Black Adam: Spectacle V. Substance

I think it goes without saying that the 2010s were heavily saturated with superhero films. As a fan of these films and the comics that inspired them, generally speaking I have not had much of a problem with it. Now with the 2020s comes a constant slate of comic book inspired movies and television shows. In fact, it is so constant you could even say it is far more saturated than the entire decade already.  

One of the newest releases is the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson powerhouse “Black Adam.” The film had been in development for a while now, with The Rock announcing his being cast as the Shazam villain all the way back in 2014. Now that the film is out, the reception has been, well, weird. The initial hype was a bit off, with the current output of DC movies receiving generally mixed reviews, yet this film itself was heavily looked-forward to by fans for its inclusion of other DC characters. 

Once released, “Black Adam” instantly received a low score from critics yet a high score from fans. So where does it actually land? Well, from a critical point of view, it is a decent a movie, nothing special. From a fan’s point of view, it is a truly marvelous film. The reasons for this are because the movie has a weird balance between spectacle and substance – with it focusing primarily on the former than the latter. 

As is tradition with these high-budget blockbuster superhero flics, the CGI and other special effects were heavily emphasized and focused on. Let it be known that the visuals in this film were absolutely spectacular. Every fight scene was tense and brutal, with the powers of each character wonderfully represented with minimal confusion. The costume designs were also well-done, with the classic comic outfits being masterfully translated to a live action on-screen appearance.  

The biggest flaw with this movie, critically speaking, is some of the plot and characters. The plot begins a bit confusing, with the opening flashback having an awkward transition to the modern day. There were also a few plot holes throughout that could have been explained better, such as explaining certain characters’ powers and backstories. Some of the characters could have been better written, as well, with the only major flaw coming from the young Bodhi Sabongui’s character Amon Tomaz. 

While the acting of a child should not be set to the same standard as a professional actor like Pierce Brosnan (who masterfully played Doctor Fate in the film), it should be noted that one particular scene carried a heavy weight which he dropped – and it was immensely noticeable. Without dipping into spoilers, there was a point near the end of the film where Bodhi’s character was in charge of rallying the masses. Instead of giving a massively heroic speech, as what would have been the expectation given his words, he rambled and mumbled his way through the speech and was completely upstaged by a random civilian in the crowd. 

This was greatly problematic and highlighted a certain flaw seen throughout the film. While most of the acting and writing was alright, when it got bad, it was noticeable. It was so noticeable that it killed the immersion that comes with watching an action-packed film in the theaters. This flaw is clearly evident and justifies the critical panning it has received thus far. The audience reviews, however, are far more positive, which is just as explainable. 

Typically, the movies produced by Marvel Studios have been focusing on creating an overarching story that can produce the most amount of money possible. One of the ways they achieve this is by creating a movie experience comfortable for typical movie-goers. The films by DC, however, are far more tailored to the fans of the source material. This has been a flaw throughout the recent DC movies, and the opposing critical and audience scores of these movies proves that their aim works. 

If the goal was to appeal to the fans above all else, “Black Adam” succeeds in spades. While it fails to explain characters like Hawkman and Doctor Fate, the fans would already be well aware of these characters. When fans see Hawkman’s mace or Fate’s helmet, they do not need an explanation. When an average movie-goer sees “Black Adam” they will leave with questions, while fans will leave with hopes and dreams of The Rock’s champion of Kahndaq appearing in subsequent DC films. 

Overall, the film masterfully focuses on utilizing its spectacle to appeal to the fans of the comics. While it leaves something to be desired of the story and leaves some questions unanswered for some movie-goers, it succeeds in providing a visual marvel for the fans who enjoy these movies for what they were always meant to be: a live action love letter for comic book readers at large.