In 1993, NBA superstar Charles Barkley famously told the world in a commercial that he was not a role model. Nearly three decades later, cinematic superstar Dwayne Johnson tells us repeatedly in Black Adam that he is not a hero. This latest offering from the DC Extended Universe kind of has a mid 90s vibe when it comes to comic book adaptations. That was a weak time for the genre prior to its explosion in the 21st century. As far as quality, this has more in common with 1996’s Kazaam, which starred Barkley’s Inside the NBA colleague Shaquille O’Neal. Adam may have a connection to 2019’s Shazam!, but shares little of its entertainment value.
A prologue in 2600 B.C. introduces us to the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Kahndaq. A young boy enslaved by an evil ruler chooses to take a stand against the oppression (even as his elders discourage it). He is rewarded by the Council of Wizards – hence that Shazam! tie-in as he’s given the immense powers of that character.
Flash forward 5000 years and Kahndaq is under a different kind of oppression from a crime syndicated known as Intergang. Archeologist Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) is in search of the Crown of Sabbac, which turns its wearer into a demonic being. Intergang is looking for it as well. When they clash, she manages to awaken Teth-Adam. He’s believed to be that heroic rebel from 50 centuries ago. Dwayne Johnson is the awoken being. Adam insists that’s he not a hero and keeps saying it.
The presence of this superhuman relic attracts the attention of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who you may remember as The Suicide Squad‘s recruiter. Adam is looked at as a potential threat. The Squad doesn’t intervene. Neither does Superman or Batman or The Flash (though they’re glimpsed on the bedroom wall of Adrianna’s teenage son). Instead the Justice Society books passage to Kahndaq to investigate just how dangerous Adam is. Pierce Brosnan is the clairvoyant Doctor Fate, Aldis Hodge is Hawkman, Noah Centineo plays Atom Smasher (think Ant-Man but he can only grow big), and Quintessa Swindell is the twirling Cyclone. If this sounds like the B list of the DC pages, that’s certainly how it feels. That superficiality extends to the villain (Marwan Kenzari), the Intergang leader who dons the devilish crown. He might be more forgettable than Justice League‘s baddie Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and that’s saying a lot.
Jaume Collet-Serra directed Johnson in the pretty enjoyable Jungle Cruise. That collaboration was a better ride than this. Johnson is saddled with a hero (wait… NOT a hero!!!) who’s often a sullen bore. Very little of the actor’s dynamic personality comes through. It break through on occasion but not nearly enough. We’re cooking at a low boil. Everything in Black Adam has been done with more pizzazz in other DCEU and especially MCU pictures. Dwayne Johnson (and Tina Turner) are right in this case. We don’t need another hero.
Of the ten 10 previous films making up the DC Extended Universe, there’s only one Oscar nomination to be found. That’s the third film in the franchise – 2016’s Suicide Squad – and it’s a win in the Makeup and Hairstyling race.
Black Adam with Dwayne Johnson represents a new chapter in the DCEU as Warner Bros hopes the character becomes a fixture in future installments. Out Friday, the review embargo has lifted and critical reaction is certainly in the mixed variety. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 54%.
From Man of Steel up through last summer’s new version of The Suicide Squad, even the competitions where comic book adaptations can contend have escaped awards attention. That includes Best Sound and Visual Effects (where numerous MCU titles have been nominated though never won). From what I’ve seen reaction wise, there’s no reason to think Black Adam would be contending for a second DCEU nod. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Dwayne Johnson looks to bring his often rock solid box office bonafides to the DC Extended Universe with Black Adam on October 21st. The 11th feature in the franchise that began with Man of Steel nearly a decade ago is a spinoff of 2019’s Shazam! Like that pic, it is centered on a less widely known hero in the DC arsenal. Jaume Collet-Serra (who worked with Johnson recently in Jungle Cruise) directs. The supporting cast includes Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Viola Davis, and Pierce Brosnan.
It’s somewhat surprising that we’ve waited this long to see the live-action comic book genre and this leading man hook up. While this should perform well, Adam is unlikely to approach the opening grosses of the DCEU’s earlier titles like Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Justice League. They all made over $100 million (or close to it) out of the gate. Yet this should top the $53 million earned by Shazam! The best comp I see is Aquaman, which made $67 million during its traditional Friday to Sunday rollout. I’ll say it makes a little less.
Black Adam opening weekend prediction: $64.7 million
Just a day before its theatrical release, Disney’s live-action update of Aladdin had its review embargo lifted. The big-budget fantasy, which casts Will Smith in the genie role made iconic by Robin Williams in the 1992 animated feature, could’ve certainly fared worse. Based upon fears from a poorly received first trailer, some wondered if the pic would be a disaster. Most critics, while certainly mixed with some negative, haven’t been too harsh. It stands at 60% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Particular praise has gone to the performances of Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, who respectively play the title character and Princess Jasmine.
When it comes to these updates of studio classics, many in the past decade have scored technical nods. This includes AliceinWonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella, TheJungleBook, and BeautyandtheBeast. In 2019, Aladdin will find itself competing for space with three other Disney live-action renderings: the already released Dumbo, this summer’s TheLionKing, and this winter’s Maleficent: MistressofEvil. Don’t be surprised if TheLionKing gets the lions share of attention.
That said, Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling could be the two best possibilities here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
The second of four live-action renderings of Disney animated features in 2019, Aladdin is wishing for bountiful box office returns over Memorial Day weekend. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the musical fantasy adventure casts Will Smith as the genie in a role made iconic in 1992 by Robin Williams. In the title role is Mena Massoud with Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Costars include Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad, and Billy Magnussen.
Reaction to the teaser was mixed at best. The full trailer was better received. The film follows this spring’s Dumbo, which was a bit of a disappointment with a $45 million opening gross. TheLionKing will follow later this summer with Maleficent: MistressofEvil in the year’s fourth quarter.
While there’s little doubt Aladdin will rule the holiday frame, it’s got a wide range of possibilities. The Mouse Factory’s largest start for one of its reimaginings was 2017’s BeautyandtheBeast, which roared to $174 million. Don’t expect anywhere near that kind of number. Some forecasts are putting this in the $100 million four-day ballpark, but I have serious doubts about that.
I could actually see this performing similarly to Mr. Smith’s other Memorial Day opener – 2012’s MIB3, which earned $69 million. For a Disney comp, there’s 2015’s Cinderella with its $67 million haul. Given that there’s an extra day involved, I’ll bump Aladdin up slightly.
Aladdin opening weekend prediction: $74.8 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
Action thriller Collide, out next weekend, was filmed nearly three years ago and has collected dust on the stateside shelf. It was scheduled to be released domestically nearly a year and a half ago back before Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy.
On the plus side, at least one of the actors in it has become considerably more famous since. Felicity Jones is among the cast and her profile has gone up immensely since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It shouldn’t matter much. Other stars include Nicholas Hoult, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, and Marwan Kenzari.
The bank heist flick has received very limited promotion and it looks like it’s essentially being dumped into an uninterested marketplace. I believe Collide may not even reach $3 million and be On Demand your viewing pleasure quite soon.