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!

Jungle Cruise (2021): Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt Sail Through a Mediocre Run Through the Amazon

“Jungle Cruise” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, The Shallows) and stars Dwayne Johnson (The Fate of the Furious, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place), Jack Whitehall (The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Mother’s Day), Edgar Ramírez (Gold, Point Break), with Jesse Plemons (Game Night, Judas and the Black Messiah), and Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave, Sideways). This film is based on the Disney theme park ride of the same name and is set during World War I. Throughout the film we see the mysterious ship captain Frank Wolff, who gives cheap tours through the Amazon River, join forces with Lily Houghton as they search for a tree that contains magical healing powers. While their intentions are to use it for good, Germany has other plans to utilize the power of the tree in order to win the war.

I saw “Jungle Cruise” on opening Thursday in the theater and safe to say, I had moderate expectations going in. I was not expecting Shakespeare, in fact most movies starring The Rock, regardless of his acting talent, are not usually taken as seriously as others. The trailers looked okay, they seemed to have promised a generic adventure that is somewhat family friendly despite being PG-13. In fact, the more I think about it, it kind of looked like a better version of “Dolittle,” as the plot of that film also involved finding a specific tree for healing purposes. There were plenty of people at my screening. It was not a sold out show, but it was good to see families returning to the theater. I went by myself, because I’m awesome, I’m important, and goddamnit, I’m the absolute best! But is “Jungle Cruise” worth the trip? In addition, is it worth $30 on Disney+?

“Jungle Cruise” certainly ain’t no “Indiana Jones.” Or “Pirates of the Caribbean” if you want to get into other theme park ride-based films. Well, the first one to be specific. If anything, “Jungle Cruise” is more in line with the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It’s a fun film to watch once and then forget about. I will admit, I had quite a few problems with this film as I sat down trying to take it all in. This is one of those rare times where I watch a film and think that Dwayne Johnson is not exactly likable. I mean, sure, I can probably find one or two other films where that is the case. “Tooth Fairy” is another one that comes to mind. But if I have learned one thing in recent years, it’s that regardless of his acting ability, Dwayne Johnson is one of the most charismatic movie stars out there today. He’s up there with Tom Hanks and Ryan Reynolds. Two actors who I think are more talented than The Rock, but there is no denying that they have delivered dumptrucks of likability over the years just from their personalities and how they present themselves on screen.

I’m not saying The Rock is a dick in this film or anything. I just find the way they wrote his character to be somewhat of a letdown. You know, one of the best things about movies like “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Memento,” and “Parasite,” without getting into detail, are the twists and turns these movies take along the way. “Jungle Cruise” is no stranger to this idea, but there was one subversion of my expectations that happened in the first twenty minutes of the film regarding The Rock’s character that made him go from a badass hunk of a man to… Somebody. I dunno. The point is, right off the bat, the character did not leave me with the best first impression. In fact, one of first scenes in the movie with this character, Frank Wolff, is him giving a tour through the Amazon River. The tour itself is notably cheap and lacks an oomph factor. That was the intention on the script’s part, therefore I am not calling this a critique. But the thing is, the whole scene is just The Rock trying to give a boring tour while delivering so many dad jokes. And that’s a thing throughout the movie. Dad jokes! Dad jokes everywhere! Who wrote this movie? 7 year olds? I have never ridden the ride this movie bases itself upon, but apparently, according to what I’ve heard about the Jungle Cruise ride itself, there’s a tour guide on the ride, and that tour guide will spew out dad jokes here and there. While I appreciate the nods to the source material, I’ll be blunt and say this doesn’t rock.

Goddamnit.

I will say that one of my regrets, despite seeing this in the theater, part of me wishes I saw it in 3D or some large premium format. I ended up seeing the film in regular 2D as that was the most convenient timeslot. But if you want a visual feast, this may be worth the trip. The same cannot be said for the story though, at least from my perspective. Because while it is unpredictable at times, it is surface level and the unpredictability is not precisely impressive.

Although I will say that one of my highlights of the film would be some of the supporting cast. Jesse Plemons has been great in everything I’ve seen him in so far, so naturally he is also great in “Jungle Cruise.” Here he plays Prince Joachim, an over the top German aristocrat who stands in the way of the heroes. Plemons does not even feel like himself in this movie. He feels like he’s playing someone from another world at times. Granted, it is a Disney film, where a little over the top sprinkles are encouraged. I will also note Jack Whitehall as Lily’s brother, MacGregor, who comes along for the cruise. Whitehall comes off as a likable coward who almost tries to be the voice of reason but does so almost poorly. I think he is easily one of the better parts of the film the more I think about it.

Disney has tried time and time again to recreate the success of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Whether “Jungle Cruise” gets a sequel or not is still somewhat questionable on the surface because of the pandemic. The movie did not do too great thus far theatrically or on Disney+. But when it comes to movies based on Disney’s theme park rides, this feels more focused on gimmicks and immersion compared to story. The story is okay, but it is most certainly not great. If you have a family and are looking for an excuse to leave the house, I’d say see this in the most immersive format you can afford. It may be fun for a couple of hours, but I cannot guarantee you will remember it much after.

