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4K Ultra HD Review: Black Adam

January 3, 2023

By John Corrado

★½ (out of 4)

Black Adam, the latest film in the soon-to-be retooled DC cinematic universe, is the epitome of mediocrity in the already overcrowded superhero genre.

No, this big scale action flick directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson is not completely unwatchable. But it is entirely mindless and almost aggressively average, with a complete over-reliance on bland CGI, a lot of cheesy moments, and lame attempts at humour.

Johnson stars in the film as titular “anti-hero” Teth-Adam, a former slave from the ancient city of Kahndaq circa 2600 BCE, who became a champion for the people after gaining powers from the ancient wizards. When he is reawakened after five thousand years in modern day by archeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi), who is on an expedition with her brother Karim (Mohammed Amer) and their associate Ishmael (Marwan Kenzari) to find the powerful Crown of Sabbac, Teth-Adam is tasked with saving the city once again.

Getting Black Adam made was apparently a decade-long passion project for Johnson, who went on an extensive publicity tour before the release of the film boasting about how it would change the “hierarchy of power” within the DC universe, which just makes the utter mediocrity of the finished product (and I do mean product) all the more disappointing. Ironically, the only reason the “hierarchy of power” in the DC universe has now changed is because this film’s muted reception has forced new studio heads James Guun and Peter Safran to completely retool the entire endeavour.

Johnson expects that his charisma alone will carry the film, but he is actually somewhat flat in the role, with his self-serious portrayal not allowing for the natural charm that he showed in the Jumanji films or even Disney’s Jungle Cruise (also directed by Collet-Serra). Johnson’s Teth-Adam is also only one of many players in a film that also introduces Adrianna’s precocious, skateboarding son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui), who positions himself as his sidekick, as well as other members of the Justice Society; a B-list group of superheroes including Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan).

Like many of these films that are beholden to a larger franchise, Black Adam is trying to do too much, and ends up feeling overly crowded as a result. The film packs a lot of lore into about two hours, with the title character’s backstory largely covered in the somewhat rushed prologue, and it ends up feeling sort of muddled as a result. The whole thing just turns into a bit of a numbing, greyscale mess by the end, and almost feels like watching a collection of cutscenes from a video game that we aren’t in control of.

The other big issue is that the film can’t decide if it wants to be more tonally similar to Shazam or a Zack Snyder movie, and ends up stuck somewhere in between (Black Adam was initially a Shazam villain in the comic books, though this film sets him up as an adversary to Henry Cavill’s Superman, a showdown that is hinted at but now won’t even happen due to Cavill’s recent ouster as the Man of Steel).

The script’s requisite “witty banter” sounds like it was written by a machine, with one-liners that mostly fall flat. The film also tries way too hard to turn Centineo’s Atom Smasher into a de facto Deadpool, a fruitless effort that just reeks of embarrassing desperation. We are left with a superhero film that seems convinced of its own importance and coolness, yet is as forgettable and mediocre as they come. On the plus side, the 4K Ultra HD disc puts out a very impressive image, presenting a good colour balance that allows us to still pick up little details in the film’s many darker scenes.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K set comes with a regular Blu-ray as well, where all of the bonus features – over an hour’s-worth in total – are held. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a matte black slipcover.

The History of Black Adam (10 minutes, 8 seconds): A look at the history of the character in the comic books, with Johnson touching on why the character meant so much to him as a kid in Hawaii.

Who is The Justice Society? (14 minutes, 16 seconds): Aldis Hodge hosts this look at the history of the Justice Society of America.

From Soul to Screen (6 minutes, 9 seconds): A look at how Johnson took on the role of this comic book character.

Black Adam: A Flawed Hero (5 minutes, 9 seconds): A look at bringing this specific comic book villain turned “anti-hero” to the screen.

Black Adam: New Tech in an Old World (4 minutes, 49 seconds): Looks at the technology of Kahndaq, and how they mixed it with the look of an old city.

Black Adam: Taking Flight (3 minutes, 32 seconds): Looks at the film’s use of LED screens to shoot the action, overseen by Oscar-winning First Man special effects supervisor J.D. Schwalm.

Kahndaq: Designing a Nation (6 minutes, 27 seconds): Looks at designing the world of Kahndaq, both past and present.

The ROCK of Eternity (5 minutes, 42 seconds): A closer look at the set that was built for the rock of eternity.

Costumes Make the Hero (8 minutes, 25 seconds): A look at the different superhero costumes worn in the film.

Black Adam: A New Type of Action (6 minutes, 38 seconds): A look at showcasing the different fighting styles of the superhero characters.

Black Adam is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 125 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: January 3rd, 2023

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