Black Adam Review

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.

*1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Predictions: Black Adam

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…

Black Adam Box Office Prediction

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

For my Ticket to Paradise prediction, click here:

Ticket to Paradise Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Master Gardener

Despite penning the screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Paul Schrader somehow never got an Oscar nomination until his script for 2018’s First Reformed. That was the sole nod for that acclaimed effort as Schrader’s direction and Ethan Hawke’s central performance didn’t make the cut. Last year’s follow-up The Card Counter wasn’t an Academy player at all despite some decent critical reaction.

Schrader’s newest crime thriller is The Master Gardener which has premiered at Venice. Joel Edgerton stars as a horticulturist with a dark past. Sigourney Weaver and Quintessa Swindell costar. While there’s plenty of praise for Edgerton, the Rotten Tomatoes meter is at a middling 58%. If Counter (with an 87% RT score) couldn’t make a dent in the awards chatter, Gardener won’t either. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…