In the end, “Jungle Cruise” is mediocrely paced, more focused on style over substance, and MY GOD the dad jokes never end! That’s a weird complaint coming from me, because if you know my family, specifically my father’s side, we get together a lot and we are no strangers to puns. In fact, for those of you who do not know, my last name is Drees, and on my father’s side of the family, we call puns and other related jokes “Drees humor” just because of how commonplace it has become when we are around each other. Either way, they did not work in “Jungle Cruise.” I think Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are a fair pair. Although I wish the script served the actors better, especially Johnson. The film does look nice, but looks are not everything. I want a good story too, but “Jungle Cruise” failed in that regard. I’m going to give “Jungle Cruise” a 5/10.

“Jungle Cruise” is now playing in theaters and it is also available through Disney+ with Premier Access for $29.99 on top of a subscription.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review for a film based on a Disney theme park ride, why not read five more?! Be sure to check out my reviews for all five “Pirates of the Caribbean” films including “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” “On Stranger Tides,” and “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” I reviewed all of these films as part of recognizing Scene Before’s 5th anniversary in an exclusive series titled “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!”

Continuing down the road of Scene Before’s 5th anniversary, this Monday I will be unveiling my thoughts on the 1984 sex comedy “Revenge of the Nerds” as a starting point of the upcoming review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” As I’ve said previously, my in-depth thoughts on this film, not to mention franchise, feels like it is long overdue.

Speaking of things we’ve all been waiting for, this weekend we are finally getting to watch “The Suicide Squad!” I have IMAX tickets for Saturday, I cannot wait to share my thoughts with you. James Gunn, I have faith in you, do not let me down. If you want to see all this and more on 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 “Jungle Cruise?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever go on the Jungle Cruise ride? What was that like? Leave your thoughts and opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Commuter (2018): When “A Particular Set of Skills” Die In a Trainwreck

Before we dive into my review for “The Commuter.” I’d just like to ask you something. When you go on a train, what is it like? For me, it might differ than the average person’s opinion. While some may say that going on a train is just something they do like a bunch of other people to get from point A to point B, and some may say it’s not their favorite thing in the world, but necessary, I prefer to call it an experience. Personally, I love trains. Maybe it’s because I don’t have to ride them everyday, but I’m what you may call a “railfan,” which is another way of saying “train enthusiast.” They honestly make me feel like a little kid at times. Speaking of which, allow me to introduce once more a couple who will be having a little kid of their own, Genevieve and Paul. They’ve tried really hard, they’ve came out victorious after an infinite amount of trainwrecks (insert drum rimshot). This is all explained in “What the IVF?!”

“What the IVF?” is a relatively new web series on YouTube. Yes, YouTube, not YouTube Red. The one where you can watch things for free, keep your wallets in your pocket. In this series Genevieve and Paul document their journey to conception, which to them, is basically reproductive rocket science. Also, I keep saying every single time I promote this, that these two have to suffer through an overwhelming number of needle injections. Guess what? Now’s the time you get to see that! (insert “The Price Is Right” fail horn). In their latest episode, titled “Shots! Shots! Shots!,” it’s needle injections galore! This is why the two geniuses behind this series decided to upload two versions. One where you can see the needles, and another where the needles are censored out by a dog’s face. I watched the needle version, and I honestly thought it was the most disturbing episode in the entire series, personally because I HATE needles, which personally enhanced the experience. You guys make your choice on which episode you want to watch, I’m not here to judge you. To watch all the episodes in the series go to the “WTIVF?” YouTube channel and watch to your heart’s content! Be sure to subscribe, ring their bell, check out and follow their other social media HQs, and be sure to tell them I sent ya over!

WTIVF? WEBSITE: http://www.whattheivf.com/

WTIVF? YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCILXSidkzWgwrQ5Oa1py78w/featured?disable_polymer=1

WTIVF? TWITTER: https://twitter.com/WTivF

WTIVF? INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/wtivf/

WTIVF? FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/What-The-IVF-288868031634125/

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“The Commuter” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, The Shallows) and stars Liam Neeson (Taken, Unknown) as a man who lives in New York. When he’s not with his family there’s a good chance he’s working. One day he’s coming home on the train, and he meets this girl named Joanna (Vera Farmiga). She explains a task she’s offering to Liam Neeson’s character, Michael MacCauley, that someone on this train does not belong, and this eventually leads to people’s lives being put at risk, and most unfortunately to MacCauley, the lives of his own family.

This movie is directed by the same guy who directed a movie I saw in 2016 which I highly adored, “The Shallows.” I thought it was a really intriguing shark movie with some neat cinematography. Also, Blake Lively’s a bombshell. Not that it has anything to do with movie, but I must say she rocks a bathing suit for sure. But I must say I’m disappointed she never watched “Jaws” prior to making the film. Anyways, I really like “The Shallows,” I thought it was pretty well directed for the most part, I think there was too much blood at times. Not that it scares me, but I thought it was kind of unrealistic.

