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!

DC League of Super-Pets (2022): This Movie’s Biggest Kryptonite? Predictability and Familiar Faces.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is directed by Jared Stern and Sam Levine, and stars Dwayne Johnson (Doom, Skyscraper), Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Night School), Kate McKinnon (Yesterday, Saturday Night Live), John Krasinski (A Quiet Place, The Office), Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live, Office Christmas Party), Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black, Big Mouth), Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Narcos: Mexico), Marc Maron (Maron, GLOW), Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, John Wick), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, Sonic the Hedgehog), and Thomas Middleditch (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Silicon Valley). This film follows Krypto the Super-Dog, as he must figure out how to rescue his owner, Superman.

I love comic book movies. And I know I am not alone. If the box office for most of the films within this classification have shown anything, it is that films of this type are hotter than they have ever been. Marvel Studios is on fire right now with the release of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” in addition to the massively successful “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” both of which ended up in my top 10 best of last year. DC is also doing well for themselves. I enjoyed “The Batman” despite some pacing issues I had with the film, and I thought last year’s “The Suicide Squad” might just be the best movie to ever have the DC logo attached. And in the midst of all of these movies that I either looked forward to or saw and really enjoyed, I never thought “DC League of Super-Pets” would live up to the quality standards that we have seen in other comic book-based works. If anything, I thought it would probably be on the same level as “Morbius,” only slightly more comedic and family-friendly.

I will be real. I cannot remember the last time I asked for a movie about Superman’s dog, but here we are. Why did I see it? Because I have reviews to get done and AMC A-List is a dynamite investment. I love not paying for movies that I feel the need to see to stay in the loop. Although at the same time, if you have names as big as Kevin Hart or Keanu Reeves, that should bring something promising to the table. And this brings me to my first positive, which I will dive more into later, Keanu Reeves was the highlight of the film.

What did I think of “DC League of “Super-Pets?” It’s predictable, mediocre, and I do not think the comedy landed that much. I have heard some differing opinions, but if you ask me, even some of the more clever jokes in this movie did not garner much of a reaction out of me. Some of the comedy attempts either felt tired, forced, or obvious. There is a “Paw Patrol”-related joke that probably would have been funnier if I did not make a “Paw Patrol” comparison before the film came out. Speaking of “Paw Patrol,” one thing about that show is that it is specifically made for kids. That’s the vibes I got from “DC League of Super-Pets’s” marketing campaign. All kiddy, no maturity. Turns out there is some adult humor in this film, but even that did not land. I can only hear the censor bar so many times before the gag becomes tiresome. This is honestly unfortunate considering the film is written by Jared Stern and John Whittington, who previously wrote another animated DC flick, “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Regardless of its comic-based origins and spinoff placement, it is one of the funniest animation scripts done in recent years. That movie had five writers! I hope for the sake of Stern and Whittington that they came up with at least one of the clever jokes that script contained, because “DC League of Super-Pets” feels like a far cry to the 2017 “LEGO Batman” spinoff.

The story of “DC League of Super-Pets” does not reinvent the wheel. I never asked for this movie to begin with, and therefore I never asked it to reinvent the wheel, therefore I did not know what to expect. But the movie itself sort of reminded me of a longer episode of a Saturday morning cartoon, but not necessarily a great one. I also think the script of “DC League of Super-Pets” is probably going to land better with those who are dog or cat people. People who have pets and consider them part of their family. I live in a space where there are pets, but they are not necessarily my pets, so this script did not connect with me maybe in the way the writers hoped it would.

I want to talk about the biggest problem in this movie, and this is the problem that the movie has built up ever since its first teaser. Going back to the big names. Having big names like Dwayne Johnson in your movie always builds intrigue and promise. It’s like when a printer gets endorsed by Shaquille O’Neal, or Mark Cuban becomes a quasi-mascot of a new, innovative product, or when Howie Mandel fist bumps everything in your store for some reason. When this film’s first teaser released, the primary focus was on the stacked cast this movie managed to acquire from Dwayne Johnson to Kevin Hart to Kate McKinnon to John Krasinski and so on. I want to talk about those first two names. Dwayne Johnson is arguably the biggest movie star in the world, and Kevin Hart, in addition to being a relevant comedian, has worked with The Rock in the past on “Central Intelligence” and the “Jumanji” movies. This is their third property together, and I do not mind actors or crew joining forces more than once. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have worked together numerous times in “Crazy Stupid Love,” “Gangster Squad,” and “La La Land.” Their chemistry is undeniable.

