DCEU’s Black Adam, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson doesn’t officially hit theaters until October 21, 2022 (with showings in some cities beginning October 20) but there have been several test screenings already and had its official premiere in New York earlier this week.
The official review embargo for Black Adam has lifted and the early reviews are already hitting the internet. As of the time this was written, the current Rotten Tomatoes critics score for Black Adam is an abysmal 53% rotten from 55 reviews.
Nearly 5,000 years after he was bestowed with the almighty powers of the ancient gods–and imprisoned just as quickly–Black Adam (Johnson) is freed from his earthly tomb, ready to unleash his unique form of justice on the modern world.
Here’s a quick rundown of early reviews from critics:
Alonso Duralde from TheWrap said, “The screenplay, from a trio of writers, hardly knows what to do with all these superpowered folks except to fall back on the dullest clichés, including Amon being a superhero obsessive who tries to bring Teth Adam up to speed on capes and catchphrases. The idea of introducing new heroes with powers first, origin later, seems appealing on paper, but knowing nothing about the Justice Society and its members doesn’t make them particularly interesting adversaries for our anti-hero protagonist.”
David Fear from Rolling Stone agrees, “Johnson is not the problem with Black Adam. The former Fast & Furious franchise all-star essentially played a superhero in those movies; given his pump-you-up physique, his ability to bust casts in a single flex and the series’ total disregard for real-world physics, all that was missing was the lightning bolt on his chest. He seems to fit into this world with the greatest of ease, looking serious and destroying things and milking what turns out to be a tragic backstory. Every so often, he gets to pal around with a kid and make a quip. Johnson is once again paired with his Jungle Cruise director Jaume Collet-Serra, and the journeyman filmmaker treats this like he’s guiding his star through yet another Disney ride. Viewed as a light star vehicle with a lot of VFX — a soft Rock movie — it’s simply ho-hum. The issue is with everything else happening onscreen around him. Even by the DCEU’s dodgy standards, it’s a mess in a cape.”
David Ehrlich from indieWire was also not a fan, “There isn’t a single character here that doesn’t feel like a cheap photocopy of one from Gotham or the MCU, not a single beat that doesn’t feel like it hasn’t been audience-tested within an inch of its life, not a single fight scene that isn’t smothered to death by the DCEU’s signature CGI gloop. “The superhero-industrial complex is worth a lot of money,” a character whose name I’ve already forgotten observes at one point, and Black Adam becomes a part of that business with all the fun and enthusiasm of a hedge fund buying $200 million worth of blue chip stocks.”
Brian Truitt from USA Today concurs, “the newest DC film is full of swagger and intensity, yet it sadly lacks character – which is a problem considering Black Adam (★★ out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters Friday) rolls out all sorts of new personalities. This is Johnson’s baby, a film spotlighting a complicated antihero he has championed for years. It wins some battles and packs plenty of punch, yet it just can’t get past familiar tropes and flaws.
Mark Kennedy from Associated Press also agrees, “Director Jaume Collet-Serra and the design team do a great job in every department but are let down by a derivative and baggy screenplay by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani that goes from one violent scene to another like a video game in order to paper over a plot both undercooked and overcooked. At one point, with the audience exhausted by all the carnage, they introduce skeletons who rise up as a legion from hell, just what we wanted.”
Jason Bailey from The Playlist also wasn’t thrilled with the film, “a joyless, glacially paced compendium of interchangeable scenes of people floating around in their goofy masks and capes, tossing clichéd dialogue and CG lightning bolts, and punching each other into buildings. It’s just all so profoundly, undeniably silly – and it’s depressing, frankly, that this is apparently the only thing people want when they go to the movies.”
Those critics definitely made venturing out to the theaters to see The Rock in Black Adam seem like an epic waste of time, but not everyone hated it and the film is getting good reviews too!
John DeFore from Hollywood Reporter said, “Johnson creates a magnetic antihero, volatile and antisocial. He doesn’t fly so much as stalk the sky; he swats opponents like the bundles of weightless CG pixels they are. And this passion project serves the character well, setting him up for adventures one hopes will be less predictable than this one.”
Helen O’Hara from Empire Magazine also didn’t hate it, “Dwayne Johnson and director Jaume Collet-Serra attempt to offer a grand unified theory of DC, mixing family-film tropes with a protagonist who straight-up murders people. The result is sometimes a mess, but it’s a generally entertaining one.”
Scott Mendelson from Forbes was entertained, “The over/under $190 million-budgeted movie looks spectacular, offering a larger-than-life spectacle while keeping the scale and stakes comparatively small. It is generally an unapologetically silly and gleefully violent (in a kid-friendly PG-13 fashion) superpowered smash fest.”
Tim Grierson from Screen International said, “Dwayne Johnson’s larger-than-life physique makes him an ideal actor to play a superhero and Black Adam caters to his strengths, resulting in a reasonably entertaining origin story of a Middle Eastern slave who is transformed into a god. The latest instalment in the DC Extended Universe too often succumbs to the conventions of its genre — it’s a film suffused with hokey punchlines and predictably gaudy action set pieces — but some compelling performances and director Jaume Collet-Serra’s ebullient B-movie flourishes prove to be sufficient compensation.”
Luke Y. Thompson from SuperHeroHype seemed to enjoy it and said, “Black Adam is the cinematic equivalent of a Mountain Dew suicide mix. It’s full of colorful things that fizz and pop, it gets your heart racing, and you’ll have little idea where any of the flavors came from, except feeling fairly certain they don’t exist in nature.”
In ancient Kahndaq, the slave Teth Adam was gifted the almighty powers of the gods. But he used those powers for vengeance and was imprisoned. Now, 5,000 years later, he is freed and once again wields his dark sense of justice onto the world. Refusing to surrender, Teth Adam is challenged by a team of modern-day heroes known as the Justice Society— Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone—who seek to return him to eternalcaptivity.
Directed by Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, Jungle Cruise, Orphan), Black Adam is the 11th film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The film also stars Aldis Hodge as Hawkman, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher, Sarah Shahi as Isis, Marwan Kenzari as Sabbac, Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone and Pierce Brosnan as Doctor Fate.
Once again, Black Adam hits theaters on October 21, 2022 (with showings in some cities beginning October 20).
See the trailer here: