The Discount Spinner Rack: BLACK ADAM (2022)

Over the last few decades, comic book movies have reached heights of storytelling and spectacle that readers could never have DREAMED of. But for every triumphant high—The Dark Knight, The Avengers—there have always been a good number of stinkers… some bad enough to become punchlines or talking points, but most mediocre and ultimately forgotten…

Until they end up here.

The Discount Spinner Rack is where you’ll find the worst, the weirdest, and the most puzzling of comic book movie misfires. We’ll take a look at the things that actually work and the parts that absolutely don’t, and decide whether it’s worth your time and your dime. In the end, movies will be marked down on a scale from $1.00 (a surprise gem) to $0.05 (better used for kindling). This time around, the hierarchy of power on the Discount Spinner Rack is about to change as we look at the most shameless vanity project ever passed off as a superhero movie: 2022’s Black Adam!

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There aren’t a lot of genuine movie stars left in the world these days, y’know? Not just actors, but personalities big enough to sell a movie to audiences just by BEING in it. Hollywood used to be full of ‘em, entire constellations… but in recent decades, it seems like there are only a handful left. And one of them is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Johnson famously started out as a professional wrestler for the WWE (née WWF) under the ring name “The Rock”. Best known for his charismatic trash-talk delivery and his litany of catchphrases (”Can you SMEEEE-EEEEE-LLLLLLLLL-LLLLLLLLLL what the ROCK is cooking?”), Johnson quickly became a big enough superstar in the sport to gain mainstream notoriety—making cameo appearances on That 70’s Show and Star Trek Voyager and hosting an episode of SNL. His transition to the big screen in the early 2000s got off to a slightly rockier start (no pun intended), but in the 2010s his popularity exploded with his role as Luke Hobbs in the Fast and the Furious franchise. By 2022, the Rock had become a brand unto himself, with several huge hits to his name, his own production company, and even a weekly quasi-biographical TV show on NBC titled “Young Rock”.

(Image courtesy of NBC Studios)

But there was one career milestone Dwayne Johnson had not managed to reach, even after two decades in Hollywood: amazingly, the Rock had never played a superhero.

But turns out, it wasn’t for a lack of trying!

See, waaaaay back in the early 2000s, New Line Cinema began development on a Shazam movie, which was going to be directed by Peter Segal (Tommy Boy, The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps). And in 2006, Johnson became attached to the project and was given a choice as to who he wanted to play: either the heroic Captain Marvel (who would be renamed simply “Shazam” in 2011 to prevent rights disputes with Marvel Comics over the name)12, or he could play the antagonist, Captain Marvel’s evil opposite number in a palette-swapped costume3. In 2009, the project was put on hold, but it was revived again in 2014 as part of Warner Bros.’ upcoming DC Extended Universe spinning out of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel… and surprisingly, the Rock was still both attached to star in the Shazam movie, and still undecided as to which character he wanted to play. Once the project started to show signs of life again, however, Johnson finally made his choice: he wanted to be BLACK ADAM.

“The world wanted a decent superhero movie… It got Black Adam.”

Black Adam was created waaaaay back in 19454 by Otto Binder5 and C.C. Beck in the first issue of Marvel Family Comics—back when Shazam (née Captain Marvel) was owned by now-defunct publisher Fawcett Comics.

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The elf ears would have been nice to keep for the movie, but whatever…

The character’s origins have stayed remarkably consistent over the years: see, while young Billy Batson was chosen to be the heroic Captain Marvel by the wizard Shazam because of his pure spirit of goodness and innocence, Adam was chosen to be the FIRST champion of Shazam thousands of years ago. Selecting a seemingly good man from the people of Egypt, the wizard granted Teth-Adam superpowers so that he could become “Mighty Adam” and battle the forces of evil; however, Adam was soon tempted to abuse his power—killing the Pharoah and positioning himself as ruler of the world. The wizard, realizing his mistake, rechristens his failed champion “Black Adam” and banishes him to the farthest star in the cosmos as punishment. But Adam manages to fly back to Earth in a mere 5,000 years, and ultimately battles the Marvel family (Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and Uncle Dudley—don’t ask) in his efforts to get revenge on the wizard and conquer the world!

