Alright, here's a morning discussion for you, Shacknews. Don't ask why, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I saw Black Adam twice over the weekend. After seeing it a second time, I saw the inevitable Twitter discussion and the critic discussion. The 39% score on Rotten Tomatoes isn't a kind one and I've seen reviews call it "Worse than Morbius" (Ouch, The Escapist!) and even one review that called it THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE!
There's some hyperbole out there, as you can see. But is Black Adam really as bad as some people are making it out to be?
The short answer is no. It's not particuilarly good, but it's not the worst thing ever put to film.
So let's talk about some of what Black Adam did right and the numerous things that it did wrong. We're diving into spoiler territory, so be warned.
First off, the best thing Black Adam has going for it is its main character. From a comic book nerd standpoint, they mostly got Teth Adam right. This is basically who the character is. The weirdest thing about him here is the same thing that was weird when this movie was first announced: Black Adam really is not a hero. Up until a few years, he was a villain. He was a villain with a twisted sense of honor, but he was still a villain. He was supposed to be the polar opposite of Shazam (Captain Marvel), in that while Billy Batson was a child and carried the child's worldview into battle, Teth Adam was supposed to be the world-weary adult who had given up on everything and fought only with rage and cynicism. They're two polar opposite sides of the Shazam coin, which is why it's so weird that Black Adam's connection to Captain Marvel was never brought up. Sure, you saw the Wizard, right down to Djimon Hounsou coming back to reprise the role, but if you hadn't seen the Shazam movie, you wouldn't know this was supposed to be connected. They leave it as some bizarre easter egg, but I digress.
The point is, Black Adam in the movie is basically Black Adam in the comics. He's the champion of Kahndaq. A lot of what he does can be boiled down to what it does for Kahndaq. They got that aspect of him right.
The other thing the movie did right (mostly) was the Justice Society of America. A JSA movie is a tough sell. Can you really greenlight a JSA movie and sell it as anything other than a lesser Justice League? Not really, which is why the best way to bring them to the movies is through a backdoor introduction like this. The dynamic was great and Dr. Fate was outstanding. As a JSA movie, I thought this was much better, even though the movie was supposed to be about Black Adam.
Now let's get into what Black Adam did wrong and there's quite a bit of it. First off, the slow motion. Ok, we get that somebody likes Zack Snyder-style slow motion. Heck, it could even have been Zack Snyder, who snuck into the production, for all we know. Whatever the reason, we got so much slow motion, it was ridiculous. No joke, the runtime could have been cut down by maybe a good 10-15 minutes if all the slow motion effects were taken out. It's just overkill.
Do you like cliched soundtrack choices? Oh man, this movie's got that! Oh man, "Paint It Black!" Get it? Because he's BLACK Adam? Oh, let's throw in Kanye West in there, too! Whatever random song you can think of that doesn't fit the scene at all, just cram it in there!
Supporting cast? Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz was great, but the less said about Bodhi Sabongui's Amon, the better. It's like the filmmakers took the Freddy Freeman character from Shazam and just hit CTRL+C. This wouldn't be so bad if, again, they had played up the Black Adam connection to Shazam, but they didn't, so it feels like a cheap copy job instead.
Talking about Sarah Shahi's character, there were a lot of questions raised about jurisdictions, American intervention in foreign affairs, who the heroes are when you're in a first-world country versus the superpowered beings who don't give a damn about you if you're in a poor country under occupation. The question of "Who's a hero?" and "Who's a liberator?" changes depending on who you are, where you live, and what color your skin is. Black Adam teases these profound issues. Naturally, it does nothing with them by the end, but hey, it's the thought that counts, I guess.
I'm scratching the surface, but you get the point. Black Adam... isn't a good movie. Is it fun, though? Well, let's ask this. Was Venom fun? Oh hell yes, Venom was quite fun. Was Venom good? Oh, lord no! Venom is an awful movie and its sequel tried to skate by on being a "good BAD movie" and it failed, because you can only get by on that for so long. Black Adam has enough going for it that it can get away with being a good BAD movie. It's the movie you get drunk one night and fall asleep to. It's the movie you can laugh at for all the wrong reasons, or even the right ones, like when Dwayne Johnson just chucks some dude into space.
I think that one of the big reasons that Black Adam gets a lot of flak is the running time. It clocks in at two hours and it feels like a slog towards the end, because there's so much time wasted at the Task Force X facility near the final act. The movie just comes to a halt and you're just waiting to get to the damn climax already. If you had done the Sabbac reveal right out of the hostage scene, skipped the whole Task Force X prison bit, and gone straight to the final battle, I think Black Adam would be looked at more as a 90 minute sprint. Those are a lot more tolerable. Instead, the movie just sputters to the finish line and it's a lot poorer for it.
Those are my two cents. Black Adam isn't good. I've seen much better. Is it "worse than Morbius" or "the worst thing ever put to film?" Don't go nuts. It's far from historically bad. In fact, it's probably the kind of bad that everyone will forget about until it comes to streaming, at which point it becomes an HBO Max darling. For what it is, it's fine. I just wouldn't push it, because as the aforementioned Venom movies should have taught everyone, being a fun bad movie does eventually lose its charm.