Shortly after the release of the 1989 Batman movie, comic/actor Robert Wuhl, who had appeared in the movie, did an HBO special where he criticized Burt Reynolds. I think Reynolds had just appeared in the movie Breaking In, getting the best reviews he would get on a movie until Boogie Nights. Wuhl said Reynolds made so many bad movies you can count the good ones on your hand and have a few fingers left over.
One might say the same thing about the DC Extended Universe which has been a rocky road for the past 10 years since the first movie Man of Steel in 2013. Thankfully, Green Lantern has been all but forgotten. There have been 12 movies (if you incuded Zack Snyder’s Justice League) and the DCEU isn’t nearly as bad as fans would have you believe. I liked that movie, as well as the uncut version of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, along with Birds of Prey, Aquaman, Shazam! and The Suicide Squad. I also felt the Peacemaker series was great. I give it the DCEU to have the brass cojones to make movies that don’t cater just to middle-schoolers.
The Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Zach Snyder’s Justice League and the extended version of Batman v. Superman are all rated R. The material in the comic books are and can be very extreme. While Warner Bros. just like Disney is concerned with merchandising, you could argue the MCU is basically just commercials to sell toys. While the MCU has made more movies, it’s mostly because Disney can devote the money and time to multiple movies each year.
This year should be the make-or-break year for the DCEU has there are four movies planned including The Flash and the sequel to Aquaman, which should determine the future. James Gunn who did The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker series along with Peter Safran are now overseeing the DCEU. Warner Bros. should’ve been doing this since Day One but what’s done is done.
Sadly, Black Adam is part of the cache of DCEU movies that probably could’ve needed some input from Gunn and Safran. Black Adam is one of those movies that could have been better but it could’ve been a lot worse. It’s really two movies rolled into one. On one hand, you got the origin story of the titular characer whose name is also Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson). On the other hand, it’s a story about the Justice Society of America in a backdoor way to introduce them into the DCEU.
But that’s the problem. There’s too many characters. Black Adam/Teth-Adam is supposed to be an antihero. He’s not a bad guy but he’s not really going to initially help the JSA when they come into the picture. The movie is set in the fictional country of Kahndaq as they are under the oppression of the Intergang. Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) is an archaeologist trying to locate the Crown of Sabbac but when she does, she is ambushed by the Intergang and reads an incantation that summons Teth-Adam who kills them all with the exception of Ishmael Gregor/Sabbac (Marwan Kenzari), who was pretending to work with Adrianna to locate the crown.
U.S. government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) contacts Carter Hall/Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) to assemble the JSA as she considers Teth-Adam a threat. There’s Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan giving off some major silver fox daddy vibes) and the only one of the JSA who seems more than one-dimensional. There’s also Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) who functions as mostly the bumbling wise-cracking member of the league. He’s also somewhat a newbie which explains his clumsiness even when he’s a gigantic man crashing into the buildings and knocking over statutes. Rounding out is Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone (Quintessa Swindel), the token young woman character who functions as eye candy.
At this point, you can notice the similiarities with the Marvel characters. Atom Smasher who can grow to tall heights resembles Giant Man. Doctor Fate, even though older than Doctor Stranger, also contains sorcery abilities such as astral projections and clairvoyance. And Hawkman, who’s been around for many decades, too looks like a mixture of Thor, Falcon and Angel.
So, after Teth-Adam battles with the JSA, he discovers he can’t win and then they work together against Sabbac and the Intergang. The plot is very thin and they seemed to focus more on special effects and action scenes. Johnson tries to do what he can with the role but the character is so thinly written. Brosnan is worth watching but the rest of the JSA seem to just stand around and go through the motions. Hawkman has been around a while and this is the first live-action portrayal in a movie as well as Doctor Fate, but his portrayal is a disappointment.
I like the action sequences as Jaume Collet-Serra knows he’s doing in that regard but the plot points in between the action never really is as thrilling. Maybe it’s because the movie never really tells a coherent story. It feels like you’re channel surfing and find several movies already in progress and you continue to change the channel once you lose interest. The movie, like a lot of DC movies, hints something in the mid-credits that we know isn’t going to happen as Superman (Henry Cavill) shows up to talk with Teth-Adam. Of course, now, we know that Cavill is hanging up the cape, it seems all for not.
While I have criticized the Phase Four of the MCU for going all over the place, they seem to have more structure lately than the DCEU. I get that they weren’t going to all be so connected like the MCU but if you’re just going to have a cameo that goes nowhere, it’s becoming pointless. In Shazam! and Peacemaker, the cameos worked as good jokes. And now with the third Wonder Woman movie in question and that Batgirl movie being written off for tax purposes, hopefully the new year will bring some new plans for the DCEU.
What do you think? Please comment.