Black Adam a flawed but watchable 4K Comic
By Jim Bray
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is back in the home theatre, this time in what appears to be at least partly a vanity project that brings some of the more obscure DC Comics characters to the forefront.
Black Adam, not to be confused with Black Adder (God forbid!), is a "super anti-hero", a God-like being from ancient history who's awakened in our modern day and called upon to defend his descendant countryfolk from whatever band of robbers and thugs happens to be running the show there at the time.
"There" is Khandaq, which appears to be somewhere in the Middle East. It isn't a secret place like the Marvel universe's Wakanda, but it does appear to be a tad off the beaten track. This means, at least according to some of its residents, that it's been prime for exploitation by bad folks, while also ignored by DC's usual gang of superheroes that includes such folks as Superman, Batman, and the like. No Justice League member has ever come to rescue the put upon Khandaqians (or whatever you'd call them).
Fortunately, there's the Justice Society, which supposedly predated the League in the DC universe. So some of them arrive on the modern day scene – but not to help the Khandaqians (or whatever you'd call them), but to arrest the newly-awakened and hoped for champion of Khandaq, Teth Adam, before he can wreak havoc on the modern world.
Naturally, this puts them at odds with not only Teth Adam, who claims to be no hero and whose methods are, shall we say, a tad more ruthless than those of the fine, upstanding heroes of the Society, but also with the Khandaqians (or whatever you'd call them) themselves, who are banking on Teth Adam to rid them of the tyranny of the Intergang – the gang currently wreaking havoc on the country.
Thus is this mishmash of a movie set up, and though its story quality is very spotty – there's just too much going on here and too many people to keep track of – it ends up being at the very least a pretty decent guilty pleasure.
DC has a very spotty record at superhero movies, and in my never humble opinion is mostly unfit to shine the superhero movie shoes represented by the Marvel Comic Universe (at least until Avengers Endgame). The original Superman (Richard Donner) was exquisite, though its sequels sucked, and the Christopher Nolan Batman movies were also top rate. But the more recent output, including Superman and Batman reboots, Justice League, etc., weren't particularly good. I liked the first Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but that's about it.
Black Adam falls somewhere in the middle, so while I was expecting very little, I came away reasonably pleased because, given DC's movie history, it could have been a lot worse.
How's that for high praise?
Well, there are some pretty neat scenes, and the movie (other than its "Zack Snyder-lite" cinematography, which looks a tad washed out) contains some very impressive sets and technology. In fact, I found that I enjoyed learning about the technology they used to pull the film off (the "making of" stuff that comes on the Blu-ray that accompanies the 4K disc) more than I did the movie itself – though to be fair the supplements also make me want to go back and watch it again, which I plan to do.
Another thing I really enjoyed was seeing Hawkman (Aldis Hodge). I read some Hawkman comic books when I was a kid (I was a DC loyalist who rarely "slummed" by opening Marvel stuff, which always seemed to be a rip-off of DC). Here, the special effects work to create a Hawkman costume I really, really want for myself! Ah, to fly like that!
Besides Hawkperson, we also get introduced to Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), who's eerily similar to Doctor Strange, Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), who's a descendent of The Atom (another DC comic I used to read sometimes and who was eerily similar to Ant Man). There's also Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), who uses wind power even more effectively than The Spleen did in Mystery Men).
These characters are in many ways more interesting than Black Adam (not that he doesn't have his charms – and Dwayne Johnson is very good in the role) and I hope to see some decent films involving them. Decent films, please, not the usual Warner DC chum.
The film looks terrific, except that once again Warner Brothers has let the production get away with a "Zack Snyder look", with great detail, but blandish colours and an overuse of ultra slow motion during fast action scenes.
Still, the 4K picture is most impressive, and you can't blame the 4K treatment for the colour palette choices, with a beautiful transfer that includes Dolby Vision HDR. Closeups shine in particular, and you can count the pores on the actors' faces (when you can see them unmasked), and the fine details on the costumes and sets are spectacular.
Audio is Dolby Atmos, which "dumbs itself down" to 7.1 or 5.1 for those who haven't torn up their home theatres to add new speakers. Fidelity is wonderful and all the channels are used well. Dialogue is usually quite audible, as well.
The extras that come on the Blu-ray (they leave the 4K disc for the movie itself) are mostly quite short and they really left me wanting more – in a good way. Here's a listing of what you get:
The History of Black Adam
Here, you'll learn stuff like their use of LED video screens to extend the sets (as opposed to green screen), how they made Black Adam fly (really cool!), and lots more. As I said, this just whetted my appetite for more – or longer – extras like this, but what can you do?
Black Adam probably sits around the middle of the quality range of Warner's DC comics universe films, but that means it's probably better than at least half of the other such movies. It's definitely worth a look, especially if you have the 4K home theatre to exploit its audio and video quality properly,
Copyright 2023 Jim Bray