Adam Origins
… Then they trick him into saying the magic word and he CRUMBLES INTO DUST, which just goes to show you that even the most wholesome superheroes were f%$#ing brutal in the Golden Age…!

In recent decades, however, Black Adam has shifted from being an indisputable supervillain to being a cold-blooded but well-intentioned antihero, whose sole motivations are the defense of his homeland (changed to the fictional North African nation of Kahndaq) and the protection of his loved ones6. Adam would eventually come to conquer Kahndaq and rule it as a dictator—but, like, a “benevolent” one: curbing human rights violations and exploitation, offering sanctuary to superbeings oppressed by other nations, and providing health care, education, and a higher standard of living for Kahndaq’s citizens… but reacting to ANY dissent or threat to his borders or sovereignty with extreme, immediate violence.

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Prosthesis sales are through the ROOF in Kahndaq.

A major part of Adam’s attempt to reform was his choice to join the Justice Society of America, which–

… Oh, God, I have to explain the Justice Society of America TOO?

(*sigh*) Okay. You know the Justice League? Well, the Justice Society was like the beta-testing version of that. Conceived of by editor Sheldon Mayer and writer Gardner Fox in 1940 as an all-star assortment of DC7’s most popular characters, the Society fittingly debuted in All-Star Comics #3 as the very first superhero team in comic book history. The team’s roster included the original Green Lantern (Alan Scott), the original Flash (Jay Garrick), Doctor Fate, Hawkman, the Spectre, and plenty of others (though Superman and Batman were only “honorary members” because they were popular enough to carry their own self-titled comics)8. The team was initially a big sales hit, but when superhero comics began to wane in popularity in the late ‘40s, the Society was inevitably retired… at least, until the superhero boom of the Silver Age occurred, and Gardner Fox came up with a new, retooled version of the concept called the Justice LEAGUE of America (now featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as active members alongside the reimagined Flash and Green Lantern).

I guess a LEAGUE sounded more American than a SOCIETY…?

But where did that leave the Justice Society of America? Well… I’m not going to get into all the convoluted ways writers have found to bring back the original team (alternate universes! Alternate timelines! Doctor Manhattan sneezed once!), but TYPICALLY, the J.S.A. is depicted as simply being the OLD super-team in the DC universe. They literally fought during World War II, they retired during the 1950s McCarthy HUAC hearings rather than reveal their identities publically, and their contemporary membership is made up of either really, really old superheroes (like the original Flash and Green Lantern, who are still hangin’ in there) or younger superheroes who’ve taken on the mantle or powers of legacy members (like Stargirl, whose costume was taken from the Star-Spangled Kid—a real character who really existed, because the ‘40s were a dopey time).

Anyway, they’re a bunch of super-powered old fogeys, and Black Adam was on the team for a while. Because he is technically over 5,000 years old, so he qualified for membership.

By this point they should seriously consider changing their name to the Justice Seniors of America, or possibly the Geezer Society.

Getting back to Rock “the Dwayne” Johnson, the actor had a lengthy conversation with DC creative head (and major Black Adam fanboy) Geoff Johns in 2017, after Warner Bros. studio execs started to worry that it would be a waste of a star of Johnson’s caliber (whose box office appeal had grown considerably since 2006) to feature him as the villain of a movie rather than the lead. It was decided that the project would split into TWO films: a Shazam! movie without Johnson’s involvement (which released in 2019 starring Zachary Levi and ultimately proved to be a success), and a solo Black Adam movie… which they had to build from the ground up, as there was no script in development.

So Adam Sztykiel (Due Date, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip) started churning out drafts while Johnson’s star power just kept snowballing (with Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw and Jumanji: The Next Level drawing huge box-office returns). Johnson was made a producer on the new project; this allowed him to bring aboard Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan) as director, after the filmmaker personally impressed him on the set of Jungle Cruise. But regardless of who was behind the camera, it was becoming clear that this movie was going to be the Rock’s show first and foremost; in the months leading up to the film’s release, Johnson started hyping the production with the claim that “the hierarchy of power in the DC universe is about to change.

… Whatever the f%$# THAT’S supposed to mean.

