Starring Dwayne Johnson, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Shari
Written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani
Based on characters created for DC Comics
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Produced by Beau Flynn, Dwayne Johnson, Hiram Garcia and Danny Garcia

It’s distressing to have to report that, yet again, another one of these over-done, over-produced, clanking, clunky, disastrously awful superhero comic book movies is cluttering up, littering and destroying movie screens with its flat-out terribleness, but the truth will be told: “Black Adam” is a bad movie. To get straight to the point: the movie is poorly-written, poorly-acted, poorly-directed, poorly-paced-and-edited and poorly-produced. Yes, professionally speaking, it’s just that bad.

At times, this ill-conceived boorish mess of a movie is even difficult to watch, as the movie insists on bashing the viewer’s head with a series of fight scenes, one after the other after the other, that are just so monotonous, so heavy-handed, so ridiculous and so cliched, unoriginal and, at times flat-out dumb, the movie nearly becomes unwatchable. And–this is not being unnecessarily mean, rude or disrespectful –the movie is also at times so bad, at a recent screening, audiences were laughing at the movie–laughing at unintentionally laughable scenes, story developments, lines of dialogue and acting, and laughing at clumsy and amateurish transitions, scene set-ups, plot lines, facial expressions and line readings.

Yes, the movie is that bad.

The script, dialogue, plot, storyline and the plot and story development are all cliched, unoriginal, uninventive and hackneyed. The movie steals outright from so many other movies and sources, it’s a wonder that an all-points-bulletin hasn’t been issued for the screenwriters. There are moronically obvious steals–they are steals, as the movie isn’t even clever enough to present the steals as smart in-joke homages–from “Ant-Man,” “Dr. Strange,” “Superman,” “Batman,” “Spider-Man,” “Aquaman,” several other comic book superheroes whose name ends in “man,” “Back to the Future,” the “Fantastic Four,” the Avengers, “Suicide Squad,” the X-Men, “Thor” and too many other comic book superheroes to continue listing.

Actually, there are so many scenes that resemble so many other scenes in so many other movies, you’ll start to think you’re watching one of those incredibly lame clip-job episodes that sci-fi television series run when they, too, have completely run out of fresh, new ideas.

The acting in “Black Adam,” from the leads to the supporting players to even those actors with only a few lines, is so atrocious, so amateurish, it is indeed simply a wonder, a mystery and a puzzle as to how such a big-budgeted (estimated budget for this disaster: $200 million), overly-hyped and overly-publicized movie could have such disappointing acting performances. And, it must be noted, this is not being mean or unprofessional, either. But it’s true–the actors in this dumbed-down movie recite their lines in such uninspired, tired, unemotional and monotonous ways, very few lines and line-readings resonate with the proper levels of integrity, charisma or energy.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra directs everything–literally everything, including moments that should have provided much-need exposition, background and explanation–with such unnecessary bombast, clunkiness, stiltedness, awkwardness and overbearing outrageous noise and confusion, the movie appears to have been made as a class project assigned from some horrid, nightmarish movie master class jointly taught by Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich, Jerry Bruckheimer and Jason Blum.

Yes, it’s that bad.

There is no real sense of tension, suspense, excitement, drama, comedy or even tragedy–despite the sacrificial death of one of the superheroes–or fun, really, with this movie. The editing, timing, blocking and pacing of the movie in general and of the endless barrage and siege of fights, gunfire, explosions, lightning bolts, bullets, car crashes, destruction, more fights, more gunfire and more explosions is just deafening, nonstop, poorly-choreographed and irritating. Moviegoers may walk out of this movie actually wanting to run to the nearest yoga or exercise place and settling into some type of restorative, rehabilitative, relaxation recovery period of about three or four hours, with low lighting, soft music, comfortable mats, incense and calm, soothing words, just to get back to normal.

So these are among the many glaring, obvious filmic problems with “Black Adam.” And when trying to explain, or follow clearly, or make any common sense of the story, well, even more problems arise.

Dwayne Johnson–there’s another problem–plays a type of supernatural being, known as Teth-Adam, who is imprisoned in some type of otherworldly state for five-thousand years–that’s right, five-thousand years–in an ancient city known as Kahndaq, after some nasty business with a nasty ancient king. When he is magically re-awakened in modern times in the same city, he finds himself right back in the middle of a mess of interlocking, unclear, confusing, cluttered and crazily over-stuffed and over-layered government, military, political, mystical, magical and supernatural power, diplomatic, otherworldly, diplomatic and office politics.

Teth-Adam, oddly and not particularly enjoyably for audiences, finds himself fighting not only the movie’s villains, a political group known as the Intergang that runs modern-day Kahndaq, but also the movie’s supposed heroes, a lethargic, uninspired, strangely outlined and poorly presented gang of four known as the Justice Society of America. Wait–doesn’t that sound just like DC Comics’ other superhero group, the Justice League? Why, yes, yes it does. One would think that if there was already a superhero group with the name Justice League –which was also the name of a DC Comics’ 2017 movie–that the screenwriters could have come up with something a bit more original than….Justice Society. One would think.

