February 28, 2024

“Black Adam” is the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) 11th film and was released on Oct. 21. It stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the titular character Black Adam, Aldis Hodge as Hawkman, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher, Arash Shahi as Isis and Pierce Brosnan as Kent Nelson’s Doctor Fate.

The film focuses on Black Adam awakening in a modern-day world after being in slumber for thousands of years and Black Adam proceeds to wreak havoc against the Justice Society of America (JSA). The JSA features Hawkman, Atom Smasher, Doctor Fate and Cyclone (portrayed by Quintessa Swindell). The JSA then embarks to calm the rampaging Black Adam, leading to a series of battles.

Considering the history of DCEU films and their difficulty competing with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) success, is “Black Adam” worth watching?

In the comics, Black Adam is a well-known antihero similar to the Shazam character. Black Adam’s first comic book appearance was in Marvel Family No.1 in 1945. His powers include superhuman strength, speed, flying ability, invulnerability, magic and the ability to summon lightning.

In the film, Black Adam seems to possess similar powers. Black Adam is also a noteworthy enemy of Shazam and a few other heroes across the DC universe. He has fought Superman in various forms of media.

Johnson was an interesting choice, given that the actor does indeed have a similar physical appearance to some versions of the comic character. He is muscular, much like the comic character, and has a similar facial appearance. However, was the actor able to do the character justice, considering that Johnson has been arguably type-cast? Johnson is known to play a robust, all-action character, typically depicted as a hero in many films, such as in “San Andreas.” Still, in this film, he played a similarly strong, all-action character, but as an antihero.

“I think he will do really well as Black Adam,” said Kenny Ellerbeck, sophmore philosophy major. “I think his physical appearance portrays the superhero itself. Still, I think his personality and his acting ability will be able to personify that character.”

While DC does have a couple of successful films such as “Wonder Woman” (2017) and “Shazam!” (2019), the DCEU has not experienced the same success as Marvel. The MCU caters to an overall family-friendly audience with mostly PG-13 films, while the DCEU has a few R-Rated films and does not hold back on the grittiness and darker tones.

“I would say that DC has consistently misunderstood what people want from superhero movies,” said Dr. Sam Welbaum, assistant professor of philosophy. “‘Wonder Woman’ (2017) and ‘Shazam!’ were good because they handled the characters as they were and genuinely made them likable. DC doesn’t do this. DC has confused grim, gritty or dark for interesting. It seems they misunderstood why people like [Christopher] Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy and went all in on the wrong thing.”

Marvel’s grittiest movies are filtered compared to the graphic content that DC has included in films like “Birds of Prey” (2020), “The Suicide Squad” (2021) and Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” (2021). Out of the 10 DCEU films released prior, only three hold a 79% or higher score on Rotten Tomatoes and are some of DC’s good movies, such as “Shazam!” which has a score of 90%. “Black Adam” is currently rated at 39% on Rotten Tomatoes.

“In recent years, the DCEU has surprised us with a few gems,” said Jordyn Tilley, sophomore film major. “From 2016’s ‘Suicide Squad’ to the more recent film, 2022’s ‘The Batman,’ DC looks like they might be coming out on top. The only thing that worries me is the larger abundance of characters. It almost seems that the DCEU is trying to bite off more than they can chew.”

DC’s difficulty in success may be because of its inconsistency in whom it wants its audience to be. Some films are catered to a family-friendly audience, while others cater to a mature audience. Some movies are campy, and others are more graphic and grittier.

“Black Adam” is currently rated PG-13, which may raise some eyebrows, considering the reputation of Black Adam in the comics and even in the trailers. 2016’s “Suicide Squad” attempted to present a gritty film featuring a band of supervillains under a PG-13 rating. The film was criticized for an attempt to be gritty in a family-friendly tone, along with poor pacing. Its standalone sequel, “The Suicide Squad” (2021), did not put on the family-friendly filter than its 2016 predecessor, which received more positive reviews.

Most superhero fans want to see comic-accurate portrayals in superhero movies. Most movie-goers want to see a movie with good characters and a good plot. If DC can cater to both audiences, then this may be one of DC’s hidden gems.

“To set Black Adam apart, they need to make him a likable character, which is fundamental. Welbam said. If they can be true to the comics and make him the anti-thesis of Shazam, [DC] will do well,” Dr. Welbam said.

“Black Adam” earned $67 million on its opening weekend in the U.S. box office and a cumulative global box office earning of $142.9 million. If you are into the DCEU line of movies, check out “Black Adam” in theaters now.

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