After a number of production delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Adam was released on October 21st, 2022, to, uh… let’s say a less than enthusiastic reception. Reviews were mixed-to-negative, audiences were lukewarm, and the film ultimately earned $393 million on a reported $260 million budget—which many outlets referred to as a flop9, but which Johnson himself was adamant was a respectable turnout (a claim which he may have leaked some misleading documents to Deadline Hollywood to support).

The behind-the-scenes drama is juicier than anything in the movie itself: an expose in Variety revealed that Dwayne “the Dwayne” Dwayne planned to use the success of Black Adam to install himself and his producing partners as the new brain-trust of DC Films—maneuvering around Warner Bros. boss Walter Hamada to get Henry Cavill back as Superman for a post-credits scene meant to set up a “Superman vs. Black Adam” showdown (as opposed to a “Shazam vs. Black Adam” showdown because, allegedly, Johnson has a “thinly-veiled disdain” for the Shazam! franchise’s comedic tone and refused to cameo—or allow OTHER characters from Black Adam to cameo—in the recent sequel Shazam! Fury of the Gods). But of course, these plans all fell apart when Black Adam underperformed; Warner Bros. soon announced that James Gunn had been chosen to reboot the entire DC Film universe, and Henry Cavill was once and for all ousted as the Man of Steel—leaving the Rock looking somewhat foolish.

… Not that he hasn’t looked foolish before.

All of that is just background, though—what about the actual MOVIE? After over a decade-and-a-half spent on the hook to play a character in this universe, was the Rock actually cooking up something worthwhile? Were the critics wrong? Were audiences wrong? Should we have let Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson take control of the whole cinematic universe and lead DC into a golden age of beefy dudes in spandex laying the smackdown on each other?

I feel like that particular formula REMINDS me of something…

IN THIS ISSUE: “The hierarchy of power”, yadda yadda yadda.

It’s telling that the buzz-phrase the Rock leaned on so hard to promote the movie is about who the STRONGEST fictional being in the universe is, and not about, like… a story or a character or anything. Because this is a movie written from a fixedly juvenile, teenage-dipsh*t mindset that sees superheroes as little more than vectors for spectacular violence and punching, and sees the best superhero as, by definition, being the strongest superhero—the one who can punch all the others into submission and prove he’s the punching-est badass in the universe.

Even large, angry bird-men are no match for him!

It’s also written with this wannabe-edgelord fixation on “darkness” and killing as being super-cool things that make Black Adam better than boring, non-murderous superheroes… despite the fact that superheroes have been killing people on the big screen since 1989. Batman’s done it. The Avengers do it all the time. Hell, Tony Stark committed genocide! It’s nothing special by now.10

Man-Of-Steel-Superman-Zod PRE-SNAP
I mean, the Superman he’s so eager to fight broke a man’s neck with his bare hands on his first day on the job!

So the movie opens with Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) hunting for an ancient McGuffin in the occupied nation of Kahndaq, and discovering it in a tomb. But a bunch of paramilitary bad guys show up to kill her and steal the McGuffin, and she ends up reading an inscription and summoning the ancient champion Teth-Adam (they don’t call him “Black Adam” until the very end of the movie) to stop them. And from that point forward, two-thirds of the movie is just a long series of sequences of people picking fights with Teth-Adam, and Adam completely dominating them with almost no effort. In fact, Johnson barely even MOVES for much of these “action sequences”; Adam is constantly depicted as floating rather than walking, and he deflects bullets and redirects missiles so laconically that he seems half-asleep. 90% of his fighting style is just holding out a hand and zapping people.

When the Justice Society shows up—sent to Kahndaq by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to capture Adam before he, like, destroys the world or whatever—you’d think there’d be some sense of escalating stakes or danger for Adam as he faces people with legitimate superpowers… but he seems just as unconcerned battling Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) or Doctor Fate (an absolutely delightful Pierce Brosnan) as he was battling nameless army goons. The fights are just longer and more drawn out, and Hawkman just keeps getting back up and insisting that he’s gonna kick Adam’s ass somehow. It’s repetitive and completely lacking in tension, and it feels like shameless ego-stroking for its leading man.

