There is a lot on the plate in “Black Adam,” the latest vehicle for former wrestler turned action star Dewayne Johnson.
The latest origin story for the DC Comics cinematic universe introduces a lot of characters, has to thread the needle with its title character and sometimes suffers from the need to have a little too much exposition. Yet it all manages to work thanks to some solid action sequences and a game cast led by Johnson.
“Black Adam” traces the title character back to his roots – beginning as Teth-Adam who is given the powers of Shazam and transferred into a super hero to save Kahndaq from a tyrannical king.
Fast forward 5,000 years and Kahndaq is still under siege, this time by mercenaries, with a local archaeologist named Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) trying to locate a crown that is believed to have mystical powers.
Her search leads her to free Teth-Adam, now ready to unleash his powers on the modern day. As he learns the ways of the modern world, Teth-Adam interacts with Adrianna, her son (Bodhi Sabongui) and a group of superheros known as Justice Society of America – Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell).
The journey to the screen for “Black Adam” has taken many turns with Johnson originally slated to appear in “Shazam” as the villain before plans were changed to give the character a stand-alone movie. The Justice Society was added later in one of the final drafts to give the film another dimension.
All of these revisions are relevant, especially in the first part as “Black Adam” tries to find its legs. The character is now more of an anti-hero learning to be a good guy. It’s a character development that could be tricky, but Johnson has the charisma and charm to pull it off.
The inclusion of the Justice Society also gives “Black Adam” a much-needed boost. I really enjoyed their interactions with Black Adam and look forward to possible spin-off films featuring these characters (Swindell is the standout in the quartet).
I’ll concede the final villain doesn’t get the same kind of depth as the other characters and is a little too CGI reliant to be very memorable, but it builds to a mid-credit scene that could be a game changer for DC films to come.
It’s a perfect way for “Black Adam” to stick the landing. The film might not always hit the right notes, but ultimately it serves its purpose as a solid origin story that has plenty of room for growth and expansion.