I have no idea if this is coincidental or not, but the Gosling/Stone pairing is a match every time. The difference between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone compared to Johnson and Hart is the ability of the former pair to show range. Ryan Gosling can be the sexy boy toy, he can sing, he can be stoic. Emma Stone can be a quirky young woman, she can be an aspiring actress, she can be someone from a couple centuries ago. The two are “actors,” not stars. Johnson and Hart, despite having personality, are not the greatest thespians, and it shows in “DC League of Super-Pets.” When I look at Krypto, I see The Rock. When I look at Ace, I see Kevin Hart. In my imagination, they are just playing versions of themselves in animated dog form. This is why part of me is often worried when I think about the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” movie because like “DC League of Super-Pets,” I am just worried that Chris Pratt is going to do another version of Emmet from “The LEGO Movie” or something. Chris Pratt, like The Rock, while he is definitely a better actor, is not the greatest of the performers working today. Pratt’s voice is recognizable, and that is part of why it felt weird hearing said voice in Pixar’s “Onward.” I am not saying live-action movie stars should not voice animated characters. Some have as much talent as those who primarily do voice-acting. But these roles show Johnson and Hart’s lack of range as actors. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart always do the same schtick or some variation of it in their movies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Not having a live-action environment hinders that and makes this film the weakest of their collaborations. And the fact that I am looking at these dogs’ faces and seeing nothing but Johnson and Hart makes their performances creepier than they should be.

I said I will get back to Keanu Reeves. A promise is a promise. Reeves is easily this film’s best part. Not just because of his voice, but the character he plays, that being Batman. Much like “The LEGO Batman Movie,” this interpretation of Batman or Bruce Wayne is on the more parodic side, and rightfully so. I said earlier that I was slightly concerned that Jared Stern and John Whittington possibly never came up with any solid jokes in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Although after reminiscing on Batman in this film, part of me has second thoughts. I was not a huge fan of the film’s comedy, but the parts where I was almost rolling on the floor were the scenes where Batman shows up. His screen time in this film is minimal. Think of it as a funny Stan Lee cameo where he plays himself except it happens ten times. Despite this movie’s lighthearted tone, it also pokes fun at the darkness of the Caped Crusader. Everything from his lone wolf mentality to his lack of parents. It’s hilarious, and I might every once in a while look on YouTube for the scenes in this movie containing Batman just to get a laugh.

In the end, “DC League of Super-Pets” is, to my surprise, not the worst comic book movie of the year. Again, “Morbius” exists. You’re welcome, Warner Brothers! You are going to have to settle for the dishonorable mention. Some of the voice acting is hit or miss. When I watch an animated movie, part of me wants to forget that I am watching something that has The Rock in it. I think as far as voice performances go, Johnson’s performance in “Moana,” while not my favorite in history, is slightly better than the one he gives to Krypto. But I also do not know if I can blame it on his ability, because his voice is recognizable. When it comes to Kevin Hart playing a house pet, I’d rather listen to his performance as Snowball the terrier in “The Secret Life of Pets.” I often watch films for an escape. If I want an escape with The Rock and Kevin Hart, I would rather watch “Central Intelligence.” This is not a film that is going to stand the test of time. As far as DC goes, it is surprisingly better than “Wonder Woman 1984,” but unlike “DC League of Super-Pets,” I had higher expectations for that film. I am going to give “DC League of Super-Pets” a 5/10.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the film “Vengeance,” directed by B.J. Novak. Also be on the lookout for my review for “Bullet Train,” the new action flick starring Brad Pitt as he and assassins crowd up a speeding train in Japan. 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 “DC League of Super-Pets?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast that disappointed you? For me, that big disappointment was 2017’s “The Circle,” starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, John Boyega, among others. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!