The First ‘Black Adam’ Reviews Are In, And The Rock’s Antihero Might Not Be The Savior That The DCEU Needs Right Now

The first reviews for Black Adam are thundering in just a few days before its release, and well, they’re not pretty. In stark contrast to the positively glowing social media reactions, film critics are not feeling The Rock finally making his long-awaited entrance into the DC Extended Universe. — Or just DC Universe? Like the Black Adam movie, it’s all getting very confusing over there.

Despite taking a beating in the reviews, (Black Adam currently sits at 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, a slight uptick from its debut on Tuesday evening) the film is still looking at a sizable box office haul thanks to The Rock’s star power. Unfortunately, based on the initial reviews, his trademark charisma is buried beneath a seemingly misguided attempt to make him yet another gritty, stoic antihero.

You can see what the critics are saying about Black Adam below:

Mike Ryan, Uproxx:

For the life of me I will never understand why anyone would make a superhero movie with, perhaps, the most charismatic action star working today and decide, hey, what if we took away all that charisma? It’s truly baffling. And, look, if you want to make an argument, well, historically, the character of Black Adam is stoic and isn’t going to be delivering nonstop one-liners, well, I would counter that once Dwayne Johnson is cast as the lead – something he himself really pushed for – then there has to be a little leeway to reinvent a character that most people don’t know a lot about anyway.

David Ehrlich, IndieWire:

All due respect to whatever unique and illustrious history Black Adam may have developed since his DC Comics debut in 1945, but the lifeless spectacle that director Jaume Collet-Serra — who made some nifty thrillers before “Jungle Cruise” reduced him to the John Ford of Rawson Marshall Thurbers — has cobbled together for the character’s big screen origin story is so exhaustingly derivative of other superhero movies that the ancient Egyptian antihero might as well not have any history at all.

Phil Pirello, The A.V. Club:

For a movie Dwayne Johnson vigorously hyped as the catalyst for change in the “hierarchy of the DCU,” Black Adam unfortunately resembles large chunks of what came before: A brooding, weightless CG punch-a-thon, shot with the same grimy visual style of previous Snyderverse entries in the DCEU. A movie full of under-cranked, slow-mo action (it’s really okay to let this aesthetic go, Warner Bros.) and over-plotted world-building that delivers more information than emotion because the movie struggles to ground this world on the backs of characters worth emotionally investing in.

Peter Debruge, Variety:

The movie is essentially “Shane” on steroids, set in the Middle East instead of the Old West, but still seen through the eyes of a young boy — Adrianna’s comic book-obsessed son Amon (Bodhi Sabongui), in this case — who idolizes a figure of questionable morality. As with “Shane,” sticking a kid in the middle of the story brings the entire project down to a middle-school-level intellect. And yet, except for the recent Batman movies, that’s how most of the DC films feel.

Joshua Yehl, IGN:

Johnson plays Black Adam in the same vein as Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: a stoic, seemingly soulless killing machine gains a glimmer of humanity and even a sense of humor. While he gets top marks for making his Black Adam just as steely and imposing as in the comics, the character feels a bit too confident and powerful. This makes him come across as one-note when there are clearly more layers begging to be explored.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap:

“A bad plan is better than no plan at all.” This is a line that pops up at various points during “Black Adam,” and while it’s meant to be a whimsical comment regarding the task at hand, by its second repetition it starts to feel like the movie apologizing for itself and its muddled storytelling.

Helen O’Hara, Empire:

Johnson, Collet-Serra and their team want edge, but without alienating family audiences. So you get massive action scenes without any obvious civilian casualties, and godlike powers without consequence. It’s all nicely shot in low-lying sun and dusty vistas, but it suffers from the weightlessness that gives superhero movies their bad name: great power, no responsibility.

Todd McCarthy, Deadline:

Unfortunately, such arguably worthwhile matters as narrative coherence, appealing characterizations and suspense struggle to emerge here amidst a veritable logjam of intentions and tones. Such matters seem like a mere afterthought in Black Adam, which evinces a strong preference for emphasizing reams of screen-time action over dialogue; brownie points to any mere civilian who can coherently relate the plot and describe the characters’ relationships to one another without a crib sheet. At one point, a little kid asks, “What’s happening?” Good question.

Black Adam opens in theaters on October 21.

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