Dwayne Johnson stars as Black Adam in “Black Adam.” (Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

Dwayne Johnson stars as Black Adam in “Black Adam.” (Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

On the Screen: ‘Black Adam’ — Not the superhero audiences need or deserve

DC flounders with bland and dated action flick

“Black Adam,” a Dwayne Johnson vehicle and sort-of spinoff to 2019’s “Shazam,” never really looked that great. The final product isn’t a complete disaster, but is fundamentally flawed by a bizarre thesis statement — that Johnson’s titular character is the coolest, strongest and best hero in any cinematic universe, because unlike the other guys, Adam does murders.

The film follows the titular character, played by Johnson. Like “Shazam,” in a moment of desperate need a young boy is brought before a council of wizards, who bestow upon him both incredible power and the ability to shapeshift into a grown man, he just needs to speak the magic word.

Black Adam got his powers around 3,000 B.C., but disappeared after slaying an oppressive king. He resurfaces in the modern day, with his country once again oppressed by a new military force, and starts a murderous rampage that catches the attention of the United States government. By the end of the film, he fights an actual demon from hell with red skin and black horns.

The action, plot and computer-generated final battle feel like relics of a bygone age. Maybe they really are, since Johnson has been talking about playing Black Adam since 2007.

Driven seemingly in part by Johnson’s ego, this is yet another miss for the floundering DC Extended Universe, though it’s tough to shake the feeling that it really didn’t need to be.

When Johnson isn’t brooding or insisting that he’s a killer, his on-screen charisma is infectious — when Black Adam cracks a joke, the malaise is lifted, if only for a second. These moments are almost entirely out of place in the film; they feel in spite of the rest of the movie, like the filmmakers failed to cover up these cracks in the facade.

The rest of the cast, too, is largely pretty fun — especially the newly introduced Justice Society. Aldis Hodge plays Hawkman like an exasperated dad, Pierce Brosnan is delightfully weird as the sorcerer-like Doctor Fate, and Noah Centineo and Quintessa Swindel shine as two inexperienced teen heroes with a budding romance.

There are strong themes at play, with interesting things to say about the cultural diversity of superheroes, imperialism and the power of community.

The pieces are all here for a fun popcorn flick, if not something even more substantial.

Instead of having fun with the strong cast or those interesting themes, the film spends more than two hours talking about how strong and ruthless Black Adam is, with countless action scenes designed simply to give Johnson’s anti-hero an opportunity to kill someone and make himself look edgier than the team of heroes he’s working alongside.

“Heroes don’t kill people,” Hawkman, played by Aldis Hodge, tells Black Adam in one action scene.

“Well I do,” Black Adam responds.

I’d like to think we can do better.

Fundamentally, Black Adam — like any other contemporary superhero — needs to be so much more than a strong guy who kills people and sometimes smiles at children.

What this film lacks the most is a real reason to get out and see it. This movie is so aggressively fine, ultimately little more than a bland and somehow already dated superhero film. It’s also the latest example of the DCEU fruitlessly spinning its wheels, fortunate to be released at a time when audiences have been largely underserved. It will be quickly forgotten as we enter a very busy holiday season.

“Black Adam” will be playing at both Kenai Cinema and the Orca Theater this weekend. Check showtimes and purchase tickets at catheaters.com or orcatheater.com.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in Life

Photo courtesy of the National Archives 
This photo and information from a “prison book” at San Quentin state prison in California shows Arthur Vernon Watson when he entered the prison at age 23.
Justice wasn’t elementary, Watson, Part 2

Well before he shot and killed a man in Soldotna in 1961, Arthur Vernon Watson was considered trouble

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Thanksgiving

We at least have a good idea of what our political future looks like.

This is Arthur Vernon Watson at age 39, when he was transferred from the federal prison in Atlanta to the penitentiary on Alcatraz Island near San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives)
Justice wasn’t elementary, Watson, Part 3

Anchorage probation officer Roy V. Norquist was monitoring Arthur’s movements and reported that he was pleased with what he saw

Cranberry sauce made from scratch with hand-picked berries makes a special holiday treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Foraging with love and gratitude

Gathered and prepared by hand, cranberries brighten a Thanksgiving feast

Minister’s Message: When the going gets tough…

Suffering as a Christian is not always a popular preaching topic.

Letitia Wright as Shuri in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Image courtesy Marvel Studios)
On the Screen: ‘Wakanda Forever’ picks up the pieces

“Black Panther” sequel grapples with grief and hope after franchise loses its star

Oxtails are cooked with onions, garlic and daikon. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A bowl full of medicine

Oxtail soup makes a healing winter meal

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Ride on!

Later this month, I’ll turn 49

Arthur Vernon Watson was 23 years old when he was incarcerated in San Quentin state prison in California. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives)
Justice wasn’t elementary, Watson, Part 1

The Frolichs’ establishment, then called the Watson Motel, had been owned by Arthur Vernon Watson and had become a crime scene

Korean red pepper paste adds heat to this Mapo tofu recipe. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A spicy meal to burn away the sadness

This hearty meal can be adjusted to be as mild or spicy as you wish

Nick Varney
Thanksgiving memories of the unhinged kind

Let’s take a first look at the oncoming day of feasting

The first snowfall of the year arrives in Kenai, Alaska, on Oct. 25, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Minister’s Message: Delight in the wonder of winter

Seemingly overnight, we’ve transitioned from our summer playground to our winter lives