Black Adam (2022): The Hierarchy of Power in the DC Universe Does Not Change All That Much

“Black Adam” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, The Commuter) and stars Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures), Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Fosters), Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest, The L Word), Marwan Kenzari (Aladdin, The Old Guard), Quintessa Swindell (Euphoria, Trinkets), Bodhi Sabongui (A Million Little Things, The Baby-Sitters Club), and Pierce Brosnan (Mamma Mia!, The November Man). This film is the latest installment to the Detective Comics Extended Universe, well before the recent transition under James Gunn and Peter Safran. Nevertheless, the film follows an individual who is freed from a tomb after 5,000 years. Being a fish out of water, said individual must adapt to a new world with new friends and foes.

2022 has been an okay year for comic book movies. I liked most of the comic book movies that have come out this year. There have been some duds like “DC League of Super-Pets” and especially “Morbius.” However, the genre has had more wins than losses so far. I will say, regardless of their quality, this year has given me a reason to look forward to various comic book movies like “The Batman” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” The expectations I had for those movies were at the very least, notable. As for how they turned out, both were good, but not great. Although “Black Adam” is an interesting case in regards to hype unlike those two movies. While “Black Adam” may not be as popular as say Wonder Woman, this project had a lot of time put into it, so I was curious to see how it would turn out after all these years. The development of “Black Adam” had been known since the late 2000s. Since then, Johnson has been a busy professional, but I am glad to see him come back to work on this property. At the same time, was the wait too long? It is possible, because every other year, the idea of a “Black Adam” movie became an idea where I would “believe it when I see it.” Well, it is 2022, and now I have seen it. What did I think of it?

Ehh… I guess it is okay…

If you want me to be real, my expectations for “Black Adam,” despite the amount of time that has been put into it, were not high. I was not expecting to be disappointed. Although the marketing was fine at best. When it comes to Dwayne Johnson, I have respect for him as a personality, but he does not always make the best movies. Sure, there are some standouts like “Central Intelligence,” some of the “Fast & Furious” installments, and the “Jumanji” movies. Although he has also made quite a few stinkers like “Rampage,” “Skyscraper,” and “Red Notice.” Despite being arguably the biggest and strongest movie star in the world, he has had quite a few punches he had to roll with. Even so, I find Johnson charming and I look forward to some of the things he does, even if it ends up sucking.

From a general audience perspective, this is the kind of movie that should sell. It is based on comics, which has been a hot trend in recent years. It stars The Rock, who has also been on trend based on his leading and supporting roles. Not surprisingly, the film already made over $250 million worldwide. It may not be making as much money as certain previous DC films, but the film is on track to become one of the biggest of Johnson’s career. Just because the box office is big, at least until “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” slaughters the movie next weekend, does not mean the movie has the strength of Johnson himself. Although I can see why this movie is doing so well with audiences. The action is bombastic, the scope is enormous, and there are some genuinely fun moments to be had here.

This movie is fun, but it is the kind of fun that would I also use to describe certain fast food restaurants. It is great for getting together with your friends to experience something that is it not going to revolutionize the world, but instead something you will mostly enjoy the moment it is in front of you. The dialogue is some of the cheesiest of its genre but the visual effects are pretty enough to have an attractive flair.

Dwayne Johnson, after many years of advertising this movie, saying it will happen, and finally delivering it to the masses, dons the suit of Black Adam, an anti-hero whose main trait is changing his mood either between brooding or stoic. While this may sound like a jab at the performance, I will give Dwayne Johnson some credit for his performance. Every time I watch a performance from Johnson, it comes off like he is playing the same person. Specifically, himself, or some alternate version of such an individual. It is just like Kevin Hart. It is just like Melissa McCarthy. It is just like Tiffany Haddish. Johnson has a tendency to play characters from one movie to the next who would come off as interchangeable if they stood next to each other. While Black Adam may not be my favorite of his characters he has played, Johnson seems to emit a different vibe or deliver another tone when portraying the anti-hero. Maybe it is because Johnson is often seen playing characters whose motivations for good happen to be clear. He is trying to help friends, his family. This time around, he plays a character who is comparatively psychotic compared to say Bob Stone in “Central Intelligence.” Though it is slightly different from some of other roles, I admire Johnson for attempting to play a character with this angle in mind.

