If anything immediately surprises about Jaume Coltte Serra’s Black Adam, it’s its incredible resemblance to the so-called Snyderverse. Something unexpected, considering Warner Bros. insistence on abandoning what Zack Snyder created. Nevertheless, during the early sequences of the film, the resemblance to the tone and pace that the director brought to his version of DC is notorious. The story of Teth Adam, origin of the titular anti-hero, hits theaters October 21 and is told from the conception of the epic.
With a more than formal attachment to the comic strip from which it comes, the story begins with a throwback to dull and unsaturated tones. An obvious attempt to give a certain notion of grandeur to the story. Especially since the story begins with a glimpse of a fictional, opulent kingdom that a group of slaves carry on their shoulders.
With a cruelty of detail that surprises, the camera and the scenario show to what extent compulsory labor is a form of violence. Gradually, Black Adam discovers that she isn’t as seemingly harmless as she could be just because she belongs to the superhero genre.
If there’s something that’s immediately striking about Jaume Coltte Serra’s Black Adam, it’s its incredible resemblance to the so-called Snyderverse. Something unexpected, considering Warner Bros. insistence on abandoning what Zack Snyder created. Nevertheless, during the early sequences of the film, the resemblance to the tone and pace that the director brought to his version of DC is notorious. The story of Teth Adam, the origin of the titular antihero, is told from the conception of the epic. With a more than formal attachment to the comic strip from which it comes, the story begins with a throwback to dull and unsaturated tones. An obvious attempt to bring a certain notion of the epic to the story. Especially since the story begins with a glimpse of a fictional, opulent kingdom that a group of slaves carry on their shoulders.
Black Adam, a villain who isn’t so much a villain
In fact, the tension gradually rises as the brutality towards the slaves becomes more evident. Finally, from this latent pressure, painful and well constructed by the scenario, an anti-hero is born. Black Adamas, a character, is much more a consequence of his mistakes than a celebration of the virtues he displays.
Not just because he’s an anti-hero, something Black Adam repeatedly points out, but for his unpredictable quality. One of the strengths of the film is the exploration of a character type that allows for experimentation with tone and form.
This child, who was about to be executed to be transformed into a quasi-god, is very human. So much so that anger drives his decisions and, sometimes, his way of moving to deeper layers. Black Adam strays as best he can from the one-dimensional villain design, and that’s something to be welcomed.
Despite the hype surrounding the film, which insisted that the age of the hero was over, the character has a more empathetic depth than one might assume. Thus, his status as an anti-hero is immediately clear. More than that, it’s a vital link to understanding how it behaves, once the narrative moves into the future.
The power of all the gods in Black Adam
Once it’s established that the titular character is driven by very understandable anger, the action jumps millennia into the future. The movie doesn’t give too many clues as to what happened to Black Adam or what we can expect from him. What he makes clear is that, unlike Superman’s righteous goodness or Batman’s tortured conscience, the in-service antihero is an unclear mix.
Black Adam plays with the possibility that his character is at least partially incomprehensible, which he ingeniously achieves, but not on every occasion. The script raises the idea that it is not an easily decipherable character. A point that allows Dwayne Johnson to have complete freedom to give the role the necessary nuances to make it believable.
But, despite his enormous charisma, the actor does not have the register to give three-dimensionality to his complicated Black Adam. On more than one occasion, the interpreter has real difficulty expressing anything other than anger, the main emotion that drives the anti-hero.
Thus, the film traverses rough terrain. Sometimes this unsympathetic, brooding, perpetually grumpy figure, overwhelmed by restless thoughts, is easier to understand. At other times, he’s just muscle in the service of a digital visual section that, again, fails again.
A superman in the midst of mundane problems
Overall, Black Adam makes good use of his scarce resources. Its storyline is fluid, fast and nimble, despite the layers of sobriety displayed in atypical situations. The plot tries to show a singular maturity and, from time to time, deviates from its character’s history with strange geopolitical reflections. But, overall it never loses the beat, and Johnson brings just enough vitality to it to make it entertaining most of the time.
Black Adam’s first major appearance is almost a happy coincidence and supports the idea of his divine quality. Resurrected by chance, the character’s first major involuntary mission is to save the life of Adrianna (Sarah Shahi). Bit by bit, the film structures Black Adam’s relationship with the modern world through small snippets of information. Amon (Bodhi Sabongui), Adrianna’s son, eventually becomes her mentor on modern knowledge.
The plot then mimics, and almost unwittingly, the relationship between Edward Furlong’s very young John Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. And it does this by allowing the contrast between Amon’s worldview and the issue of violence, an acute theme for Black Adam. Gradually, this man, in the power of the gods, questions himself, grows, becomes aware of his place and his power.
Black Adam the superman in a new world
But, for its second part, having lost the novelty of the discovery of an atypical character, the effectiveness of Black Adam is shaken. Especially when Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan) show up. There is an artificial quality to the intervention of unnecessary heroes and details about the DC comics world that add nothing particularly relevant to the storyline. Something that will repeat over and over again. So much so that underscoring the argument on certain topics seems gratuitous.
More so when Black Adam attempts to explore even geopolitical issues or add a grown-up layer to a much simpler script. Overall, the film overcomes its worst moments and manages an entertaining adventure. What, at least, introduce this supposed villain with questionable morals, but having good reasons to evolve. Even if it means adding a surprise appearance which gives the film one of its best moments.
Open door to a new storyline for DC, Black Adam does the job. A new face has arrived in today’s crowded world of superheroes. Nasty? Anti-hero? Something in between? The film leaves it up to the audience to answer.