Black Adam

This is another film that I watched on the plane on my way to Toronto. It being mostly superhero fight scenes, it doesn’t really warrant watching on a big screen, but it does have a lot more to the script than the Dungeons & Dragons film.

I should start by introducing the characters, because those of you who don’t follow comics closely may wonder who they are. The Justice Society of America are a DC superhero team from the 1940s and 50s. They were eventually superseded by the more familiar Justice League. Then they got brought back as a team from a different part of the multiverse. Then DC collapsed their multiverse and brought everyone back together and it is all very confusing.

Anyway, Hawkman and Doctor Fate are original JSA members. In the new timeline, they are recruiting new, young members such as Atom Smasher (ridiculous name) and Cyclone. Quite what has happened to Hawkman’s wife (still known as Hawkgirl despite presumably being a similar age to her husband) is unclear. Presumably someone at Warner Bros. decided that there were too many women in the film.

Now to the plot. The Middle Eastern, not-Egypt, country of Khandaq is currently ruled by an international criminal organisation called Intergang (an other ridiculous name). However, in the deep past, an evil king of Khandaq, Akh-Ton, created a powerful magical artefact called the Crown of Sabbac. To prevent him from gaining absolute power, a Council of Wizards created a superhero to fight him. Now an archaeologist, Adrianna Tomaz, is seeking to resurrect that hero to free her country. Inevitably, doing so also brings the Crown of Sabbac into play again.

When Adrianna resurrects her country’s champion, who will become known as Black Adam, the US government becomes aware of him, and sends the Justice Society to take him down. Can’t have foreign countries having their own superheroes, now, can we?

Arriving on site, the Justice Society find themselves conflicted. Clearly the Intergang are much worse people than Black Adam. Adrianna rightfully argues that her country has suffered under their rule for years, and no superhero ever came to rescue her people. Only now that the people of Khandaq are able to free themselves do the Americans take an interest.

Fair point, except that it turns out that Black Adam is not exactly a hero. He’s a man resurrected from thousands of years in the past and he has no qualms about killing his enemies. At which point the argument of the film appears to become that Middle Eastern countries shouldn’t free themselves from oppression because they’ll only end up ruled by a brutal dictator instead.

Of course, this being a superhero film, and Dwayne Johnson being in the starring role, Black Adam gets an opportunity to redeem himself. Now the message of the film becomes very confused. Should Khandaq have superheroes or not? And why are the Justice League not held responsible for the massive damage that they do to not-Cairo? It is all very murky.

Contrast this to the glorious moment at the end of the Moon Knight TV series in which the people of Cairo discover that they have an actual Egyptian superhero and are allowed to celebrate this fact.

Maybe I need to watch it again, but my overall impression is that Black Adam is a film that tried to say something interesting about American imperialism, but failed because the message got muddied in development. Sad.