Black Adam is now out in theaters and is already garnering a pretty great response. As the DC tried and true, most of you have probably seen it already or at least have plans to see it in the near future. If you don’t, though, maybe I can help sway your mind. After all, this movie is a pretty big deal when it comes to the future of the DCEU. But if that’s not enough of an enticement, here are a few more reasons why you should head to the multiplex this week.
With superheroes continuing to dominate at the box office, to say nothing about the countless streaming outlets and television networks, it’s no longer a novel thing to see superpowers brought to life on screen. However, with Black Adam, it’s not simply that he has powers, but how they are depicted. Teth-Adam acts with little restraint, and his powers very much reflect this, erupting onscreen with ferocity and intensity. This is the most exciting, exhilarating display of superhuman ability put onscreen since Man of Steel nearly a decade ago. Between Black Adam’s super speed, super strength, ability to control lightning and invulnerability, it’s really something to watch him blow through scores and scores of mercenaries, tearing down everything in his path. And as promised, sometimes that includes the heroes! When the Justice Society of America show up, it’s classic hero against hero action as physical might matches up against magical spells and whirling winds. The eclectic imagination of the filmmakers really brought to life the true scope of what these characters can do, making the action scenes some of my favorites in a long time.
Personally, I’m more familiar with the Justice Society than I am with Black Adam, but with this being his movie, I wasn’t expecting much from DC’s original superteam. A big theme of the film is presuming that Adam is a save-the-day hero similar to Superman, largely due to an ancient legend the citizens of Kahndaq believe to this very day. However, the Justice Society knows better, understanding that an unchecked Adam presents a major threat to the planet. Fists began flying, and right away we’re shown the universality of the DC Universe onscreen.
Doctor Fate serves as magician and protector, with mystifying spells that attack his opponents from multiple and unpredictable angles. Hawkman charges into battle with his famous mace…that’s eventually revealed to be more than it seems. Cyclone blows onto the scene with colorful whirlwinds that she uses for transport, offense and defense alike. Atom Smasher is the relative rookie of the group, not always knowing how to best use his size to take on someone of Black Adam’s power level.
Of the four JSAers, my personal favorite would have to be Hawkman. Aldis Hodge nails the aggressive, almost self-righteous aspect of the character from the comics, but with a clear element of nobility and heroism that keeps him likable. He’s a great foil to Black Adam, and the two share a number of suspenseful scenes that are filled with tension as seemingly no room is big enough for the both of them.
Exactly how one goes about telling a four-quadrant comic book movie with Black Adam as the protagonist was something I really couldn’t wrap my head around prior to seeing it. After all, he’s famously an enemy of Shazam, who has already been introduced as one of the heroes of the DCEU. Teth-Adam’s also incredibly powerful, possibly too much so. Who could pose a threat to him?
Fortunately, the movie isn’t really about Adam overcoming insurmountable odds to defeat evil. The real conflict of the film is a moral one. The people of Kahndaq view Adam as a legendary hero. The Justice Society, however, see him as a threat and know things about his history that the people of Kahndaq have long since forgotten. Ultimately, the driving question of the film is: who will Black Adam become in the end, a villain or a savior? The movie injects a lot of doubt about his true motivations, something that’s portrayed in stark contrast to the Justice Society (Hawkman in particular), who pride themselves on staying true to their mission of enacting justice—not lethal vengeance.
Black Adam isn’t interested in fighting evil. But then, what is he interested in? It’s a clever approach to an anti-heroic figure, who is often accompanied by a mother and son from Kahndaq—resistance fighter Adrianna and her boy Amon (played by Sarah Shahi and Bodhi Sabongui, respectively). It also keeps the concerns of the film on what the people need, especially when living under a country with little governmental rule, oppressed by the criminal syndicate Intergang.
To go on much further would be to risk spoilers, and nobody enjoys being spoiled on superhero films (even when the movie’s biggest “surprise” has been trending on Twitter and Instagram all day). All I can say is that Black Adam isn’t the typical DC hero, flying through blue skies and saving people from disasters. He a dark man with a mission to find his purpose in the world, with a dark viewpoint stemming from a lifetime of violence and slavery. It’s that grim foundation colliding with the spectacle of the modern superhero world that gives way to a really fun and enthralling two hours that go by at a breakneck pace. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Black Adam or the Justice Society from the comics, this film will more than show off why they’re some of the coolest characters around.
Black Adam, starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, is now playing in a theater near you. To buy tickets and catch up on all the latest news, features and trailers from the film, visit our official Black Adam hub.
Donovan Morgan Grant writes about comics, graphic novels and superhero history for DC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @donoDMG1.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Donovan Morgan Grant and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.