By Kai Curry
Northwest Asian Weekly
When does justice become revenge? If someone kills your family, and you go after them, is that justice or revenge? Also, do you put them in prison or go for the whole “eye for an eye” thing and kill them?
The latter is what Black Adam prefers and boy, can he not stop getting roasted for it? “Black Adam,” the latest installment on the DC side of comic-books-turned-movies, has too much moralizing, too many characters, and too much damn interrupting rock music.
I really hate how both DC and Marvel continually preach morals to us that they pass off as universal. As if a whole country such as, oh I don’t know, America is 100% down with them. For Marvel it’s invariably, “I must save X person instead of the entire world,” while for DC it is, “Heroes do not kill.”
Everybody knows Black Adam’s iconic answer: “Well I do.”
I’m all for individuals having their own beliefs. I’m tired of being preached to. We all love an antihero like Black Adam, yet why do these mythical moralistic heroes still bombard us? Also, how about just showing us instead of telling us? The constant nagging dialogue, especially from Hawkman to Black Adam about how he needs to tow the line is just annoying and overdone.
“His darkness lets him do what heroes like you can’t,” defends Black Adam’s number two fan, Adrianna, who maybe is future Isis, but I’m not going to commit to that, since apparently neither do DC nor Marvel when it comes to these characters’ origin stories. His number one fan is Amon, Adrianna’s son, a conglomeration of all the characters named Amon in the comics, and a constant reminder to Black Adam of his own son—which is also a new story from when the comic was first released in 1945.
Black Adam—or Teth Adam, which translates to Mighty Adam—is eviler in the first installments of the comic. He lives in Egypt, is part of the pharaoh’s family, and betrays everyone when bewitched by Blaze, a daughter of Shazam. Black Adam is the original person imbued with Shazam’s power, and later Billy Baston is chosen because Black Adam is punished for using the power for bad. Little fact is that it’s Baston’s dad, C.C., who finds Black Adam’s tomb in the first stories—here, it’s Adrianna and a traitorous companion, Ishmael, who live in the country of Kahndaq, which is in North Africa now, not Egypt, and is overrun by conquerors. Lately, it’s the “Intergang,” whom Amon and Adrianna beg Black Adam to save them from.
Problem is the Justice League has caught wind of Black Adam being released from his prison/tomb and are en route to stop him from, well, being himself.
Mainly ‘cause they’ve got a Wikipedia article about all the bad stuff he did and don’t really know him any other way. So he’s a menace to them, but a help to the besieged people of Kahndaq. They don’t know that he does bad things because the former king of Kahndaq murdered his son and also because he just gets so darn mad that he can’t control his powers, which sure, is something he could work on.
The Justice League sends an oddly mismatched team to quell this threat: four heroes who are four heroes too many. Why couldn’t we just have Black Adam’s origin story, which would have been plenty, and put this in a sequel?
It wasn’t confusing, exactly, just too much going on. What was confusing was why send two complete novices—Cyclone and Atom Smasher—who’ve never done a mission before, to fight one of the most powerful beings of all time?
The original user of magic. With the might of gods? Also, the Rock. Who might be a god. And where in the hell is everyone else while Kahndaq is imploding and exploding at the same time? Does the Justice League not check in with their weirdly ambiguous head honcho, Amanda Waller, at all?
Maybe it’s an example of all the shitshows that happen around the world and nobody really does anything, right? Outside of the region itself. Maybe one or two human heroes take it upon themselves to sign up for a war that’s not theirs (I’m looking at you, Andy Huynh and Alexander Drueke, in the Ukraine).
I always wonder in these types of preachy movies if you’re being given analogies for real life. Are the imperialists the United States? When Black Adam says, “We weren’t just free, we were great,” is he suddenly Donald Trump? It’s hard to ignore that.
Let’s talk about the music. Here’s my take: If the movie is not “Baby Driver,” then it does not need constant accompanying rock music—especially if the music is not even synced properly with the action. What in the world is the big, long silence before Black Adam does something badass because we are all, it seems, waiting for the song to kick in? It’s unforgivably distracting and tells me that there’s a hole somewhere in your creation that you have to fill with music to cover up for it. A good movie does not need any music. It should complement, not carry.
“Black Adam” is weirdly slow, even with the music, and the humor rarely hits. Amon is not convincing as a rabble rouser and Hawkman, please stop angsting already. The only connection I liked was between Black Adam and Dr. Fate, played by gracefully aging Pierce Brosnan. There’s way too much messing around and not enough of Black Adam being amazing. The audience loves him, so the persistent haranguing he gets from the Justice League’s lily white team sent to keep him from exacting “revenge” (or justice) on people, i.e. killing them when they do bad stuff versus saving them, as Hawkman is prone to do, is verging on not making any sense.
Black Adam, the movie and the character, are reined in at every turn. The Rock is flawless and has said how much this character means to him. Please let him do his thing. He has figured Black Adam out, even if his creators can’t.
Why set him up as a hero only to knock him down? Because I do think the audience sees him as a hero and not even an antihero. In this day and age, anything else is just outdated. The world is gray and we should have established this by now.
“Black Adam” has a wide release and is playing at a theater near you.
Kai can be reached at email@example.com.