“I’m ‘da biggest, toughest big-boy in the whole world!”

The movie may be mostly caught up in smashing its action figures together, but believe me—that’s not the ONLY way it manages to be deliriously stupid.

To wit: Kahndaq is under occupation from an invading military power that is exploiting the nation for a rare natural resource. This is a pretty depressingly familiar scenario in real-world geopolitics, and kind of a gutsy place to start this story out. But rather than making the natural resource something tangible and real—like, say, OIL, or precious metals, or even something like water—the movie elects to make up a magical rock called Eternium that the bad guys can somehow use to make hoverbikes and force fields and whatever contrived G.I. Joe bullsh*t technology they want to pull out of their asses. Interestingly, the Eternium can hurt Adam… but this is only used as a plot point ONCE, at the very beginning, and somehow never manages to be a threat again for the entire rest of the film.

Also, for some reason, rather than Kahndaq being occupied by a foreign government or run by some kind of puppet regime with fealty to a larger imperialist power… it’s been conquered and occupied by INTERGANG, an international criminal cartel, for twenty-seven years. Now, I don’t know what kind of explicitly criminal organization would have the funding or the manpower to conquer an entire nation… but you’d THINK, as they’re not any kind of formal governing body and have no right to be there (they’re certainly not NATIVE to the area; half of their foot soldiers have Australian accents), that the United Nations would have something to say about this? Or a neighboring government? Someone? Anyone?

Even these guys would be helpful!

Of course, it’s obvious why they made the foreign invaders into literal international gangsters as opposed to some kind of legitimate military occupation: because if this were the work of a foreign government, then it would almost certainly have been the work of the UNITED STATES government (what with our long and proud history of imperialism, especially in the Middle East). And they couldn’t make the United States into the bad guys, could they?

… I mean, they COULD have. After all, Amanda Waller specifically calls up the Justice Society because Adam trashed an entire contingent of foreign occupying soldiers. Wouldn’t it make more sense for her to get involved if, specifically, U.S. economic interests were at stake? Like, Adam’s dismantling a puppet government that he sees as illegitimate, and Waller’s pissed because she’s the puppeteer?

Amanda 1
No no no—I’m not making TWO Team America jokes in a row…

But then… that would make the Justice Society explicitly the villains of the story: brightly colored foot-soldiers of American political and economic hegemony! I mean, the team is literally called the Justice Society OF AMERICA—they’re nationalists by definition. So what if these self-righteous, self-proclaimed heroes had to come to terms with the fact that they’re on the wrong side of this conflict, and that trying to “stabilize the region” might actually be doing more harm than good? What if the movie actually took the bold stance that American interventionism and imperialism is bad, and that Black Adam—while an excessively violent and uncompromisingly militant actor in this conflict—might actually be in the right to battle the J.S.A. and flout American interests? Hell, two members of the team—Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell)—are young and clearly idealistic, so what if they became disillusioned with what they were fighting for and the team ended up in conflict with each other as the movie went along? Maybe one of them even defects to join Adam?

… Well, that might have made for a really interesting story… so instead, they do the EXACT OPPOSITE of that.

There’s mostly just a lot of running into battle in slow motion and screaming.

The Justice Society are repeatedly and pointedly chastised for NOT intervening on Kahndaq’s behalf sooner, because Intergang had somehow been running the country for twenty-seven goddamn years and not a SINGLE superhero showed up to do anything about it (nor any world governments, apparently). Man, if only American superheroes (i.e. military forces) had shown up a couple of decades ago, Kahndaq wouldn’t have HAD to get its own superhero and liberate itself! Then in the end, Adam and the Justice Society have to team up to stop an even BIGGER threat, which is… are you sitting down?

It’s a red, horned devil man with a pentagram on his chest who wants to turn Kahndaq into a sovereign nation again.

Devil Man 1
Subtlety is NOT this movie’s cup of tea.

