical and even straightforward. Yet despite the fact that this slice of cinema is currently nestled in a rather intriguing point of time for its genre, that doesn’t also mean that it is by any means a genuinely great movie. Oh sure, this slice of cinema does have some respectable components about it in terms of the overarching framework, but on its own two feet it is definitely one that has a bit of difficulty in distinguishing itself from the rest of the pack to say nothing of the fact that it contains a narrative that shows its issues by the time we get to the final third of the movie. Oh sure, there is a clearly skilled group of co-stars at play in this beside film lead Dwayne Johnson and yes each of them do get moments to shine throughout, but at the same time this slice of cinema also has trouble comprehending just what to do with them besides the typical. Thus, is the proverbial film that will bring back balance to the Force within the DC Cinematic Universe? No. Yet if you choose to approach this film on its own distinct merits however, I am of the belief that Black Adam “2022” is a fun in spurts, completely chaotic, and highly flawed slice of cinema that if you are willing to turn your brain off that door and just accept that this slice of cinema is going to be one that is merely good and no more, no less than you might (keyword there) find some elements in this slice of cinema that you will enjoy herein.

The plot is as follows: The plot is as follows: So, according to the lore set up by the film, around 4600 years ago in the ancient locale of Kahndaq, there was a man by the name of Teth-Adam who was given great power following a choice made by his son that resulted in Adam becoming empowered with superhuman abilities and the son…well you’ll just have to see for yourself. At any rate, we soon see that, in the aftermath of his vicious and brutal vengeance against a particular king in the area that Adam is soon imprisoned and left to the sands of time by forces unknown. Flash forward ahead 4600 years and we soon see that an archaeologist poking around in the area by the name of Adrianna and her son Amon as well as some of Adrianna’s friends/colleagues accidentally reawaken Adam when under duress from a group of vicious mercenaries known as the Intergang and watch in awe as Adam (surprise surprise) manages to utterly annihilate the majority of the group. Yet, despite Adam being victorious, there is a hiccup that no one could have foreseen. Namely that this little skirmish has attracted the attention of certain powerful government individuals who, aspiring to take this new metahuman into custody, reach out to a team known as the Justice Society of America and their leader Carter Hall aka Hawkman to assist in the process. Unfortunately for them we soon learn that Adam has no intention in going peacefully if at all. Thus the stage is set for yet another superheroic smackdown, but with Adam and the Justice Society coming to blows we soon see that there may in fact be a more dastardly, potentially world-ending, slice of villainy in the shadows just waiting to make its presence known and take down both Adam and the Justice Society in one clean stroke…..

Now I can’t lie to you dear reader: behind the camera this slice of cinema is more than just a wee bit of a creative mess. This starts with the fact that this film’s screenplay, of which a quartet of writers are responsible for, has a few stray barbs in regards to the policy of imperialism in America courtesy of one character asking the Justice Society point blank why they suddenly give a darn about the Middle Eastern country this film takes place when for a long time they have conveniently looked the other way. Yet, rather than actually do something with this intriguing dynamic, this film tosses them to the curb thus leaving them with little opportunity to make an impact. Perhaps this is why we see the film soon shift to the character of Adrianna and her son Amon endlessly beg the character of Adam to stop this other menace by becoming the hero the country of Kahndaq so desperately needs. Unfortunately, we see that the moments of Amon trying to aid Adam in identifying as a superhero not only prove fruitless in trying to provide our main character with some degree of persona, but also are trying to be genuinely funny yet ultimately come across as little more than desiring of a smirk. Along with that, it should be said that the helmer of this film, one Jaume Collet-Serra is a helmer who has shown that he does possess a degree or 5 of skill whilst sitting in the director’s chair and there are movies he has made that I enjoy immensely. I guess the reason I bring that up is because I don’t understand why he feels like he has to mimic Snyder’s distinct style from a visual point of view in this. Indeed decreasing the amount of frames in the midst of a fight scene? Present. Heroes posing as if they are being filmed? Absolutely. Trading in atmosphere for constructing genuinely interesting characters? Oh it’s there believe me. Oh and if you have a moment where you don’t know how to proceed just drop a fantastic albeit eye-rollingly predictable song like Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones. It should also be pointed out that, in the element of fairness, Serra does try his best to instill a few comedic bits into the grim atmosphere like a moment where we witness Adam copy the iconic standoff from 1966’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and to their credit some of those moments did actually make me chuckle a wee bit. Yet as low-key effective as those moments proved to be, they were also let down by a run of the mill musical accompaniment and action beats that are shot in some terrible colors and quite a bit of CGI with one sequence in particular looking less like a superhero film in 2022 and more like one that was made back in the early 2000s and just sat in a vault waiting to be released. Perhaps the most maddening element in this entire concoction is the fact that the film continuously finds ways to beat us over the head with the fact that our titular character is by no means a typical member of the hero community. As a result, there seems to be a running debate between all of the characters as to if Adam is the unconventional hero the country of Kahndaq needs or if he’s a cold-blooded super-powered individual who the Justice Society needs to bring down thus making it a bit difficult to know which party to genuinely root for. Suffice it to say that if (keyword there) we do get more of the character Black Adam in DC’s cinematic future here’s hoping he’s handled with a bit more skill and dare I say nuance.

