Fans have been excited about Black Adam for a long time, but possibly not as long as the movie’s star, Dwayne Johnson. The actor confirmed his casting as the anti-hero in 2014, but his expressed interest in the character dates way back in 2007. The rigorous training began in 2020, and finally, FINALLY the next chapter of DC Movies is upon us. With atom smasher-sized expectations at the box office, Black Adam will show the titular character freed after thousands of years of imprisonment, with the Justice Society called in to try to neutralize him. Critics have screened the movie ahead of its October 21 release, and unfortunately, it looks like they aren't too pleased.
Alongside Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Quintessa Swindell and Noah Centineo star as the members of the Justice Society, and director Jaume Collet-Serra brings his background in both horror and action/adventure. First reactions to Black Adam were mixed, with some viewers raving that The Rock ushers in a new DCEU era, while others criticized the “dull CGI.” Now that their full reviews are out, we can expand what we know about Dwayne Johnson’s blockbuster, and we’ll start with CinemaBlend’s review of Black Adam. Eric Eisenberg rates the movie 2.5 stars out of 5, saying it struggles to stand out in a crowded genre and is underwhelming, despite some interesting ideas:
Black Adam is more mediocre than bad, but that’s perhaps worse in a pop culture landscape that will be quick to forget about it as audiences’ attentions drift to the next superhero blockbuster. Even Dwayne Johnson seems ready to move on, as the biggest hype he has generated for the release has been about it setting the table for the future. Given the number of years this project was in development, and how it was promoted to shift the balance of power in the DC Universe, it’s disappointing that the end result is so unremarkable.
For more from CinemaBlend, you can also check out Managing Editor Sean O’Connell’s spoiler-free video review of Black Adam.
Mike Ryan of Uproxx agrees with Eric Eisenberg that there’s potential in the movie, but says it’s ultimately disappointing. The critic argues that choosing to keep the title character so stoic strips away all of Dwayne Johnson’s charisma, saying:
It’s this stoic film that’s not having a lot of fun, then will pause for some ‘inserted laughs.’ But the problem is this movie is still just kind of dull. I found myself a little bored by the end, as the third act devolves into something nothing like the, at times, somewhat interesting first two acts as the Justice Society and Black Adam have to literally fight a hell demon. During the first two acts I still thought maybe something will be done with some of the themes that are introduced. They decided to go a, uh, different direction.
Matt Singer of ScreenCrush also wonders why such a charming actor would feel so passionate about playing a one-dimensional character. He rates the movie 4 out of 10, saying this one wasn’t worth the wait:
Alas, 15 years of work produced a pretty middling movie, one that does not seem to reflect what must have been hundreds of hours of writing and countless screenplay drafts. Instead, Black Adam plays like a committee-made product designed to zhoosh up the stagnant DC Extended Universe with a massive star and a batch of new heroes to spin off into future movies. After two hours of dour table setting, you’re left with a clear direction for DC’s cinematic future — and a lot less interest in actually watching it.
Alonso Duralde of The Wrap says Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam is “stiff,” and by the time he develops a sense of humor late in the film, it’s too late. But of all the letdowns it has to offer, the visuals may be the worst offender. More from the review:
Most disappointing of all, Black Adam is one of the most visually confounding of the major-studio superhero sagas, between CG that’s assaultively unappealing and rapid-fire editing that sucks the exhilaration right out of every fight scene. (And there are so, so many fight scenes.) The premise of a superhero whose idea of conflict is to throw his opponents as far as he can offers some subversive chuckles the first two or three times, but it gets old quickly, as does pretty much everything Black Adam tosses at its audience.
That critic wasn’t the only one to comment on the visuals. Witney Seibold of SlashFilm rates it 3.5 out of 10, calling it a jumbled mess of a movie that feels like it wants us to anticipate what project comes next rather than enjoy this one. The filmmakers fail to establish a mood or stakes for the fights that have to happen, he says:
The editing is so quick and perfunctory, Black Adam emerges feeling like an outline rather than a finished movie. There is no wit, no thrill, and no slickness to the action. Black Adam reeks of studio tinkering and endless recuts. Even visually, the film is unclear and undynamic with action often obscured by clouds of dust or Dr. Fate's shimmering CGI geometric crystal shards.
David Ehrlich of IndieWire notes, as other critics have, that one of Black Adam’s main issues is that Dwayne Johnson and all involved aren’t willing to let the main character be all that bad. He grades the movie a D+, saying:
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.
If you’ve been excited for this movie for a long time, or if you’re a fan of DC or Dwayne Johnson in general, less-than-stellar reviews aren’t likely to keep you planning a trip to the theater. If you’re still game for this one, Black Adam will be released in theaters on Friday, October 21.
In the meantime, be sure to check out CinemaBlend’s interviews with the Black Adam cast, including Johnson, Pierce Brosnan, Aldis Hodge and more. See what’s next for The Rock, as well as all of the action that’s in store for the DCEU with a look at our list of upcoming DC movies.