Oh, but it’s so much worse than just that!!! See, while Intergang is a running threat in the movie, the primary antagonist is actually Ishmael Gregor (Marwan Kenzari), a turncoat Kahndaq native who’s joined up with Intergang so he can get his hands on the movie’s McGuffin: the Crown of Sabbac, a spiky headpiece made of pure Eternium that can supposedly grant the wearer unholy powers. Gregor, it turns out, is actually the last descendant of the evil King Ahk-Ton, the ancient tyrannical ruler of Kahndaq whom Adam killed 5,000 years prior—and Gregor’s whole motivation is to reclaim the throne of Kahndaq and turn the nation into a world power again.

So… instead of the exploitative and violent militant occupiers being the real threat here… it’s a native of Kahndaq who’s the REAL menace, and his efforts to reclaim sovereign rule of his homeland is portrayed as making a pact with LITERAL demons from Hell and then battling the forces of America while looking like SATAN HIMSELF.

… Can we just take a moment to appreciate how absolutely shameless the racism and toxic nationalism of this concept is?

Also, take a moment to appreciate that the only character the Rock would allow to get the better of him for even a MOMENT was the giant, muscle-bound demon from Hell… and he STILL rips the guy in half at the end of their first fight.

But for all of the gross failures of the film’s political messaging and its addle-brained juvenilia, there’s really just a single, shining, perfect flaw at the center of this film that explains why it simply does not work. And that flaw ultimately boils down to a single question:

What the hell does Black Adam WANT?

It should be a simple question—and in the comics, it’s pretty straightforward! Adam was a slave who was granted the power of the gods; he uses his powers to liberate and protect his people from oppression and servitude, by any means necessary.

But in the movie, it’s far less clear, because Adam’s backstory is played out as a series of reveals and twists, rather than being told to the audience from the get-go. So for roughly two-thirds of the film, you don’t actually know what the guy WANTS, because the writers Mystery Boxed his motivations and Adam himself refuses to DO much of anything (except for reacting when people pick fights with him).

Statue 2
Like, SO much of this movie is just Adam floating in place and staring silently at a statue.

It starts to get a little worrying when archeologist Adrianna and her son, Amon (Bodhi Sabongui), repeatedly insist that Adam is the champion of Kahndaq who’s totally going to free them from oppression and unite the people of the nation (y’know—the motivation he’s SUPPOSED to have), and Adam just keeps blithely walking (or floating) away from them—only coming to help when they end up in immediate danger, but otherwise seeming to give zero sh*ts about anyone or anything. Then the spectacularly pointless fights with the Justice Society (who want to bring Adam in simply because they see him as a walking WMD, not because he has any particular agenda) just further delay any answers about Adam’s motives from coming out, and eventually the wait becomes tedious. If he doesn’t give a crap about Kahndaq, then what is even this guy’s DEAL?

Well… it’s like this.

See, in the opening prologue and flashbacks, the writers are trying really hard to convince us that the champion Teth-Adam was originally a young boy, chosen by the Council of Wizards because he stood up to the tyranny of Ahk-Ton and demonstrated a love for justice and for his people that the Council deemed worthy. But after two-thirds of the movie have passed with Adam demonstrating ZERO national pride or interest in overthrowing tyranny, we discover that—GASP!—Adam was NOT the young boy who stood up to Ahk-Ton, but rather his father: a humble slave who only ever cared about protecting his family. So when his son Hurut granted him the powers of Shazam to save his life, only to die at the hands of Ahk-Ton’s minions, Adam went berserk—flying to the palace of the king and obliterating it and everyone inside.

He also materializes a black costume out of his RAGE to symbolize how DARK and TORTURED he is. So gritty! So mature!

That was the reason the Council of Wizards sent him to limbo for 5,000 years11. It turns out that Teth-Adam is just an angry @$$hole who sought violent revenge when his family died (which has to be the most overplayed, vacuous origin story in comics at this point) and who only cares about Adrianna and Amon because they remind him of them.

Our hero, ladies and gents.

Worse, this means that Adam really doesn’t HAVE a motivation. Because his family is dead already, and they were the one and only thing he cared about. Adrianna and Amon remind him of them, and he has to keep saving them because they keep getting in trouble with the Intergang occupiers… but that’s an entirely passive goal for him. He doesn’t try to form a real relationship with either of them… he doesn’t share any memories of his life 5,000 years ago with Adrianna12, or talk with Amon about anything more meaningful that what his superhero catchphrase should be (an insufferable running gag that wears out its welcome almost immediately). Adam just listens as they talk AT him, pleading with him to do something meaningful to actually help the people of Kahndaq. But he doesn’t choose to be Kahndaq’s protector until the climax of the goddamn film; for three-quarters of the movie’s runtime, he’s completely adrift—bouncing between pointless fight scenes and exchanging hollow, posturing banter with the people he fights.

