There was this one moment in The Office when Dwight mentions the online game called “Second Life.” In it, he does everything he would do in his everyday life, except now he can fly.
As the titular character of Black Adam, one could say something along the same lines for Dwayne Johnson (and before you say “Wait, he doesn’t have electrical powers!”, keep in mind I grew up knowing him as the most “electrifying man in sports entertainment”.)
Like most casual movie goers, I am not very familiar at all with the comic book origins of the character (only that he was pretty sick in the Injustice video game years ago). In the film, Teth-Adam (Johnson, who also served as a producer) is awoken accidently by a professor/resistance fighter named Adriana Tomaz (Sarah Shahi). He was buried thousands of years ago in the fictional country of Kahndaq. Nowadays, the people of Kahndaq are still under a somewhat empirical rule (sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Andor), but have been awaiting a savior to guide them out of the dark. Teth-Adam is not what they had in mind.
Sure, he is worshiped by Adriana’s son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui), but Adam states it plainly: “I’m no hero.” His powers are in the same realm of Shazam! (which is a better movie), but his intentions are far less admirable. Simply put, he is the ultimate anti-hero of the DCU so far, which is why the Justice Society is called in by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis).
Note: Due to my limited knowledge of comic book lore, I can only describe the following characters as certain versions of MCU characters when talking about their powers. I welcome all who wish to correct me on misconceptions I probably have.
Leading the Justice Society is Carter Hall (Aldis Hodge), aka Hawkman, basically a somewhat stronger, yet not as mechanical version of the MCU’s Falcon. Guiding him is the young Al Rothstein (Noah Centineo), who’s Atom Smasher quickly brings similarities to Ant-Man (he also is meant to be some bit of comical relief). He borrows the atom smasher suit from his Uncle, played by an actor I never imagined to be in a comic book movie (I won’t spoil who it is, for he is in it for only about twenty seconds, literally phoning it in.)
Also along for the ride is Maxine Hunkel (Quintessa Swindell), who, as Cyclone, is able to control wind, among other things I think (she seemed to be a bit of a down graded version of Storm from X-Men). The last to round out this society is Kent Nelson, AKA Dr. Fate. He is played by the ever remarkable (and consistently handsome) Pierce Brosnan, an actor who never fails to bring his class and talent to every role he plays.
Parents, the film is indeed a bit darker in tone than most super hero films, so you can indeed expect some violence in the action scenes. There is also some swearing, so the PG-13 rating is spot on for this one.
There are moments in the film where the movie is indeed a bit too on the nose. Two scenes come to mind. The first is when Adam is introduced, and is wreaking havoc on his attackers. The song used is “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones, probably the most obvious choice one could think of. That is not to say the song itself is bad (it is one of my favorites), but it is almost like the film’s director (Jaume Collet-Serra) told the composer (Lorne Balfe) they would put this in at the last minute.
The second scene is when Adam enters a room (he never uses the door) and on TV is the 1966 Western classic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The third in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy”, there is perhaps no better example of an anti-hero than that of Clint Eastwood’s Man with no name. A scene or two later, we get a duel of sorts with Adam and the local militia, as the legendary Moricone score plays in the background before the rather obvious conclusion.
Perhaps the main issue with a character as powerful and complex as Black Adam is that we are given a villain (played well by Marwan Kenzari) that cannot at all stand up to him, even if the motivations of the villain see logical (at least to him). We instead are forced to sympathize with the anti-hero.
In this case, it is not difficult, since any of us millennials learned that opposing The Rock is a fools errand.