When it comes to this film’s characters, that is the element of the film, as disposable as it is, that I am probably going to remember the most. But it is probably for reasons that would work more when it comes to marketing than the film itself. There is nothing wrong with star power, but I am likely going to remember this film because of that more than what happens in the film. I have a strong feeling that the only reason I will remember who the Justice Society is a year from now is the fact that renowned actor Pierce Brosnan plays Dr. Fate. No offense to Hawkman, Atom-Smasher, and Cyclone along with their discount Xaiver Institute where they reside. If Pierce Brosnan was not in the Justice Society, this movie would be just a tad more forgettable than it really is.

“Black Adam” feels like a comic book movie that tries to belong in the 2020s, especially with its attempts to expand a tonally inconsistent cinematic universe. But at the same time, it cannot help but stretch itself back to previous decades. Select scenes reminded me of a wild 90s movie with goofy edits or some notorious 80s film from Cannon Productions like the Sylvester Stallone-starring “Over the Top.” The latter is actually a pretty good example here because of the unlikely bond between the protagonist and a young boy. Although when it comes to this similarity, “Over the Top,” which is not a great movie to begin with, somehow delivers a more appealing edition of such a bond.

Despite my digs at the film, which it earns, I had a halfway decent time with “Black Adam.” But if you had to ask me what my favorite part of “Black Adam” was, I would have a troubling time coming up with a definitive answer. This is not to say the movie is awful. It is to say that maybe that when it comes to DC fare, this is an addition that delivers. but maybe not to its full potential. Even though I did not think the movie was perfect, I had a “favorite part” in “The Batman,” specifically the chase between Batman and the Penguin at the movie’s midway point. I had a favorite part in “Joker.” I had a favorite part in “Wonder Woman.” Despite its flaws, I had a favorite part in “Batman v. Superman.” To me, “Black Adam” is going to be remembered for its wins. But when I use the word “remembered” in this case, I might be a bit generous with that, because there are better comic book movies this year. As far as movies with Dwayne Johnson go, this is not the worst he has done, but it is certainly not his strongest effort either.

If anything, this movie comes off as a visual experience. When I watch movies, I refuse to turn off my brain because as someone who reviews movies, I need to stay focused on what it is in front of me. That said, “Black Adam” feels like a turn off your brain kind of movie. Not to mention a noisy one at that. If you watch this in a premium cinema, I would not be surprised if your auditorium shakes, or at least comes close to doing so. “Black Adam” is basically this year’s “Venom: Let There be Carnage.” I liked both movies, but not for reasons that would make want to watch them in the next month or two. They’re noisy, but they’re also noisy in a way that appeals to the senses. The dialogue is not the greatest, but it has its moments. Although “Venom: Let There be Carnage” in this case would be a better movie because as a turn off your brain movie, it feels simpler. Possibly because of its tightly knit runtime and pacing.

In short, did the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe change? The answer, not so much.

In the end, there is not much to say about “Black Adam” other than it is a movie that easily entertains, but also hardly gives a reason to have staying power. “Black Adam” is not the worst DC movie in the ongoing cinematic universe. That dishonor belongs to “Wonder Woman 1984.” Although it comes off as a massive step down to the previous DCEU film, “The Suicide Squad.” I was not expecting this film to be as killer as “The Suicide Squad,” but I was hoping that it would be good. To say it is good would not be a lie, depending on what your definition of good is. But to say it is memorable is another thing. If I need background noise, “Black Adam” is an okay choice. But if I want to watch a DC movie, I will stick with “The Dark Knight.” Although I would still give this a watch in the theater if you really want something to see, but maybe for a matinee price. I am going to give “Black Adam” a 6/10.