There’s only so many times you can hear the man say he’s a badass to the guy in the silly bird helmet before you start to question why he feels he has to keep saying it.

Now, this MIGHT have been a workable situation if Black Adam was at least a consistent and compelling character to watch. But even the basic details of his characterization don’t make any sense!

We’re told that Adam was a normal, human, adult slave before he got his powers; he killed the king of Kahndaq immediately after his son died GIVING him those powers, and then shortly thereafter was banished to formless limbo for 5,000 years. So he hasn’t really HAD them for very long, strictly speaking—you’d expect that he wouldn’t really be USED to having those powers, right? ‘Cause he grew up as a normal, powerless man. Heck, a running plot point in the film involves how Adam can’t control his power when he gets angry; he basically explodes with lightning when he gets pissed off enough, and the climactic moment of his battle with Red Horned Satan-Man is him taking control and focusing his power AT Sabbac when he “detonates”.

But from the minute that Adam arrives in the present, he floats from place to place rather than walking. There’s a running gag about him cavalierly smashing through walls rather than using doors. He doesn’t seem to understand figures of speech, sarcasm, or basic human behavior, and his attitude towards humanity is dismissive and completely detached. Adam doesn’t ACT like a PERSON—he acts like an alien, as if he’s supposed to be some kind of higher being (like a god) with no concept of how to behave on a human scale. They try to give him a sort of rapport with Amon where the precocious kid has to teach the powerful alien guy how to operate in the world—“a boy and his superhero”, you might say—but this angle is barely explored (because Adam is too busy fighting superheroes and bragging about how tough he is), so Johnson just comes across for the whole film like he’s an inhuman robot.

Oh, God… Dwayne Johnson thought this was going to be his Terminator 2, didn’t he?

And that’s really the biggest failure of this whole stupid affair. Once you get past the adolescent hype about changing “the hierarchy of power in the DC universe” or the pretense of the film delivering some kind of a story, Black Adam is nakedly, transparently a vanity-driven star vehicle… that somehow managed to leave out all of its central star’s greatest strengths as a performer.

Dwayne Johnson is undeniably a charming, likeable actor with lots of charisma—but he’s trying to play a dour, brooding, deeply unlikeable lead character. The Rock also has an incredible physicality that lends itself naturally to practical fight scenes and stunt work—so they put him in endless C.G.I. driven action sequences and have him playing a character who barely has to move when he’s using his powers. And they might have been able to get away with it if even the barest minimum of effort had been put into the rest of the film… but the actual movie surrounding Johnson is just a sketch, a mere suggestion of a story clearly meant to be held aloft by star power and empty spectacle alone.

It’s the worst of all possible worlds.

… But at least Pierce Brosnan seemed to be having a delightful time.

IS IT WORTH YOUR DIME?: Jimminy Christmas, NO! Black Adam is cynical Hollywood slop at its very worst: a garish kaleidoscope of shiny C.G.I. painting over the cracks of a half-baked script and headlined by a swollen macho cipher whose greatest obstacle in the film is figuring out when best to deliver a f%$#ing catchphrase while he murders people. My advice: just watch Shazam! again instead.

I mean, Zachary Levi is a douchebag too, but at least he’s not producing the damn movie…