Now despite the mixed bag in terms of the work done by the departments behind the camera, it should also be noted that the performances from the cast in front of the camera aren’t as bad, but due to the screenplay being severely undercooked they all do manage to feel nowhere near as realized as they could have been. Even with that in mind however, it should still be noted that there are several performances that are most assuredly of note. This starts with (obviously) Dwayne Johnson in the titular role and honestly he is really good here. Indeed, not only is it clear that Johnson is playing this part with a passion for the character that is truly second to none, but he also manages to bring his million-watt charisma (even if here it is dimmed at times a bit) and gives us a portrayal that manages to show a wonderful comprehension on not only who this guy is and what distinguishes him, but also on his inner conflict and turmoil as well. This is because, as the advertising department for this slice of cinema has made more than abundantly clear, the character of Black Adam is one that chooses to operate in the sun of heroics nor the shade of villainy and instead exists in that wonderful gray middle ground instead. As a result, this is a superpowered being who may definitely aspire to improve the lives of the people in his country, but he also has no qualms about utterly annihilating swarms of enemies in order to get the job done. Suffice it to say that in terms of not only the psychology, but also the physique of the character Johnson manages to deliver all of that into a performance that definitely deserves a much better film after this to really grow into and potentially become of the DC Cinematic Universe’s more defining portrayals of a character from their vast catalogue. The other standout performances in this slice of cinema (surprise surprise) come to us courtesy of the four members of the Justice Society who are all portrayed incredibly well by their respective performers. This starts with the always enjoyable Pierce Brosnan who is fanfreakingtastic as the elder statesman of sorts in the group Dr. Fate and it is an absolute blast to see him engage in the superhero game at long last even if it can be a bit on the jarring side to see the former 007 of the 90s performing in what is clearly a mo-cap outfit. Along with him, we see that Aldis Hodge does a fantastic job in his role of Hawkman not just in volatile temperament, but in terms of his ethics and the phenomenal wingspan he is given. Indeed Hodge has been an actor I’ve admired for a while now and it was a pure delight to see him butting heads with Johnson pretty much throughout this. Now I really do appreciate what the other two members of the group in the forms of Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher and Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone respectively brought to the table though I do feel that the movie shortchanges them a little bit when it comes to material. Even with that in mind however, I still do feel that the two are able to make the most of what time the movie does decide to provide them with.

All in all is Black Adam the savior that the DC Cinematic Universe has long heralding it to be? Ha! Not likely, but trust me when I say that there will be quite a few people out there who will thank you for making them laugh with that joke myself included. At the same time though, is this even the worst comic book film ever made? Again no not even close. If anything, the phrase I would have to choose that I feel best describes this slice of cinema, as heartbreaking as it may be given the close to two decades it took for this to finally come to theaters, would have to be “alright, but nothing special or particularly revelatory”. Indeed, the performances from some of the cast including Johnson, Brosnan, and Hodge are actually pretty freaking good, but they all find themselves severely let down by work done behind the camera that really does make this feel less like an actual slice of cinema and more like either someone accidentally filmed the outline for the film rather than the film itself or just brought a copy of Zach Snyder for Dummies to the big screen once more and, his take on Justice League from 2021 aside, we all know how THAT has worked out for DC so far… As it is dear reader, Black Adam might not be the worst superhero slice of cinema I have ever seen, but I definitely think that the DC Cinematic Universe (or whatever they are choosing to call it nowadays) really does need to step up its game significantly. I mean don’t get me wrong: they have made a few great movies, and they have made some that were genuinely good, but when the best thing you can say about the film that was supposed to begin ”righting the ship” as it were is no more and no less than mindlessly entertaining…you might just have a wee bit of a problem on your hands. Make of that dear reader what thou will. On a scale of 1-5 I give Black Adam “2022” a solid 3 out of 5.