Thursday, October 20, 2022

Lots of commotion, too few thrills


   Dwayne Johnson finds a superpower showcase in Black Adam, the latest entry into the DC Comics Universe. Johnson plays a character with superpowers but his Adam also has a vengeful side, which is supposed to make him more interesting — at least on paper.
   A noise machine built around a flood of unimpressive action, the movie features many battles in which bolts of lightning shoot from the fingertips of heroes and villains. There's enough zapping here to run a zillion microwaves but none of it has much real charge.
   A prologue explains how Adam acquired his superpowers by taking us back the ancient kingdom of Kahndaq where an enslaved Adam loses his wife and young son and finds himself in a state of suspended animation (or something like it) for 5,000 years. 
   Thanks to Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) Adam is revived in present-day Kahndaq,  a Middle Eastern-style country that is being invaded by militaristic thugs. The people of Kahndaq are not free.
   Adrianna comes into possession of a crown (well, it had to be something) that everyone else in the movie seems to want. Why not? It's made of Eternium. Ah, you say, that explains everything.
  Later, Adrianna’s son Amon (Bohdi Sabongui) will be kidnapped and Adrianna will implore Adam to help rescue the kid.
   Another story intersects with Adam’s. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) wants to combat Adam by assembling a special team dubbed The Justice Society. Calling this four-member group a "society" stretches the term, but I guess Justice Quartet would impose too severe a limit on future growth.
   Society members include Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo). An idiosyncratic array of powers, none of them especially intriguing, is distributed throughout the group.
    Toward the end, the movie goes sentimental over the friendship between Hawkman and the self-sacrificing Doctor Fate. My heart strings remained unplucked.  
    Adam, who flies but more often seems to float like a balloon in a Thanksgiving day parade, wants revenge for the murder of his wife and son five millennia ago.  Say this: The man knows how to hold a grudge.
   The only looming question: Will Adam unite with the Justice Society to help save Amon, presumably so that the kid can continue skate boarding through Kahndaq’s deteriorating streets?
   The future of a free Khandaq may also hang in the bargain.
   Not enough? Eventually, a character called Sabbac  (Marwan Kenzari) emerges to lead the legions of hell against …well … just about everyone. 
    Oh well, I liked the name. Sabbac has ring to it, don’t you think? 
    The movie makes attempts at humor but they are, for the most part, just that: attempts.
     To make the already obvious even clearer, the movie uses the Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black to underline some of the clangorous action. 
      Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s best bit arrives in a postscript that involves a surprise appearance. Talk about too little too late.
    Will there be more Black Adam movies? I don't know but it might be best to say Shazam and hope for the best.
    And if you don’t know about Shazam, don’t worry. You’ll probably be doing something else this weekend anyway.

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