“Black Adam” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new movie “Call Jane.” I went to go see the film in theaters last weekend. It is not getting a lot of publicity, but it is a movie that had my curiosity with Elizabeth Banks in the lead role. Whether it had my attention, is another story. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Black Adam?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite movie star working today? For me, the rule is simple. Give me Tom Cruise or give me death. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

One Night in Miami (2020): Four Icons, One Average Story

“One Night in Miami” is directed by Regina King (Ray, If Beale Street Could Talk) and stars Kingsley Ben-Adir (Vera, The OA), Eli Goree (The 100, Race), Aldis Hodge (Brian Banks, City on a Hill), and Leslie Odom Jr. (Murder on the Orient Express, Central Park). This film is also written by Kemp Powers, who wrote the play of the same name. The story revolves around four black men, Muhammed Ali, Malcom X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown as they meet in a hotel room and discuss their places in the Civil Rights Movement.

This film premiered last year in one cinema, appropriately in Miami, Florida. But of course, since I don’t live in Florida, and I don’t plan on setting foot there for some time, I did not see the film when it came out. However, the film has expanded to other territories, including my very own Massachusetts, and put itself on Prime Video for all subscribers. I decided to watch the film at home considering my supposed need to use my Prime subscription at one point or another.

You’re welcome, Jeff Bezos… Gosh I miss Sears.

Either way, going into “One Night in Miami” I did not watch any trailers (that I recall), and I do not think I read any synopsis or description about the film. Other than the facts that the film is on Amazon, directed by Regina King, and set in Miami, I knew nothing about this film. To me, it was almost like “Summerland” before I saw that film. Also, please watch “Summerland.”

With this in mind, I want to bring up something that movie viewers occasionally bring up. The power of marketing. Part of this is due to my lack of knowledge of the film, but going into “One Night in Miami,” based on the title, it almost seemed to be set in modern times, and it sort of had this “Entourage” feel to it. Everything felt kind of sexy.

This is the kind of confusion that comes about from not watching trailers. The film is vastly different from what I expected to be, both in terms of overall vibe and the storyline. I guess you can say part of this is my fault for perhaps being a lazy critic and not doing my homework, but at the same time, there are points where going in blind for a film has enhanced the experience. Perhaps doing so makes it worthwhile, because it gives you a fresh perspective and allows you to watch everything as if (or perhaps in a more literal sense) you were about to watch it for the first time.

With that being said, I wish “One Night in Miami” were a better movie. There have been some good movies over recent years involving the Civil Rights Movement and African American history. Movies like “Selma” and “Hidden Figures.” Both were entertaining and a great reflection of their respective times. Now, I wanted to like “One Night in Miami” and going back to what I just said. Knowing what a movie is about sort of improves the experience. When it starts, you have this boxing match. So I think to myself, “Is this a boxing movie?” Then I see a concert. I ask, “Is this about music?” Not really. It’s one of those movies where things sort of come together, but it took awhile for my brain to click and put all these elements into a puzzle. So, maybe it is my fault for being a brick, but nevertheless. During that time, it sort of shows that the movie needs better pacing. I sat on my bed wondering if this movie was going to go anywhere, and it felt like we spent an eternity trying to answer that question. I like when movies make the viewer ask questions. That can be engaging. That can be exciting. But for whatever reason, this movie took longer than an Amtrak ride from Boston to Washington DC to get me going.

I will spit out some positives though. For those who do not know, this is Regina King’s first feature theatrical release under her direction. King reveals that she has chops to be a competent director in the future if she decides to take on more projects. I would not mind seeing another drama from her. Maybe if she keeps that up, she could helm a blockbuster. I have faith she can continue to visualize solid content. As for how good that content will end up being, that is another question. Because I was not fully impressed with this outing.

