Review for Black Adam
When it comes to my entertainment buying habits, I feel that there is a whole lot of inertia in my interests. I keep on going long after the shine has faded on a franchise. It’s how I wound up with all of Star Trek Voyager on VHS, and the New Jedi Order novels in the Star Wars expanded universe; aspects of those particular franchises I never really enjoyed, but kept on buying on hope, and that collector’s instinct to have it all. With the DC Universe films, that inertia has been even more pronounced. While I liked the first three Star Trek series, and much of what had come before in Star Wars, I kicked off with disappointment with the Man of Steel feature film, and in the hope of something better, just kept with it. Batman v Superman, Justice League, the first Suicide Squad movie, did nothing to quell that sense of disappointment. It’s only recently, with Birds of Prey and the second Suicide Squad that I’ve finally seen films delivering on the promise of the franchise. It’s not a stellar hit rate to be honest, and explains why I was stood there in the supermarket for ten minutes, with this Blu-ray in my hand, asking myself if I really did want to buy Black Adam...
The first human civilisation flourished in the land of Kahndaq, but it wasn’t long before a tyrant arose, enslaving the nation to toil in search of the powerful Eternium mineral. King Ahk-ton wanted to forge a magical crown that would give him ultimate power. The Council of Wizards took a child from Kahndaq, and gave him the power of the gods in turn, to liberate his people from the tyrant. Ahk-ton fell, and the crown was lost to the ages. And the people of Kahndaq awaited the return of their champion.
That’s the legend that has been passed down to the present day, when Kahndaq really could do with a champion, having been invaded and taken over by the criminal Intergang organisation, intent in strip-mining Kahndaq’s resources, and seeking out that lost crown. And they don’t care how many of the locals die in the process. But there is a resistance movement, who plan to find the crown first and hide it where Intergang can never find it. The search leads them to an ancient mountain, where not only is the crown secreted, but also the tomb of the champion, ready to rise to defend his people. But while Black Adam may have godlike power, he’s no champion, and indeed might be the greatest threat the world has ever seen.
Black Adam comes with a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with the choice between Dolby Atmos and DD 5.1 Surround English, DTS HD-MA 5.1 Surround Italian, and DD 5.1 Surround English Audio Descriptive, with subtitles in these languages and Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. And once again, all I can say is that if you want better than this, you’ll have to buy the 4k disc. This is probably as good as it gets when it comes to image quality, clear and sharp, with strong colour, bring across the world of Black Adam to impressive effect. The only nit I have to pick with the audio is that this is another Atmos track where I have to whack the volume way up, but once there, the balance is good, the surround truly immersive, making the most of the action and the music while keeping the dialogue clear for the most part.
You get one disc in a thin BD Amaray style eco-case, with bits cut out of the plastic, although the o-card slipcover might go some way to keeping the dust out.
The disc boots to a static menu, and you’ll find the following extras.
The History of Black Adam (10:08)
Who is the Justice Society (14:16)
From Soul to Screen (6:09)
Black Adam: A Flawed Hero (5:09)
Black Adam: New Tech in an Old World (4:49)
Black Adam: Taking Flight (3:32)
Kahndaq: Designing a Nation (5:42)
Costumes Make the Hero (8:25)
Black Adam: A New Type of Action (6:38)
That was a pleasant surprise. I know that of late, the DC Universe films have had their issues, with a change at the helm, and a clearing of the board which leaves a lot or projects and actors in limbo, or worse. But around the end of, shall we say the Snyder era, the films were starting to find their feet with the aforementioned second Suicide Squad movie, and Birds of Prey. Black Adam is up there in terms of quality and entertainment value, with Dwayne Johnson perfectly cast as the titular super-anti-hero.
Unlike many of the comic book adaptations, Black Adam has something of a strong message at its core, when it comes to the fictional nation of Kahndaq and how it is presented. It’s pretty much a third world country, effectively an anarchy in the hands of organised crime. It could be any leader who comes to power by questionable means, whether through rigged elections or military coups. The fantasy of a criminal gang running a country is out there, but the effects on the nation’s citizens are not.
Into this world returns the ancient champion of Kahndaq, Black Adam, and eventually he goes about dealing with the interlopers with a brutal finality. And how does the ‘civilised’ world respond to this? They send the Justice Society to stop Black Adam to maintain global stability, while they did nothing while Intergang pillaged the country. That message is so on point that it easily cuts through the fantasy action, whereas most such allegories in genre movies get buried.
There is a whole lot of culture clash fun to the movie though to counterbalance the darkness in the story. Black Adam is a man out of time; essentially an ancient Egyptian analogue brought to the modern world, albeit with enough magical power to deal with the unknown through strength, confidence, and the impressive magical ability to speak English. His morality is black and white though, right and wrong, good and evil are absolutes, and he deals with his foes with that kind of finality. Having to exist in a world with more shades of grey takes some adapting to, and he finds a young mentor to teach him about the new world. It’s a dynamic akin to young John Connor and the T800 in Terminator 2, but done much better. And it’s that culture clash that carries through the film and makes for much of the comedy. There’s also humour in the way the Justice Society interact, four heroes recruited to deal with the Black Adam situation, and whose dynamic harks back to the Suicide Squad movie (second); a kind of lightly antagonistic friendship that is a lot of fun.
Black Adam is one of the better DC Universe offerings, but it begins and ends with disappointment. Like most films these days, you can see elements of other, older movies with, and this has many, as well as explicitly referencing a Spaghetti Western, there’s a Raiders moment and an X-Men moment. But I had the fear of god put into me as the movie began, and I was reminded of The Scorpion King. Black Adam also had one of the coolest post credits coda scenes, until James Gunn took over at DC, and instantly turned it into a regrettable what-if. The Blu-ray’s up to snuff, and the extras features are short but sweet in the usual EPK sort of way. Black Adam is well worth a watch.