But having the title character fighting the villains and the heroes, repeatedly, at the same time, literally doesn’t make much sense, story-wise, exposition-wise, plot-wise, filmic-wise or superhero-wise. Comic book superheroes should be clearly good, and they should fight clearly evil. But when your main character is moody, shady, brooding, un-smiling, always hiding something, skittish and, generally, unsure about whether he’s good or bad, well, point-blank, why on Kahndaq or Krypton or Gotham are we watching this movie? The continual gray area composition of Teth-Adam, and, thus, the enveloping overall gray aspect of the movie as a whole, eventually just drowns the entire project in an unsaveable quicksand trap of steadily sinking and drowning expectations.

And there’s not much to cheer about regarding the four members of the Justice League, er, sorry, Justice Society. All four characters, as written in the script and as acted by the actors, are so amateurishly, childishly and awkwardly drawn out and performed, they’re difficult, also, to relate to or even like. Poor Pierce Brosnan, as Dr. Strange–oops, sorry, actually Doctor Fate–delivers one of his few acting misfires here. Brosnan, who can usually be relied upon to at least appear respectfully and admirably in even the worst of movies–appears here as lethargic, slow-moving, monontonous, creaky and even embarrassed to be on this set. Brosnan delivers his lines In hushed, whispered tones that register far below his usual sharp, cutting and humorous deliveries. And for some reason, the filmmakers bury Brosnan beneath an unpleasant mess of stark-white hair, an ugly beard and an ugly mustache that ages Brosnan by about, oh, forty years. He just appears tired, grumpy, cranky and old– and that’s not how anyone wants to see Pierce Brosnan in a comic book superhero movie.

One would think that calling a character Doctor Fate sounds awfully similar to another DC Comics’ character, Doctor Strange–which was also the name of a 2016 DC Comics’ movie–and that the screenwriters could have come up with a more original name. One would think.

Nevertheless, as Teth-Adam and the Intergang and the Justice guys fight a thousand fights, and destroy what seems like thousands of people and buildings and demons and zombies and creatures and make-up artists and sound systems, the ever-increasing noise and confusion just build to unbearable levels, and “Black Adam” eventually just sinks beneath its own long list of deficiencies. The movie never gains momentum, and the whole thing lumbers to a wholly unsatisfactory conclusion.

Dwayne Johnson is not suitable as a superhero–his attempted laugh lines are not funny and they’re not delivered with any real sense of comedic timing, talent or delivery; his attempted dramatic moments are not dramatic; and his aforementioned gray area characterization doesn’t manage to make his character particularly relatable or likeable. Which is just bizarre. Why build a $200 million comic book superhero movie around a character that’s generally unlikable and who is played by an actor who is not really a particularly strong actor and who has a limited acting range? One would think…well, we’re past the thinking point for this movie at this unfortunate moment in time.

The sole positive aspect of “Black Adam” is the array of dazzling visual, special, artistic, matte, green screen and computer effects and their concurrent splashy art, set and production designs. The literally hundreds of special and visual effects artists and the several companies they all work for all deserve praise for their work on the movie. However, as is often the case with many of these overblown comic book superhero movies, a bevy of impressive special and visual effects simply cannot save the movie alone.

For the weekend of October 21-23, 2022, please don’t waste your time, gas, resources or money on “Black Adam,” and please–just head outside to one of the many autumn, October and Halloween season events and activities that are so much real fun and that are occurring all across the country. In the D.C. and Baltimore areas alone just this weekend, there’s Markoff’s Haunted Forest, Field of Screams, Potomac Day, the Takoma Park Street Festival, literally dozens of autumn and Halloween season festivals and activities, and there’s even the Maryland Homecoming football game and accompanying events.

These are the places you want to be, and these are the things you want to do on a sunny, crisp, beautiful autumn weekend. And if that angers filmmakers–they have only themselves to blame. Many people have been saying this now for too long, but it needs to be said again: Disney, Marvel, Warner Bros. Discovery, Warner Bros., DC Comics’ and all other studios need to give these repetitive, cliched comic book superhero movies a long-deserved and long-needed break. There are thousands of source material resources available to filmmakers for new movies. Still, it’s way past the time to utilize these resources for new movies, and it’s definitely the time to just say “shazam” and make these comic book superhero movies disappear for a while, for a good, long rest. One would think. One can hope.


Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld is a longtime journalist, actor and film critic in the Washington and Baltimore areas. He has participated in many local film events and projects in the region, and he has appeared as an actor, supporting actor and extra in more than 45 films projects, at all levels, during the past 20 years.