With that in mind, getting invested in the main four characters almost felt difficult because I spent almost an hour just wondering whenever things were going to pick up. At the same though, it was fascinating to hear the four main characters interact, mainly because they all had a natural sense of chemistry. There is not one moment or slice of dialogue that did not feel wasted or unrealistic. All of it was raw, and occasionally compelling. I thought it was fascinating to see a transformation of Cassius Clay as he goes from one identity to another. But the man who’s story intrigued me the most has to be Sam Cooke.

The movie does a fine job at highlighting that despite the color of his skin, despite his heritage, despite coming across a supposed success, Cooke is perhaps partially aiding in the contributions of white people to a degree, including the Rolling Stones. Hearing him speak with Malcom X and listening to him reveal his personal history is probably the highlight of the movie for me. Malcom X confronts Cooke’s feel good music and notes Bob Dylan perhaps being a more popular reflector of social commentary. I think from start to finish, his story is partially reflective of what this movie is about, what it stands for, and the overall message it tries to convey. In the United States, black people may succeed, but sometimes it is with the assistance per se of white people. And in some ways, they help white people achieve their own success. The performances from scene one are all worthy of attention. I just wish it aided in a slightly better film.

I should note, this is my *first impression*. I did something for “One Night in Miami” that I don’t usually do. I noticed that the film has universal acclaim. There are positive reviews being handed over left and right. People are really enjoying this film. So I thought, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I like this movie? Granted, I was watching at home, where it is easy for me to get distracted. So I turned on the film again to see if anything has changed.

I will say that this film is better the second time around, and maybe it is because I understand the concept now. I think as a story, “One Night in Miami” is uniquely laid out and one of the more original tellings I have witnessed in recent memory, despite being somewhat based on true events and containing real historical figures.

As mentioned earlier, Sam Cooke is my favorite character in the film, and he is nicely performed by Leslie Odom Jr.. However, one performance that I also began to appreciate more the second time around is Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcom X. I think his mannerisms are superb and he admittedly kind of looks suave. I would not mind seeing Kingsley Ben-Adir in a spy movie sometime. I will also say that the first hour is most definitely better. Not only does it do a fine job at introducing the core characters, but some of the hour is quite entertaining between the boxing match, the early concert, and Jim Brown visiting the plantation.

But having said all this, when it comes to 2020 in film, this one will not likely be remembered as much as others. Who knows? Maybe with my recent experiment it gets better with each watch, and it was better the second time, so maybe that is a step in the right direction.

In the end, “One Night in Miami” may speak to some people, in fact it may speak to a lot of people, but for whatever reason, it was just not the right movie for me. Was it entertaining? Yes. But not entertaining enough. Was it compelling? Yes. But not compelling enough. Was it worth a rewatch? Sure. But part of me only did so to see if would actually improve the experience. And while it did so slightly, it did not sparkle and shine as much as I would want it to. I am going to give “One Night in Miami” a 6/10.

To me “One Night in Miami” is sort of like “Mank.” It is a movie that a lot of people saw, a lot of people like, and maybe it will end up getting some attention during awards season. Although for whatever reason, I could not fully connect with it. It is a passable film and there are good things about it. But I just wanted more, what else could I say?

“One Night in Miami” is now available in select theaters and on Prime Video for all subscribers. Get your tickets if a theater is open near you, or subscribe to Prime if you are not subscribed already.

Thanks for reading this review! I will say, I am not quite sure what my next review is going to be, but I will say as the crazy guy who always promotes IMAX, I have a special treat for those who are not in the loop. One of 2020’s most acclaimed films, “Nomadland,” is coming to select IMAX screens starting January 29th. Unfortunately, I might not be able to see it. I say so because as of writing this, the closest place showing the film is located in Paramus, New Jersey, which is about a three to four hour hike from where I live. But if anyone at IMAX reads this and wants to put more screenings in the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island areas, I will make an effort to watch the movie and have my review up for it as soon as possible. We’ll have to see what happens. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “One Night in Miami?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Regina King as an entertainer? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!