Where I Watched It: HBo MAX
English Audio Description provided By: Deluxe
Narrated By: William Michael Redmond
I could use this entire time to just talk about whatever the heck is going on at the DC branch of Warner Bros. Discovery. But, that’s like choosing a graduate thesis at this point, and having to break down how Everytime the company is supposed to turn right, they turn and run away. Truthfully, i wish the best for james Gunn, but I think it will go about as well as it did for Zack Snyder. When everything in the DC Universe resembled a Snyder film, in tone, and in color grading, it became a bit much. And when every film in the DC Universe starts to resemble Suicide Squad/Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn’s appeal will falter as well.
In the middle, we’ve had some films that felt like they weren’t being captained by anyone, and that’s been pretty good for them. honestly, Batgirl probably is a lot better than anyone wants to admit, because it came from this post-Snyder, pre-Gunn period, which is basically the same world that delivered us Shazam, Gunn’s own Suicide Squad, and Matt Reeves’s batman. Films that each succeeded in finding their own voice, and defining their own worlds.
Black Adam feels like a fraction of that. Like, i know it’s been gestating for quite some time, and there are likely elements out there that come from Snyder, but also it’s totally possible that james Gunn had feedback on the Final Cut. Black Adam works primarily because someone somewhere was always going to make Dwayne Johnson a superhero, and DC just beat Marvel to the proverbial punch. Johnson’s natural demeanor, which basically every film he’s ever been in has capitalized on, is what makes this film work at all. He’s the most interesting thing about his own film, which is sad that I need to explain that statement.
For some reason, because DC is still chasing Marvel, Black Adam has to immediately be roped into the greater DCEU, with Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) making a cameo at the top of the film, and introducing us to a handful of heroes no one should be expected to know. Even the superhero group they represent is almost like the D-list Justice League, and I think only the few that watch Stargirl on The CW would have any idea outside of readers of the comics. I consider myself fairly nerdy in this regard, and I had no idea who Cyclone was, or Atom Smasher. H Hawkman, yes, I know who that is, and I have some idea of Dr Fate. But this is a Black Adam film, and the decision to include four heroes with no backstory, who are very low on the DC pole, was idiotic.
I don’t know why Black Adam couldn’t have anchored this movie by himself. johnson is the biggest star on the planet, and he’s cast because of his charisma that resonates in every film. It doesn’t matter whether he’s in the Fast and Furious franchise or jumanji, Johnson is basically always the same. There’s nothing wrong with that. Marvel built Deadpool off of Ryan Reynolds everyday personality, and people went nuts. So, why can’t DC do the same with johnson? Hell, most of the actors playing superhero’s aren’t giving a ton of range. They’re pretty close to who they naturally are.
But, by introducing us to heroes with no backstory, we end up taking away from Adam’s story, which also means taking away from the villain, who becomes one of the most underdeveloped villains ever in a superhero film. If you saw this, and can even remember the name of the villain without Google, I’d be shocked. There’s no real focus put on him, even though there’s a lot of talk about how terrible he is. We just spend so little time with him, because these other useless heroes believe Black Adam to be the villain of his own movie, and they are heroes, so they must be correct.
So while the film is busy throwing us through endless action sequences, and wasting time on characters it never needed, it loses what makes this film special. And those moments, when they do come out, they work quite well. Adriana (Sarah Shahi) is a local badass living in this fictitious war torn country who believes that summoning Adam will save her people. There’s a legend, and he’s supposed to be her people’s champion. So, she risks everything to save her people, and her story arc, along with her son, work. The idea that there’s this oppressed country out there forgotten by the West is totally plausible. Can you name every country in Africa? The Middle East? Asia? Oceania? I could probably convince you this country is real, and you would be none the wiser.
And that’s why the film works in part, because it’s a story about a badass woman who has no powers, risking her own life, to save her people by summoning someone she believes will save her people from a dictatorship that is destroying her country. She lives in the DCEU as well, and none of those heroes have ever helped her, so she helps herself. There’s a great moment when the “good guys” show up to fight Adam, and she reads them so hard. Heroes? Where were you when our country was stolen from us? Exactly.
And, Johnson’s recently resurrected Adam has some humor in. That he doesn’t understand this new world he’s been summoned to fight for, and doesn’t even understand a door as he frequently just walks through a wall instead. When you focus just on the story of this country, on Adriana, and Adam, there’s a film there that could have been interesting. But, sadly, the villain was basically cut for time, and we finally got that Cyclone movie everyone was clamoring for.
The audio description here from Deluxe is exceptional, and read with the level of intensity that William Michael Redmond brings to all his projects. he’d be a terrible narrator on a romcom like Ticket To Paradise, but i swear to God, every single horror or action film he’s narrated, he’s somehow made the experience at least a little better. And I don’t know who wrote this, but Redmond seemingly never reads from a bad script either. So, the action sequences, which make up at least 25% of the film, if not all the way up to a solid third, are well described. And make sure you stay a little into the credits for Dwayne Johnson’s attempt to try and save Henry Cavill’s Superman, before James Gunn threw him in the trash.
I would watch a Black Adam sequel, but i would encourage them to really think hard about what needs fixing. Honestly, its a very similar problem that Venom had. The first film had a forgettable, terrible villain. So, they compensated for the sequel by going with Carnage, and it worked. it did actually make the sequel better, because Venom actually had a well developed villain to fight. it wasn’t perfect, but it was better. Black Adam needs to have a well developed villain, and doesn’t need shitty heroes stealing time from his film, and his backstory.
Also, I’d bring back Adriana and her family. That’s just me. Dwayne Johnson is entertaining enough to make this character work, but he needs a team that has an idea of what makes a film starring him work, and just write a better sequel.
Overall, I know this was super critical, but johnson made this more fun than it should have been, but i recognize that there are some major issues here. Some people probably will disagreee with my grade.
Final Grade: B