When it comes to this movie, there are a couple moments that really stand out. For example, when Michael is commuting to the city, you can see all the different times he’s commuting, and it’s easy to tell by the movie’s color palette. At first it was a little jumpy, but the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated it. There’s also a moment that I can quite possibly praise the writing and directing. MacCauley is walking through Grand Central, and it shows a mix of crowds, which might as well signify different times he goes to work. Speaking of the beginning, I thought they nailed the vibe of a commuter train on a busy workday. Somewhat depressing, and just a plethora of progress. The music says everything. There’s also one shot I really like that’s a constant zoom out from one train car to the next. Speaking of cinematography, this movie, much like some others I’ve seen recently in the action genre (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Atomic Blonde), has an extended one shot take of an action sequence. Liam Neeson and Vera Farmiga play their roles with excellence. What’s the other thing? Liam Neeson beats a guy up using a guitar! And for the most part, that’s what the movie’s positives contain. The rest of it, sadly is kind of boring and not as interesting.

While “The Commuter” is certainly not the best it can be, it certainly can be a lot worse. Without stating my final verdict, this movie allows you to kind of care about the main character despite not knowing too too much about his life, and enjoy some decent action. Neeson did sound like he was trying, but all in all he was just in a movie that served a purpose, but the purpose which it served could have been more well executed. In fact, even if he wasn’t trying, I at least imagined that HE would have thought this movie would have come out with some positivity. And I say that because he and the director of this film have worked together before in projects including “Unknown,” “Non-Stop,” and “Run All Night.” I’m not saying those movies belong in the all time greatest movies list, but they are all from what I heard, competent pictures. I haven’t seen any of them so I can’t really judge for myself, but I haven’t heard too many bad things about them from others. I own “Non-Stop” on Blu-ray which I actually hear this movie’s similar to in a number of ways. After seeing this movie, I actually kind of want to watch “Non-Stop” to compare the two and decide for myself which is the better movie.

I already mentioned a lot about Liam Neeson in this movie. He plays a character named Michael MacCauley, he’s really good in terms of acting, and you totally buy into his character. I had no problems with Liam Neeson, at least none that completely come to mind. I mentioned in one of my reviews, specifically for “John Wick: Chapter 2,” that Liam Neeson is up there as one of my favorite actor when it comes to what he can do in the action genre. The guy is the definition of “Hey there kid! I’m sixty-something years of age and if you don’t give me what I want I’ll kick your arse!” And he continues to prove that in “The Commuter.”

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One character in this movie is played by Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad, Gremlins) and he goes by the name of Walt. Apologies for not having an image of his character, there were none on IMDb, and that’s the source I usually use for these sorts of things. I thought his performance was competent enough, almost looked like a honed in performance, but it felt like it was enough during my watch to seem as if Banks was actually giving a damn. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but something happens to his character that’s very important towards developing the plot, and had I gotten to know him better, I honestly thought it would have made the overall movie a little more intriguing, especially in that one particular moment I won’t get into.

This movie is an hour and forty-five minutes long. I gotta say, this is not exactly the most boring movie I’ve watched all year, that title belongs to “The 15:17 to Paris,” which is interesting because that too involves part of the movie taking place on a train. One thing that I will say however, is that this movie at times, feels like a snooze-fest. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any cool, awesome moments to enjoy in this movie, but it just means the film sometimes becomes dull and it’s something that you have to deal with. “The Commuter” does have a place in our society, and luckily, that place, is not the garbage bin. Although with its place in our society, I do think it has some questionable traits it brings along the way. One most notably towards the end of the film, but I’m not even sure how long that complaint of mine will last because I’m not even sure if what I even saw was real. Again, this movie is dull! Forgive me for my sins against humanity!

In the end, “The Commuter” is not the worst of movies, but also is far from the best of them. Liam Neeson provides a decent performance in this hour and a half action flick to for me to say, hey, nice to see Liam Neeson. Depending on who you are, if you watch this movie, you might not remember it for the rest of your life, and I do think that this will probably be one of those movies that will make for good background noise at a party. Or it can be background noise for literally anything else. I can imagine this movie being on some network like TBS and some people tuning into the channel to the point they say, “Hey, it’s Liam Neeson, cool dude. Let’s see this guy kick some ass!” However, it’s not enough for me, but I give the movie credit for trying. I’m going to give “The Commuter” a 5/10. The best thing about this movie is that it’s not taking too many shots to show Liam Neeson climbing over a fence.

(Sigh) “Taken 3.”

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’ll have my review up for “Life of the Party” starring Melissa McCarthy, and as far as next weekend goes, “Deadpool 2” is coming out, so I think my plans may be set there. Until then, I ask all of you to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Commuter?” What did you think about it? In case you don’t know, I actually missed it in theaters, I waited for the home video release, and I bought the 4K at Best Buy a couple weeks after it released on that format. I’ll also ask, of all the collaborations between Liam Neeson and Jaume Collet-Serra, which one is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!