I truly believe that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the modern day Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’ve watched Arnold movies every chance I get in my life. Some of the best have a few essential elements such as over the top outlandish action, a kid sidekick, and a beefed up lead actor who always wins in the end who started the adventure as a very different person. Some even have something political or philosophical to say. Black Adam is the proof to my hypothesis. Johnson has all of those elements for an incredible big budget 80’s action movie set in the DC Comics universe and it worked really well for me.
The film follows the return of Teth Adam to his home of Khandaq after his imprisonment nearly 5,000 years ago. When a crew of people looking to displace a dangerous object reawaken him, things go from a steady pace to Mach speed until the lights come up. It isn’t long before a team of superheroes show up to handle the “threat” of Black Adam who is reluctantly becoming his homeland’s hero.
Was the 15 year campaign for the character by The Rock for this character worth it to me? Yes. He brought a DC character to the silver screen with a fantastic performance as a larger-than-life anti-hero type who has to learn to care about others. The plot that mattered to me was about the relationship between Bodhi Sabongui’s Amon and Adam. Without getting too far into spoilers, Amon has grown up under one fascist regime after another as his home is ravaged for its natural resources. It’s clear that he has escaped mentally into the world of superheroes. His bedroom is decked out in the worlds heroes so when one ends up in his life, he assumes that they will be like Superman or Wonder Woman.
Black Adam isn’t a hero. Black Adam is introduced in a 5 minute slaughter of Intergang goons that feels like flipping through the pages of a big summer event comic. But when it comes to caring about anything other than violence, it takes an entire film of fighting to understand that sometimes, other things are more important. Amon plays a very important part in the film. By comic standards, he would be the POV character for the audience: the Kitty Pryde to Wolverine or the Robin to Batman or the John Connor to the Terminator. Characters you can see yourself next to; in this case, an actual god. Their relationship carried the film for me as someone who loves stories like this. As films like this are going to make impressions on younger people, I hope it teaches its younger audience to push the people they admire to be better.
With all of that heartfelt thematic stuff aside, let’s talk about how cool it is to watch Dwayne Johnson force Intergang to hire an entirely new work force from decimating their bottom line. Watching the killing machine known as Black Adam get down to business ruled. I felt like I was 10 again, watching Arnold fight baddies in Last Action Hero. I think trying to discount a film like this to being lesser for being an action-packed adventure is silly. I don’t think it set out to be the next Citizen Kane. It set out to tell a solid story about a character with super powers knocking some heads together to make the world better. Sometimes I don’t want to walk out of a movie saying things are bleak. I want to walk out saying things like “hell yeah” and I can promise you, that was my reaction to this. Johnson is funny, charming, and the literal strongest leading man in Hollywood.
One confession, I hate Hawkman. There has never been a comic where he isn’t a convoluted mess and a boring character. When I heard they were doing the Justice Society, I sighed because that meant Hawkman. Aldis Hodge must have heard because he made it his mission to be the absolute coolest hero in the DC Universe as it is right now. He took that Nth metal mace and cracked me across the head with it. He’s the perfect foil for Johnson’s Adam as the two often come to blows and verbal spats in the film. He’s incredibly strong, a complete badass, and hilarious throughout the entire film. Now, I am waiting for his solo film because I would watch a 3 hour film about him beating up baddies with his mace.
Couple that with Pierce Brosnan, from Mamma Mia!, playing Doctor Fate, you have the two leaders of a small JSA team to fight Adam. With them are Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) who have a wonderful wholesome dynamic as well. With introducing a team out of no build up, I was worried, but these four click so well together with chemistry that they deserve their own film.
As I said earlier, I take every chance I get to watch every movie Arnold Schwarzenegger has made but this film made me realize I’ve done the same exact thing with Dwayne Johnson. Something about their presence makes me forget the rest of the world exists so I can just cheer and laugh at their hilarious performances. Did Black Adam change cinema forever? No. Will I be watching it another time in the theatre and then a bunch when it comes to my home? Yes. It’s an over the top, bombastic, fun superhero film that leans more towards 80’s action formulas rather than the typical superhero formulara I’ve seen a million times in the past 10 years. I can’t say Dwayne has fully replaced Arnold in my mind but they’re definitely arm wrestling for my love.