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!

Elvis (2022): A Movie So Bad That Not Only Was Tom Hanks Unable To Save It, He Sullied It

“Elvis” is directed by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby) and stars Austin Butler (Life Unexpected, Switched at Birth), Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Cast Away), Olivia DeJonge (The Visit, The Society), Helen Thomson (Bad Mothers, Stupid, Stupid Man), and Richard Roxborough (Moulin Rouge!, Mission: Impossible II). This film is a biopic on the iconic musician Elvis Presley. The movie providers glimmers of his childhood in addition to his life in music and movies. There is also a shining of light on Presley’s relationship with his manager, Tom Parker.

I was looking forward to “Elvis” ever since I saw the trailer. It looked electric, zazzy, and colorful. I also will admit that I enjoy listening to Elvis Presley every once in a while as “Suspicious Minds” is sometimes a notable song choice of mine when I am writing. I am not a hardcore Elvis fanatic, but I was quite curious to get to know more about the iconic musician’s life and perhaps see a killer performance from Austin Butler. While Butler has had plenty of acting experience, this is undoubtedly the role that will make him a star, and not just because he’s playing a star. This leads me to my most prominent positive of the film, which is that Austin Butler does not waste a second on the screen.

Similar to how Rami Malek practically transformed into Freddie Mercury in 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Austin Butler gives a performance for the ages. In fact one thing that I think Butler does better in his performance as Presley compared to Malek as Mercury is that we actually hear Butler sing. There are snippets of the movie where Presley’s actual voice can be heard, but unlike Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the singing sequences in “Elvis” were not completely lip synced. Butler also looks like a king in this film. Speaking of which, one notable element of Elvis Presley that I often think of is like some modern musicians like Megan Thee Stallion or Cardi B, there is some definite sex appeal that had been accurately reflected in the movie. Sometimes this comes with the idea that the sexualization goes too far. Young people, especially women, are seen in this movie losing their minds the moment they see Presley himself. I liked this aspect of the film, I thought it was perfectly showcased.

Butler gives a transformative, otherworldly portrayal of a musician who has not been alive since the 1970s, but somehow has risen from the dead just to stand in front me as I eat popcorn for two and a half hours. It is undoubtedly one of the best performances of the year. I think they made a good choice on casting Butler, not only because he’s a great actor, but unlike say Harry Styles, who was in the running to play the character, Butler is way less recognizable, which I think comes off as less of a distraction. This adds, again, more of a transformation factor than anything else. Although I was delighted to know that before “Elvis,” Butler’s most recent outing was in the insanely good “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” where he slays as Tex Watson. There is no denying it, Austin Butler was perfect in “Elvis.”

Too bad almost every other aspect of the movie pales in comparison.

Speaking of performances, let’s talk about Tom Hanks. Unlike Austin Butler, it is almost certain that most moviegoers would watch a movie just because Tom Hanks is in it. He is great in everything he does, except for “Elvis.” Tom Hanks plays Elvis Presley’s sleazy, gambling addict manager by the name of Tom Parker. Judging this performance is incredibly difficult. Because on one hand, Tom Hanks plays a much different role than I am used to seeing him in. This is a rare instance where Hanks actually plays an antagonist, so I appreciate that Hanks is trying to drift away from always being typecast as Mr. Nice Guy. But this is not only not Hanks’s bread and butter, he delivers a performance that feels weirdly over the top and stereotypical. Granted, it kind of matches the tone of the film, which almost feels animated at times. When I think of Elvis Presley, the artist, I think of lively, vibrant music that often lights up a room. Tom Hanks definitely feels animated. As for lively and vibrant, not so much. And that accent got on my nerves real fast…

Let’s put it this way, Tom Hanks has had a long and prestigious career as an actor to the point where he has done many great films like “Toy Story,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” and fairly recently, the somewhat overlooked “News of the World.” Of course he has had bad days at the office. Just look at “The Circle,” a movie that almost ruins the reputations of several iconic names in Hollywood like Emma Watson and Patton Oswalt. Even in a bad or fairly mediocre Tom Hanks movie like “Sully,” Hanks is never the problem. He gives it his all. “Elvis” is a rare instance that not only is the movie atrocious, but Tom Hanks gives one of the worst performances I have seen from him. I do not completely blame Hanks. I think in terms of makeup and costume design, his character looked transformative. Hanks himself, once again, sort of diverged from being a “nice guy” that not only audiences are used to seeing, but people claim him to actually be in real life. The directing and script are the real problem here. Tom Parker comes off as one of the most stereotypical and cliche characters of his kind in cinematic history.

