‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new movie Black Adam is a typical DC movie. Reasonably decent, pretty good action, confusing situations with poorly developed characters, and, well, you know the rest: reasonably good but not generally great box office.
The film is set in the mythical country of Kahndaq, ruled by vicious mercenaries. But archaeologist Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) wants to find a magic crown at the tomb of Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson), a mythical hero imprisoned for 5,000 years. But he is not, as we find out, that much of a hero. He does rescue the good guys but kills the bad ones casually. Suddenly, we meet a group of people who want to stop him. But they are directed by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the charming lady who had Batman kill Superman and set up the Suicide Squad. Are they good or bad guys?
They are led by Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), who can fly like a hawk and is very strong, plus Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), who can see the future of anyone he touches, as well as young Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell). He can get very large and break things; she can bring up strong winds to break things. They don’t do very much, but they do provide young actors to help bring in at least a few extra people.
The team comes in to stop “evil” Adam, but Adrianna asks why they want to stop him but have done nothing at all to stop the evil mercenaries who run the country. A very good question that is never really answered. So there is a lot of fighting back and forth with the Justice Society arguing that it is wrong to kill bad guys, even though their director is a killer who had no real issue with wiping out Superman and shot several of her own people as a way of helping her escape a villain.
It turns out that things get more complicated, and the plot takes many dubious turns. At times, it seems like the writers had no idea where the story was heading. The Justice Society looked like it was only interested in going after Adam and cared nothing at all about the injustice in Kahndaq. Had they taken out Adam, would they have left the bad guys in charge? I have no idea. Was this a “let’s kick the bad guys out of their dictatorship?” film or was this a “hypocritical good guys working against a not so good guy who hasn’t yet really hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it” kind of film? The real problem is that no one making the film had any idea of which kind of movie it was. So things meandered, and the ending was a bit anti-climactic, with a mid-credits scene that was downright confusing.
The acting did not require much of anyone. I have seen Johnson be charming in movies, a good leading man. Here he is mostly dour. Shahi is strident a lot of the time but, on the whole, provides emotion. Bodhi Sabongui as Adrianna’s son provides charm, and Mohammed Amer as her brother has most of the comic action. Hodge is actually very good as Hawkman, although much of his character is undeveloped. His relationship with Brosnan is one of the more interesting elements, but it is undeveloped.
The DC movies tend to have a problem in that they assume that everyone in the theater knows who the characters are and their back stories. I knew none of that and, as a result, it took half the movie to figure out plot details. I still haven’t quite figured out all of Doctor Fate’s powers.
Marvel movies make sure we are introduced to characters very early in plot development and provide lots of human element bits to make us care. Remember that T’Challa first appeared as a supporting player in Captain America: Civil War before Black Panther. As was Spider-Man before his own film. There was almost nothing in the current film to explain much about any of the superheroes. As a result, while I wanted the “good guys” to win, I was not certain who actually fit that description.
Action scenes did move pretty well and, although plot holes and inconsistencies abounded, the film did keep my interest until the end. So if you like this kind of film, go see it. But don’t expect to love it.