Is he a hero? Is he a villain? Or is he something in between? Meet the newest kid on the DCEU superhero block: Black Adam. The future villain (or friend) of Superman, this is his origin story along with the JSA (Justice Society of America). Welcome aboard!
5000 years ago in the ancient city of Kahndaq, crazy King Anh-Kot enslaved his people, forcing them to mine the mineral Vibranium. . . er, sorry, I mean, Eterium, a magical do-anything crystal. But when a kid leads his people in revolt, he is put to death. Well, almost. The seven gods (from the 2019 Shazam movie) give this boy the power of Shazam and BOOM! He becomes the all-powerful Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) who is super-pissed at the King for trying to kill him. Got that? Good. We now fast-forward to modern-day Kahndaq where, for the last 27 years, the sinister Intergang military group, has held this country in a grip of fear and repression while they mine Eterium and use it like (you guessed it) Vibranium. Sorry, no help from any outside superhero like Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, etc.
Anyway, while archaeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) tries to locate the evil Crown of Sabbac with the help of her brother Karim (Mohammad Amir), they’re captured by Intergang thugs. Oh no! She summons Shazam, and surprise! Teth-Adam shows up; confused and angry. As the thugs start shooting, Adam starts killing everyone in sight. Later, this harbinger of doom makes friends with Adrianna and her fearless teenage son, Amon (Bodhi Sabongui), who takes to Adam like a surrogate father, teaching him catchphrases and how to ‘act like a superhero’, kinda like young John Conner did with the Terminator.
While Adam is off murdering bad guys left & right, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) of the Suicide Squad movies, calls the JSA for help. The JSA is comprised of Carter Hall, aka Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), college kid Albert Rothstein, aka Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), whiz-kid teenager Maxine Hunkel, aka Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Kent Nelson, aka Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan). They engage Adam, but get their butts handed to them. Meanwhile, the head of Intergang, Ismael Gregor (Marwan Kenzari) wants that Crown of Sabbac and will do everything he can to get it! There are tons of fighting, chases, and Adam unapologetically dispensing his brand of justice to bad guys while the JSA tries to reel this unstoppable WMA in.
It’s obvious that writers Adam Sztykiel (Rampage) and Rory Haines & Sohrab Noshirvani (The Mauritanian) are clearly ripping-off from other superhero movies. The JSA is the X-Men/Avengers, with Dr. Fate being an obvious clone of Dr. Strange. Hawkman, his jet, and his sprawling mansion grounds compares to Dr. Xavier and his school, and so on. Moving at a dizzying pace in the first act, it looks like this movie was chopped down from a much longer film. The plot holes, inconsistencies, lame jokes, and some ridiculously juvenile fan-fiction writing make this movie a rather silly entry into the DCEU. You can see this in the third act where the eye-rolling really kicks in.
Then you have director Jaume Collet-Serra, fresh off making his Dwayne Johnson film, Jungle Cruise. Give Collet-Serra credit, he can sure direct action scenes, but Lord, those slo-mo’s?! The man loves his slo-mo shots as much as J.J. Abrams loves his lens flares in all those Star Trek movies! There is an abuse of them to the point where you start giggling every time they show up. The only reason this movie exists is to showcase the man, the myth, the Rock. And boy! He delivers in spades! Johnson inhabits his character like he was Black Adam; being a ruthless anti-hero and enjoying every second of it. He is the only reason this movie is worth seeing and I thoroughly enjoyed his persona. He could play Black Adam forever, as far as I’m concerned.
**Now showing only in theaters
What happens when a beloved superhero decides he doesn’t want to be good and kind anymore? That’s the premise behind this superbly animated movie by the good people at Warner Bros Animation. And it’s rated R for a reason!
It’s Earth-22 (y’know, that whole ‘multiverse’ thing) and good ‘ol Superman (voiced by Justin Hartley) is about to have the worst day of his life. After learning that his wife, Lois Lane (Laura Bailey), is pregnant, the Joker (Kevin Pollack) and Harley Quinn (Gillian Jacobs) decide on playing ‘a prank’ on Supes. They kill Jimmy Olsen, kidnap Lois, then trick Superman into murdering his wife thanks to Scarecrow’s neurotoxin. Then, for good measure, Joker nukes Metropolis! Kaboom!! Superman, enraged at the death of Lois, his unborn child, and his city, kills the Joker and decides to sets things straight. How? To make everyone on the planet stop killing each other. . . or else!
Naturally, the Justice League is split by his decision, with many jumping ship or going off to join Batman (Anson Mount), Nightwing (Derek Phillips), Plastic Man (Oliver Hudson), and Green Arrow (Reid Scott) who don’t believe in Superman’s new world-wide order. To put an end to war and dictatorship, Superman, along with Wonder Woman (Janet Varney), Cyborg (Brandon Michael Hall), and Mr. Terrific (Edwin Hodge) carry out their peace-keeping mission, even if it means killing anyone that gets in the way! Oh sure, the POTUS tries to stop Supes by kidnapping Clark’s father, but that doesn’t work, plus the other superheroes try to talk sense to Kal-El, but he won’t listen.
Things escalate quickly as Supes increases his planetary domination, worrying Batman and his friends. The only solution is to stop Superman, but all attempts fail as there are betrayals by Batman’s son, Damian (Zach Callison) and his evil, twisted mentor, Ra’s al Ghul (Farah Tahir). Finally, Mr. Terrific gets an idea: grab another Superman from a different multiverse Earth to stop their Superman. When that doesn’t work, a secondary pregnant Lois does the trick and saves the day. Based on the popular 2013 video game, Injustice: Gods Amongst Us, this ‘movie’ is just over an hour, but packs a wallop nonetheless.
It’s bloody and graphic, with many superheroes (and villains) dying gruesome deaths, so it’s not exactly a film for the kiddies. The screenplay adaptation is by E. J. Altbacker, who has written many other WB animated superhero movies like Batman: Hush, Justice League: Dark, and Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. The animation has a very Japanese ‘anime’ style, with director Matt Peters doing an excellent job at showcasing his talent. Although the story moves quickly enough, therein lies its downfall as certain plot threads either don’t resolve themselves or don’t make sense. Other scenes play out so quickly and abruptly you wonder they even happened at all. Still, the overall story is interesting and engaging, making you wonder about Superman and his ethics.