It also feels weird knowing that this movie is called “Elvis” and yet it almost feels more like “The Tom Parker Chronicles” in disguise. I mean, sure, in a way, Parker was a monumental part of Elvis Presley’s legacy. But when I go into “Elvis,” I want, well, Elvis, taking up as much spotlight as he can. The movie IS about Elvis, but it almost does not feel that way at times. I am almost surprised we did not see Tom Parker in a mid-credits scene suddenly walk out on stage, bedazzled, singing a snippet of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

Here is a fun fact for you all, so far, the only movie in history to have not just been nominated, but win both an Oscar and a Razzie is the 1987 film “Wall Street.” Michael Douglas won an Oscar for Best Actor and Daryl Hannah won a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress. This is a shot in the dark prediction, because awards season is technically still on the rise. Although I think there is a solid chance that “Elvis” could categorize itself as one of two films to win both the Oscar and the Razzie. I can see Austin Butler winning Best Actor, and I can see Tom Hanks winning Worst Supporting Actor. It goes to show how much of a mish mash “Elvis” feels like. This film comes off as a Saturday morning cartoon, a grounded drama, and unfortunately, a confused narrative. I think the confusion is best summed up in one of the first lines, where Tom Parker introduces himself.

“For those of you who are wondering who this fella here is, I am the legendary Colonel Tom Parker. I am the man who gave the world Elvis Presley. Without me, there would be no Elvis Presley. And yet, there are some who’d make me out to be the villain of this here story.” -Tom Parker

Yes, there are movies I like where the villain technically becomes the hero of the story. “Avengers: Infinity War,” despite having “Avengers” in the title, starts and ends with Thanos, the man who wants to rid of half the universe’s population. But not only did he feel fleshed out, I bought into the character. Similarly, there are movies about self-absorbed, entitled morons that make themselves out to be the hero, like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and if it is written and directed in a certain way, it can work. “Elvis” honestly feels inconsistent, and part of it is because Parker needlessly steals the spotlight in every other scene. There are scene stealers, and then there are scene hijackers, like Tom Parker. Tom Parker comes off as a paper thin cartoon within a grounded story. It is kind of like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” if Roger Rabbit had actual human flesh.

I should not be surprised, but as I watched this movie, I failed to realize perhaps the greatest source of my pain, the director, Baz Luhrmann. Baz Luhrmann directed and co-wrote “Elvis.” This film definitely has a style, but despite its occasional ease on the eyes and ears, the movie travels at the speed of a rocket. Only thing is, I am not in the rocket, I am hanging right by the engine. It feels like I was watching “Run Lola Run” but if the runtime were doubled. This is probably the closest I have come to having a headache while watching a movie in a theater. Now, Baz Luhrmann did not direct “Run Lola Run.” He did direct other glitzy, glossy films like “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby.” I have not seen those movies. But I did see another film from Luhrmann, the 1997 “Romeo + Juliet.” I understand what the movie was going for by trying to modernize the classic Shakespearean play. Perhaps give it more of an oomph for people who tend to nap during class readings and discussions of William Shakespeare. But I genuinely thought it was one of the most annoying and mind-numbing movies I have ever watched. “Elvis” is more entertaining, but compared to “Romeo + Juliet,” it suffers from a longer runtime and pacing issues. “Elvis” is 2 hours and 39 minutes long, and yet it feels like an eternity at times.

Speaking of negativity and hate, let’s dive into another positive. Trust me, this makes sense. Like other modern musicians such as Kanye West, Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber, Elvis definitely had his haters. While I was not a fan of the Tom Parker character and his portrayal from Tom Hanks, one thing I did like is how all out this movie went to showcasing the merchandising for Presley. They even sold “hate” merchandise which upon one’s purchase, the money from said purchase goes directly to Parker and Presley themselves. This is genius and I think if we lived in a non-Internet age, we could have seen more of this from other high profile names, including politicians. Unfortunately for the movie “Elvis,” the negatives outweigh the positives. Therefore, if I had to buy a button symbolizing my thoughts in regard to the movie, it would probably lean toward the “hater” route. Baz Luhrmann is a director who knows his style, but leaves much to be desired when it comes to delivering an entertaining narrative.

In the end, “The Tom Parker Chron–” sorry, got confused for a sec… In the end, “Elvis” is a long, overblown, glitz and glamour fest that melted my brain. It is sad to say that perhaps the most positive thing I can say about “Elvis” is that it is at least more watchable than “Romeo + Juliet.” But much like “Romeo + Juliet,” I cannot see myself ever watching “Elvis” again even if I were promised a million bucks. This is the movie that is going to be remembered as both Austin Butler’s big break, and yet, one of the worst days at the office for acting legend Tom Hanks. I am going to give “Elvis” a 3/10.

“Elvis” in now playing in theatres and is also available on HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of music-based films, my next review is going to be for the brand new Japanese animation “Inu-Oh.” The film follows a dancer and a musician who develop a friendship and perform for crowds across the land. If you want to see 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 “Elvis?” What did you think about it? Or, have you seen any other Baz Luhrmann films? Tell me your thoughts on the ones you like or dislike. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!