Plot: What’s it about?
At this point, you either can’t stand Dwayne Johnson or you can’t get enough of him. Judging by the amount of films he’s in on a yearly basis, I’m going with the latter. Johnson, a former college football star, turned professional wrestler, turned actor – has been in the limelight for over two decades. He’s provided us with countless action/adventure/comedic roles, has bulked up, shaved his head and seemingly has the Midas touch for any project he’s associated with. That said, we’ve never really seen him play the role of the antagonist, though it might be argued that his breakout role in The Mummy Returns does, in fact, count. Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of the DC Universe, this one has a few new faces in the mix (how many times can we see Superman and Batman?) with Johnson taking the lead as Black Adam – a warrior who has been imprisoned for 5,000 years, is reborn in the modern world, and gifted with godlike abilities. Intrigued? Read on. If not – don’t.
The film takes place in a fictional country called Kahndaq. There a powerful crown was hidden after a king tried to use (and abuse) it’s power. Not that it matters too much, we all know the crown is a MacGuffin. We meet Adrianna (Sarah Shahi), an explorer who’s seeking the crown so that they might liberate the people from a repressive regime. She manages to unleash Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson), someone who’s been imprisoned for nearly 5,000 years – as long as the crown has been concealed. He’s got a temper, and rightfully so, though Adrianna feels that he can be of use. Meanwhile we’ve got the Justice Society, who’s brought into capture Adam, believing him to be a threat. It’s led by Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and others like Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan). Can the Justice League stop Black. Adam or is all hope lost?
Admittedly, seeing a new group of superheroes from the DC Universe is a good thing. As I alluded to above, we can only see Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman so many times, right? But as more and more characters are unveiled, they get more obscure. I remembered Hawkman from some cartoons (I think), but the others were all “new” to me. The real struggle I had with the movie is taking Johnson in this role seriously. We’re so accustomed to seeing him play the good guy that when he goes against that persona he’s built, it’s a shock to the system. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bloodthirsty psychopath here, but Superman he’s not. Black Adam could have set the stage for a new wave of films to come. Did it? Time will tell.
Video: How’s it look?
One thing is for certain: if it’s a good-looking image you’re after then look no further. Black Adam personifies essentially everything that’s synonymous with a perfect picture. The 2.39:1 HEVC 4K image leaves nothing to the imagination. Yes, if you’re in the mood to see Johnson’s bulging arms (and legs) fill out his “Black Adam” suit, it’s stunning in 4K. Though I get the feeling that, by now, we’re all “been there, done that” with him and his physique. Much like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 80’s and 90’s, Johnson is his modern day replacement. The film itself packs an ample punch with bright, bold colors, HDR offers a bit more contrast than the Blu-ray counterpart and I was hard-pressed to find something, anything wrong with this image.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Not to be outdone, the included Dolby Atmos mix pulls no punches in the audio department. I found this an active and engrossing mix that left my head a bit sore from me turning around too much. You’d figure with all the movies I watch, I’d be used to a good-sounding track and wouldn’t react like that. You’d be wrong. Vocals are top notch, Johnson’s deep, commanding voice takes front and center. Rear surrounds are always active and the height channels seemed to be a lot more playful in this one than others. It’ll keep all of your speakers going, that’s for sure.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- The History of Black Adam – Sarah Shahi hosts, shedding light on Black Adam’s compelling and complex history and revealing the many iterations of the character from the 1940’s to the present day.
- Who is the Justice Society? – Aldis Hodge hosts as we delve deep into the history of the world’s first and greatest supergroup of metahumans: The Justice Society.
- From Soul to Screen – Dwayne Johnson and his producing partner, Hiram Garcia, explore the decades-long journey to bring Black Adam to the screen and Dwayne’s emotional and mental preparation for the character.
- Black Adam: A Flawed Hero – All superheroes live and die by a code – but what is the code of a near-god? Here, Dwayne Johnson offers his take on what “Black Adam justice” means as we unpack the trick business of introducing the DC Extended Universe’s first real antihero.
- Black Adam: New Tech in an Old World – While Black Adam is 5,000 years old, the 21st century introduces him to a high-tech world. Here, we explore the technology of modern Kahndaq and take a look at the design of Hawkman’s Hawk Cruiser.
- Black Adam: Taking Flight – Learn about the various rigs, robotic arms and innovative technology deployed to make Black Adam fly like no other superhero in history.
- Kahndaq: Designing a Nation – Jaume Collet-Serra, Dwayne Johnson and the design team shed light on the mythological country of Kahndaq, revealing the artistic inspirations for the world.
- The Rock of Eternity – After being sealed for centuries, Black Adam is finally awoken and reintroduced to the world. Step inside the tomb and learn why Black Adam’s “birth” was such an important sequence and how it sets the tone for the antihero’s personality.
- Costumes Make the Hero – The costume design duo Kurt and Bart give audiences a showcase of the most exciting costumes in the film, including Black Adam, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Cyclone and Atom Smasher.
- Black Adam: A New Type of Action – An exploration of the extensive fight and stunt choreography Dwayne Johnson and the members of the JSA went through to make sure Black Adam’s fighting style felt fresh and real.
The Bottom Line
To DC’s credit, they’re trying. It’s hard to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But are audiences ready for Dwayne Johnson in the role of an antihero? The film did manage to pull in $400 million worldwide, which nearly doubled its budget, but when you figure Marvel movies do about double that – it’s telling. Still, for those that are fans of the “hero” in this film or Johnson or both – this is reference-quality material here.