Black Adam was created was created in 1945 by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck, and first appeared in the debut issue of Fawcett Comics’ The Marvel Family comic book. When he was bought by DC Comics, he remained mostly a third tier super villain, appearing every now and then as an adversary to “Shazam!.” Because, that was what was supposed to be his purpose; He was supposed to be the anti-Shazam, the villainous magic wielder that constantly did battle with Billy Batson.
In ancient Kahndaq, Teth Adam was bestowed the almighty powers of the gods. After using these powers for vengeance, he was imprisoned, becoming Black Adam. Nearly 5,000 years have passed, and Black Adam has gone from man to myth to legend. Now free, his unique form of justice, born out of rage, is challenged by modern-day heroes who form the Justice Society: Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone. “Black Adam” is supposed to endeavor to not only setting up Black Adam as a super villain, but it’s supposed to connect to the “Shazam!” sequels.
Or so that would be the case if Dwayne Johnson’s ego didn’t interfere. Politics aside, “Black Adam” is a misfire from minute one. It’s a slog to sit through, a painfully dull, and lackluster superhero movie that can never decide if its titular character is a superhero or a villain in the making. There is only one fleeting connection to Superman, but any hopes of potentially combating Shazam are never quite hinted at or promised. “Black Adam” feels a lot like star Dwayne Johnson was throwing everything he could muster up in to the film’s development. He muddles up what could have been a fun prologue to the next “Shazam!” movie and building some confusing plot points.
Why and how can Teth Adam speak English? I thought the Justice League hated Amanda Waller? If there is about to be a literal apocalypse why only assemble four superheroes of limited capabilities? Black Adam is a character that’s tough to get in to from the moment we meet him. He’s invulnerable to just about everything that’s thrown at him, never conveys any kind of charisma or empathetic personality traits, and he has zero chemistry with everyone on the cast. For a movie that features the Justice Society of America in live action form, it’s a waste that he never plays off them adequately. He’s given zero redemption, remaining a power hungry cardboard cut out until the very end.
For what it’s worth, I loved the introduction of Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Cyclone, and—my personal favorite—Atom Smasher. They act mainly as nemeses for Black Adam, constantly getting their butts whooped until he decides it’s time to move on to something else. Director Jaume Collet-Sera is usually a strong director, but “Black Adam” is bleak, lifeless, and often tedious. The DC Comics mythology is most times absolutely mesmerizing, but here whenever the mythology is unfolded, it feels like lazy exposition dumps to help us make sense of the narrative. There’s real potential for “Black Adam” to be a fun, exciting vehicle for Dwayne Johnson, instead it’s just another terrible entry for the DCEU library.