The long-forgotten comic book villain Black Adam makes for a quickly-forgotten movie

Jaume Collet-Serra’s dreadful Black Adam is damning evidence that Hollywood has forgotten why kids like superheroes in the first place.

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Black Adam movie

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Jaume Collet-Serra’s Black Adam is an appalling fiasco, easily one of the worst, most ill-conceived movies of 2022. Like the lightning bolt that adorns the titular character’s unitard, it points straight down — down to the bottom of the year’s most painful time-wasters, among bad company like Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore and Uncharted.

If the notoriously shelved Batgirl movie was worse than this, it must have been a truly historic boondoggle. I don’t think it takes too much imagination to suspect that Batgirl was merely mediocre, but Black Adam was too expensive — and too beholden to its star The Rock — to let lie. If Black Adam was deemed suitable for release, any garbage is worthy of a tile on the HBO Max app.

There can’t be many comic book villains that are genuine household names, familiar outside of fandom circles. Maybe Lex Luthor and perhaps Dr. Doom, the latter by sight if not by name? I myself have read a lot of comics, but had never heard of Black Adam. So, consulting Wikipedia for help in understanding this nonsense, I was surprised to learn it’s a supporting character from the 1940s Captain Marvel comics (a property now known as Shazam, thanks to obvious legal snafus), and only intermittently employed since. The film opens with seven full minutes of narration to explain this tediously backstory, which is somehow simultaneously complex and childishly simplistic. Seven minutes! I counted!

The choice to create an entire mass-market movie around a deep-cut comic book character doesn’t strike me as good business sense. It barely alludes to the ostensibly related Shazam movie, and relegates more familiar superfriends like Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan) and Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) to supporting roles. Utterly mystifying.

Marvel has had this formula figured out for years: first, gain a foothold with well-known goodies like Spider-Man, before giving starring roles to baddies like Venom. They also typically remember to make their movies at least a little fun, and encourage their stars to flex their movie-star charisma. The Rock was reportedly keen on playing this character, but you’d never know it from his dour, bored performance.


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