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Black Adam: Reviewed

November 30, 2022


Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Black Adam in DC’s latest movie. Photo courtesy of DC.

Black Adam is the newest DC superhero movie, directed by and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson plays the superhero Black Adam, a former slave from an ancient society who was blessed by the Council of Wizards with magical powers. The movie is set in the fictional country of Kahndaq, where the government has been taken over by the organization “Intergang”, a collection of ruthless mobsters and mercenaries. Black Adam is then awoken after thousands of years by a group of scientists who are trying to use him to free their country from their oppressive rulers. 

The movie was very quickly slammed by critics who called it “a wildly uneven let down.” I must say that I agree. 

Interestingly enough though, the plot of the movie is not the so-called “let down.” Compared with many DC movies like Wonder Woman 1984 and Justice League, which feature gaping plot holes, Black Adam appears to be relatively solid. This is because the plot and characters are almost entirely stolen from other movies. Herein lies the problem. 

In the movie, there is a group of superheroes called the Justice Society, who feel that Black Adam is a threat to global peace, and are trying to force him to give up his powers. Each of the members of the Justice Society bears an uncanny resemblance to previous Marvel superheroes– a resemblance that is just too great to be a series of mere coincidences. 

Hawkman and Dr. Fate are absurdly similar to MCU’s Falcon and Dr. Strange. They share not only similar names and powers, but even look alike and have similar physical and verbal mannerisms. Dr. Fate has facial hair that looks an awful lot like Dr. Strange’s, as well as sharing the title “Doctor.” 

To be fair, DC and Marvel have taken turns stealing different story elements and characters from each other for years. In fact, Hawkman actually appeared in comic books 29 years before Falcon. That being said, Falcon debuted on screen 6 years before Hawkman, and the film representations of the two characters are infinitely closer than that of their comic book counterparts. It does not take a detective to put two and two together and see the poaching taking place. 

The similarities do not end with the character design. While Black Adam bears a very close resemblance to certain elements of the Avengers universe, it shares even closer similarities with the X-Men world, specifically the movie X-Men Apocalypse.  

Both of the movies are set in vaguely Middle-Eastern appearing countries (Khandaq and Egypt), where some ancient evil is awoken (Sabbac and Apocalypse), with flashbacks to both the past ancient society and the current world. Both have characters with metal wings, (Hawkman and Angel), characters with mental powers, (Dr. Fate and Professor Xavier), characters who use controlling the weather to their advantage (Cyclone and Storm) and  women who are expert scientists trying to to prevent ancient terrors from reappearing (Adrianna and Moira MacTaggert). They also share protagonists who have lost their wives and singular children to repressive governments. This causes them to become some sort of “anti-hero” figure who almost sides with evil, but then at the last minute experiences a change of heart and decides to join the good side. 

The final fight scene of the movie involves Black Adam and the Justice Society engaged in a fierce battle against the demon Sabbac. In the battle, Cyclone is stirring up dust and hurling poles from a nearby construction site at the demon, while Black Adam shoots electricity at him and Hawkman flies around throwing punches and stopping falling debris from hurting civilians. This scene looks almost exactly like the final fight scene in X-Men Apocalypse; similar camera angles show similar characters using similar fighting tactics to vanquish a similar enemy. If I wanted to see all that, I would just watch X-Men Apocalypse, which has better character development, CGI and is a more enjoyable movie, overall. 

But, perhaps these similarities are just staples of the genre, and are shared not just between these two movies, but also by others. I think that while Black Adam is a bit of a miss, it is a step in the right direction for DC. It doesn’t feel like a prequel providing background for previous movies like Aquaman does for Justice League. It both tells the story of a hero and sees him fighting new evils, with the audience unsure whether he will survive in the end. The movie also ties in aspects of the Shazam plot with the Justice League, which is long overdue. The movie might not have been the best, but there is no denying that it was something the DC franchise needed as a whole to expand their universe. 

In the end, the movie is really just another Dwayne Johnson movie; it’s not so bad if you don’t read too much into it. While the movie received a 39% approval rating by critics, audience members enjoyed the movie considerably more, giving it an 89% approval rating. The thing that makes me sad is that big franchises like DC and even Marvel used to put a lot more time and effort into their work. In the past several years it has felt like some of that is missing, and Black Adam does nothing but hammer home this point.

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