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!

Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again (2018): Having the Hour and Fifty-Four Minutes of My Life

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“Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” is directed by Ol Parker (Now Is Good, Imagine Me & You) and stars Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella), Amanda Seyfried (Ted 2, Mean Girls), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife, Chicago), Pierce Brosnan (GoldenEye, The Matador), Dominic Cooper (Preacher, Captain America: The First Avenger), Colin Firth (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Love, Actually), Andy Garcia (Ocean’s Eleven, The Godfather: Part III), Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd (Good Will Hunting, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote), Julie Waters (Brave, Paddington), with Cher (Moonstruck, Mask), and Meryl Streep (The Post, Sophie’s Choice). This movie is the sequel to 2008’s “Mamma Mia!: The Movie.” Five years after the events of the original film, Sophie learns about past events involving her mother, while the movie chooses to simultaneously focus on what the movie’s universe would call present events.

This “Mamma Mia!” installment might as well only be made because of how much money the first one actually made. Based on words I’ve heard just the other day, I’ve been totally shocked by the numbers of the first “Mamma Mia!,” finding out it has actually brought in a total of over $600 million at the worldwide box office. Funny enough, it was never #1 at the box office on ANY of the weekends of its run! Seriously! “Iron Man” came out the same year, it was #1 on both its opening weekend and its second weekend, and yet it still made less than “Mamma Mia” did during its entire run! Now that we have that we have this sequel, I must ask… Will the box office numbers be as high as this film, or is this one giant fluke? The answer, will have to wait because this movie, when it comes to its official public release, is only a short number of days old. Another question I found completely unanswerable is “How was the movie?”

Upon walking out of the theater, I couldn’t even answer how the movie truly was. I could confirm I didn’t like it, I thought it was somewhat flawed. But at the same time, it was kind of fun. This movie is not necessarily just another bad movie, it’s also the kind of bad that to me, didn’t really make me hate myself. But part of me wondered why. Sure, maybe certain musical segments were well choreographed, I guess there were some chuckleworthy moments here and there, and there was also times where I just admired the main locations of the film. In fact, part of why I actually enjoyed myself very much may have been due to watching the film in the IMAX format. If I went to see “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” in a regular theater with a normal screen, I would have probably enjoyed myself a bit less than I did in my circumstance of viewing this film. I had low expectations going into “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again,” and just because I enjoyed myself, doesn’t mean I thought the film was anywhere near absolute perfection. It just means I don’t want to bang my head on a wall for an hour.

The biggest problem I have with “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” is just that it’s kind of confusing. Granted, part of it be my fault as a viewer, because I’m willing to bet if I saw the first film, this sequel would be a lot more crystal clear. I won’t go into detail because the movie just came out and not everyone has seen it yet, but I just felt like there were maybe a huge amount of clutter in terms of characters, plot lines, etc. Granted, you can argue “Avengers: Infinity War” has that same issue, but the thing is, that movie plays out like a TV show. Everything has been leading up to it, if you’ve seen MCU movies released prior to that one, you’d probably have some sort of connection with the characters based on their journeys, and the way the screenplay and direction came together in that film made it feel like a thrill ride. “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” expands the story of the franchise, but it does that by including something that doesn’t really have much stakes attached to it. For a film like this, that might be a weird complaint, but I just didn’t really care for anyone in this film. Again, I didn’t watch the first installment, so I may be cheating with that statement. But I just found this film boring at times because it felt like it was a story that just had so much going on with occasional interruptions from musical numbers.

If you know me in person, chances are you’d know that I love thinker movies, I love movies that make you figure out what’s going on, movies that don’t give you all the answers right away, movies that rely on being complicated therefore making them come off as a fun puzzle. I love movies that don’t make you feel stupid! Although, one complaint I can’t believe I’m saying here is that I thought this movie was a bit more complicated than it had to be. Was it intentional? I doubt it. In fact, I feel like the only real intention of this sequel was to get money. This movie goes back and forth in time, only to make me wonder which character is which, and which part of my brain hurts the most. I think if the movie really wanted to tell its story from a perspective that goes over both the past and present, it should have really had some more work done during the edit. What should have been done is if you want to go over a past event, you should color grade or put a filter over the footage to make it look old-timey. I wouldn’t call something like this dumbing down, but I would consider it to be hint of help or aid for those who don’t even know what’s going on.

As far as the movie’s characters go, I’m not even gonna go into detail about a lot of them. To make a long story short, most of them are rather quirky, and have their own individual qualities that make them who they are. If you’re expecting to see Meryl Streep in this movie, you do get her, but as far as actually getting HER, don’t expect much. Because the movie mainly focuses on a younger version of her character (Lily James).

Having seen Lily James play this younger version of Donna, I can kind of buy into her interpretation of the character, and I’d say she did a fine job with the role for the most part. But in all seriousness, this does beg a question. The question I have to ask is… Is Lily James the next Meryl Streep? Granted, you don’t really need to be a powerhouse actor to be in a movie like this. It’s recommended, but that’s not the biggest thing that I’d say you need. In fact, in some cases, your ability to sing would probably have a higher importance. I do think Lily James is an alright actor. I haven’t seen her in much, but I’d say she’s an alright actor nevertheless. But here’s the thing, will the Academy see this movie and forever think of Lily James as that one actor to nominate every single year no matter what she does? I’m not sure how much longer Streep has in terms of her career, but if you consider how many times she’s been nominated for some award throughout her life, it only makes me wonder how many James is bound to get down the road.

But in all seriousness, I feel like the only things I can truly appreciate in “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” is that it exceeded my expectations, it was well choreographed at times, and it had some neat location choices. Other than that, it’s just a bunch of sequences shot on a camera placed together in a certain order for the sake of calling something a movie. It’s not good, and while I’m not in the target audience, I gotta be honest, I just didn’t think this was worth my time.

In the end, “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again,” spectacle-wise, doesn’t fail to impress, but on every other level, it’s not on par with what I’d call a proper movie. I mean, it has its audience, they might as well enjoy the film, good for them. This movie to me however, it was boring, although in reality, it ended in a much quicker rate than I thought it would. Maybe it’s because it almost felt like nothing happened. If it weren’t for a few pluses sprinkled in or seeing this movie in IMAX, I probably would have lost all sanity. With that being said, I’m going to give “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” a 4/10. Thanks for reading this review! This Wedneday I’m going to see “Skyscraper,” so expect a review for that pretty soon, and speaking of that, be sure to follow my blog so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, have you seen “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” what are your thoughts on it? Or, which of the “Mamma Mia!” films do you like better? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!