The DCU, or rather the DC Universe of films and such is dead but just doesn’t seem to know it. Once the former overseer peaced out to head to greener shores and James Gunn and Peter Safran took over it was real clear that someone was going to pick that particular sandbox up and shake everything loose.
I admit that I am sad to see this happen.
While FAR from perfect, there were some really good DCU Prime (my word) films. The first WONDER WOMAN was fantastic, as was AQUAMAN. I enjoyed the SUPERMAN movies, even the Superfriends movie, as maligned as it is. And heck, SHAZAM was fantastic.
The pieces were there, it’s just that no one knew what to do with them.
Blame him all you want but Snyder had a plan.
He had a vision.
That’s more than DC had otherwise.
People didn’t want ‘dark’ superheroes, though they served as an alternative to what Marvel was generally doing.
What people wanted was exactly what Marvel had done but with DC characters.
It wasn’t a fair ask and wasn’t reasonable.
Though it wasn’t wise how DC handled things.
They listened to the box office and the winds of social media more than they did their hearts and they couldn’t commit.
THIS is canon.
THIS is dark.
JOKER isn’t part of anything.
Neither is the new Batman film.
MAYBE we’ll release FLASH…maybe.
By the time SHAZAM, FLASH, AQUAMAN, and BLUE BEETLE come out it will be the longest death rattle in cinema.
They are already planning out the future yet these films, so inherently tied to the past, are dead on arrival.
What if, just WHAT IF all of them, or most of them hit.
The actors are already moving on.
The studio is moving on.
You can’t cherry pick what you like and don’t.
The past is done.
But what egg will be on their faces is FLASH is a big hit, and SHAZAM is a hit, and AQUAMAN is a hit.
Heck if BLUE BEETLE is too.
Which brings us to BLACK ADAM, the clear and loud death knell of the old regime and the old DCU.
Long live the new DCU.
The film was in the works for I think near to a decade, with Johnson desperate to portray this villain (girl, when was he much of an antihero?) and to bring him to film. I admire that. It’s an interesting character. I worried immediately though when he INSISTED that Supes was the big nemesis for Adam when, um, naw, that’s Shazam.
I know that they are enemies, Black Adam and Superman, but Supes HAS his arch, and it ain’t Adam.
Not at all.
By the time the film was slated to release we had seen the stop/start of the Snyderverse films and DC still couldn’t decide WHAT they wanted to do.
They made an interesting Joker film.
A fantastic SUICIDE SQUAD film.
A decent BIRDS OF PREY film.
And a fantastic Batman film.
But none of those seemed to fit squarely in with the rest.
That Amanda Waller was the connective thread in so many of these projects, even into Peacemaker tells you how uncertain they were.
They wanted her to be their Nick Fury but they never gave her a chance to do more than glower and command people and having someone that’s just a hair shy of a villain as your connector and they AREN’T a Thanos or Darkseid isn’t a good plan.
Not to me, anyway.
The heck of it with BLACK ADAM was that the pieces are there.
Johnson isn’t bad as the character, though he’s very one dimensional, I think intentionally, the decision to make him utterly BA and tough and not someone you can connect with. He’s so painfully in tough guy mode that the moments of pain, of depth, don’t resonate.
And they should.
The story, once you learn it, is heartbreaking.
But it is shoved between all of these action setpieces.
The biggest problem with the movie, fun as it can be, and wants to be, is that its secondary heroes don’t connect with you.
Hawkman they TRY to get you to connect with, and it’s not for any lack in acting, it’s just that it’s clear that he isn’t the focus and the Justice Society aren’t given much to do that takes the fore. Brosnan’s Dr. Fate feels way too much like a Dr. Strange knockoff, which he isn’t, but that’s how it looks and feels.
With Cyclone and Atom Smasher are wasted,
They get next to nothing to do and are just there.
This whole film feels a bit like it was fooled with, a lot, to make sure that Adam was the center and the rest is just so much garnish.
And that’s a shame.
What you get is a bland, cookie cutter superhero film that is utterly forgettable with a mid-credit tease that utterly typifies why this is the end.
I don’t mind having a villain, ahem, a VILLAIN, as the centerpiece, that’s fine, but without any depth to him, he’s an action toy. The story has moments but none of the ‘bad guys’ have any depth to them or reason to do what they are doing.
They are just bad.
Oh, sure, the main baddie has a ‘reason’, but it’s sorta silly.
At least to me.
I WILL say the final battle is interesting, and pretty well done. Heck, it’s the most impactful stuff and the way someone is dispatched surprised me it was in a PG-13 film.
That mid-credit scene.
It’s been spoiled.
If you care, you prolly know about it.
I won’t spoil it though, just in case.
What it DID though was try to force BLACK ADAM to be relevant and to set stakes for the future. It was a sort of blackmail to the DCU to make sure Adam, Johnson, and that mystery WHOMEVER are part of the future.
It didn’t work.
And it didn’t save the movie.
It was an interesting idea but how they went about it, and why they did it were wrongheaded and it wasn’t organic.
They misread the room, to be honest.
And it perfectly summed up this closing era of the DCU.
An obsession with big action with huge stakes but few of them emotional or human.
They were loud, and boisterous, but not once did they come close to the intimate moments that occasionally exist in the MCU. Now, Marvel movies are not perfect, at all, but they know what they are now that they established the base, they can stretch out and do the weirder stuff to varying results.
Not everything will hit but you measure your success as you’re able.
The DCU, unable to choose which direction to head, dark or light, or both at once? And with movies that were hit and miss, there was never a chance to build the base. And there was an unreachability to the characters, a lack of vulnerability to bring you closer to them.
These were comic book movies from a bygone era, of tough people grappling with dire villains.
That lower tiered characters in the MCU became stars tells you how well things worked.
DC never cared much about the lower tiers, especially since they had trouble fully landing their big guns.
BLACK ADAM, an action blockbuster through and through, can’t bother itself to embrace the humanity at the heart of the greatest superhero stories and because of that, they were never more than bombastic bullies that few will revisit in ten years’ time.
Especially not BLACK ADAM.
That it’s far from a bad film but is an utterly mediocre film is the most damning thing because at least a bad film is memorable.
This however, is not.
Fare thee well, DCU, we barely knew ye.
2.5 out of 5