  1. The Doctor is In: I think everyone can agree that, for all of the movie’s faults, casting Pierce Brosnan as the DC universe’s resident sorcerer superhero, Dr. Fate, was pretty much a masterstroke. Somehow, even in the midst of all the nonsense going on around him, Brosnan brings tremendous charm and humor to the role; the warmth of his friendship with Hawkman is the sole human connection you actually BELIEVE in the entire film. He also has a really awesome costume (which is entirely C.G.I., because Brosnan isn’t really in the best shape for a spandex jumpsuit these days)…
    Fate SuitAnd he even gets a legitimately moving death scene! At the end of the film, knowing that one of the team will have to die to defeat Sabbac, Fate puts up a magical barrier to keep Hawkman and the others from joining the fight—sacrificing himself to save his friend. Having been burdened with visions of the future for his whole life, Fate says to Hawkman, “for the first time in 100 years, when I look ahead, I see… nothing. And it’s beautiful.”
  2. Super-Adam: So the big, triumphant third-act moment is when Adam FINALLY decides to fight to protect the people of Kahndaq, and his “””growth“”” as a character is symbolized by a change in costume. Up to now, Adam’s suit had been totally black save for the heavily tarnished orange-yellow of his symbol—and it initially started out with an orate hooded cloak that gets completely shredded in his first major action sequence. But for the climax, the logo and trimming of Adam’s costume turn into a vibrant golden yellow, and he suddenly has a suspiciously Superman-like cape tucked into the neckline of the suit. Kinda gives the game away that Johnson was trying to turn Black Adam into his version of the Man of Steel, but whatever—at least it’s colorful!
    Adam's new duds
  3. Game of Thrones: So this is such a minor thing, but when Sabbac shows up in the final act and brings down the Justice Society’s Nth-Metal super-plane, the team piles out and starts battling the big devil-man… and Hawkman tosses out a conspicuously ADR’ed line: “no matter what happens, he does NOT sit on that throne!” This is because, when Sabbac sits on the throne of Kahndaq, it opens a portal to Hell (which, yes, means this movie features a Climactic SkyBeam™) and raises a zombie army. But the thing is… no one told this to Hawkman. Or to US, for that matter—this is literally the first time the movie mentions a specific danger relating to a throne. So it seems to ME that the writer forgot to establish any specific urgency for the climactic battle against Sabbac, and just had them all fighting him because he’s a big devil-man… and then in editing, they realized there was no tension, no looming danger in the scene, so they threw in a line to explain why they had to stop him as soon as possible. Cheap Filmmaking Fixes 101!
  4. “DARKNESS!”: Y’know how I can tell this screenplay was written by a glue-huffing teenager instead of a grown adult? It’s the number of times characters refer to Adam as “dark” in the actual frickin’ dialogue. “The world doesn’t always need a white knight; sometimes it needs something DARKER,” Dr. Fate intones. “It’s his DARKNESS that lets him do what heroes like you cannot,” Adrianna chides. But… “dark” is a broad description of TONE, not a specific quality you can ascribe to a person; it’s like the writer is trying to weasel in hype for the movie itself under the guise of characters talking about the lead. Now, “moody“, “brooding“, “dour“, “brutal“—THOSE are appropriate descriptors for a person (and for Black Adam in particular), but none of them sound particularly complimentary… Nor do they ring with the same air of smug self-satisfaction from a movie that’s convinced that its lead is singularly badass because he doesn’t save cats from trees.
  5. A Taste of Things (Never) to Come: So that ending credits stinger sure does hit differently now that we know it was an ego-driven power move from a raging narcissist trying to wrest control of a cinematic universe away from studio heads, right? Amanda Waller (via hologram drone) issues Adam an ultimatum, Adam sneers at her and zaps the drone, and then from the smoke, Henry Cavill’s Superman shows up and says “we should talk,” and Adam gets one of his “I can’t wait to kick this guy’s ass” smirks before we cut to black. It’s a DELIBERATE promise of a showdown between Superman and Black Adam, not to mention the return of Cavill to the role of the Man of Steel… and that promise was thoroughly junked a mere two months later, when Warner Bros. announced that they were rebooting the whole universe with a new Superman film. Turns out, the only one who wanted to see this particular showdown was Dwayne Johnson himself. Maybe he was just really eager to compare biceps.
Cavill Supes
And they’d FINALLY figured out how to give Cavill an “S” curl, too… It’s just a damn shame.

NEXT ISSUE: We’ve been sticking to movie adaptations from the Big Two comic publishers a lot lately… so how ‘bout we look at a movie based on a quirky, little-known Dark Horse Comics property: the oddball wannabe superheroes from 1999’s cult action-comedy Mystery Men!