2022 | rated PG-13 | starring Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Sarah Shahi, Noah Centineo, Quintessa Swindell, Pierce Brosnan, Bodhi Sabongui | directed by Jaume Collet-Serra | 2h 5m |

After being granted un-Earthly powers by the gods of Shazam to overthrow Egyptian’s oppressors and be it’s protector, Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson) is imprisoned in a tomb for 5,000 years. His slumber is awakened by a group of archeological pirates who have kidnapped an Egyptologist (Sarah Shahi) in search of a crown that imposes those God-like powers on the wearer. Adam is unleashed and his rain of indestructible violence draws the attention of the Justice Society, a team that descends on the futuristic to imprison the God and stop the apocalypse.

I think that’s what happened. After 10 years of trying to jumpstart his own DCU superhero franchise, Dwayne Johnson brings us Black Adam and it’s a complete mess. Shockingly, the chief problem with the film is Johnson himself. When faced with the task of bringing to life a character that is essentially a Superman Who Kills, Johnson doesn’t embrace the dark side as much as leave all of his natural charisma at the door. The Rock has spent the last few decades jumpstarting franchises like Fast and the Furious and or making crap like Skyscraper or San Andreas single-handedly bearable. And yet, headlining his own superhero film he commits to a one-note monotone presence that hands over the reigns to the supporting characters.

I’m not very familiar with the Black Adam comics so some of this probably went over my head. It takes place in either the future or a parallel universe that is also secretly controlled by Viola Davis’ Annabelle Waller (the Samuel L. Jackson connective piece of the DCU). When danger strikes the laughable Justice Society snaps into action and shows just how little superhero imagination actually is in the DC and Marvel superhero universes. We get Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) playing Marvel’s X-Men Storm. We get Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) playing Ant-Man’s giant wise-cracking form. We get Hawkman (Aldis Hodge, the center of the movie) playing The Falcon. We get Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan) in the elder superhero role whose powers are almost indescribably god-like (basically Professor X). Everything in Black Adam comes off as a B-grade knock-off of something else we’ve already seen.

Filling the Veteran Actor role designed to get grandma to sit through a superhero movie, Brosnan’s transparently minimal involvement with the production is glaringly hilarious. He shows up and sits in a chair holding the helmet of his character – cut to the CGI motion capture guy taking care of all the action. And then at the end all the characters stand around and talk about what an inspiration he was to them – even Black Adam, who just met him a day ago.

You can probably make an argument that the movie looks good and in isolation it does. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who I am still hoping will turn back to smaller thrillers he used to excel at) does a very good job of replicating the visual style of Zack Snyder. Visually, that’s what Black Adam is. It does it’s best job to replicate the deliberately framed, slow-motion action sequences that are the trademark of a director that the suits at DC have fired and cancelled all of his projects.

While the setting of the film never leaves it’s central city of Kahndaq, that does nothing to tighten the film’s pace or scope. A poorly paced film isn’t just slow and Black Adam is an example of one that is poorly paced while still moving as fast as it can. It speeds from one fight scene to the next and to the next without much of a breath in between. It has no pace and no form as a story. In that way it recalls The Jungle Cruise, the last collaboration between Collet-Serra and Dwayne Johnson, which is also a movie that is way more convoluted than it needed to be. Like that one, Black Adam, is constantly dipping into flashbacks and then going back over them to reveal that what was deliberately edited around the first time wasn’t actually what really happened for a stacked series of unnecessary twists.