A couple of things to make clear right off the bat. I’m not going to focus on anything that could be a spoiler in this post, but I’m open to discussing those things in the comments. And I should be up front…I’m both a big Black Adam and JSA fan. I’ve read a lot of their comics and was really looking forward to it. I might be going a little easy on this film than most people are, and if you feel I am, that might be a reason why.
Anyway, the movie itself. To reference a Clint Eastwood movie - it has some good, some bad, and some…standard stuff. A good amount of the criticism around this film points out how it relies on a lot of tropes from previous comic book movies. As someone who watches a lot of movies, I should remind people something regarding cliches & tropes. They aren’t inherently good or bad. It’s all about how you utilize the tropes, present them to the audience, and if you do anything unique or new with them. In regards to this movie, the tropes and cliches used are overall OK. Whether or not you are willing to put up with them depends on your feelings regarding CB movies in general.
I guess I should focus on the good stuff. Dwayne Johnson is very good as Teth/Black Adam. A lot of the comedy in the movie centered around him - as someone who doesn’t realize he’s being funny when doing certain things - do land for me. But he is also pretty brutal…in a movie with a PG-13 rating. I do see him burn some people until they are skeleton though, so I can’t be that upset. There are also small details regarding the people of Kahndaq I appreciated. For example, there is a point in the movie where they yell “Boo!” & jeer Hawkman for saving a couple of Intergang members from falling to their deaths. Then they cheer for Adam for doing the very things that the JSA are called in to put a stop to. And a couple of characters point out to the JSA that despite their claim to maintaining global stability, they have never once step foot in this country despite them being controlled by Intergang for a couple of decades. It’s only when they get a hero of their own that they come in and challenge anybody - not just anybody, but the person that is actually doing any work to help free the country. There are a few moments like this that I do appreciate.
A few more good things to point out is I like a fair bit of the JSA. The Justice Society is one of my favorite teams, so I was looking forward to seeing what they are like. As far as costumes go, they all look good. Hawkman & Doctor Fate look the best. And there are a lot of shots in general in the movie that I like. Although I should point out that some criticisms of the film point out to some obvious CGI. I can’t really put the blame on this specific movie for something like that. At this point, we are all familiar with how VFX artists have pointed out how much stress and work is put on them because of CB movies. Plus, keep in mind, Hollywood in general with any blockbuster has pushed us to a point where we are just too used to computer generated effects. So yes, I did notice some of it. But I could still get into most of the action in the movie.
The time has come. Let’s talk about the things I’ve taken issues with it. Atom Smasher & Cyclone look good, but they aren’t essential to the plot of the movie. And Smasher in general they turn into the comic relief in a way that just gets annoying. There is a character named Amon, the son of Adrianna, that can get a little annoying in certain scenes as well. Hawkman…as mentioned earlier, I like his look. And the actor is putting in the work. But I don’t like the way it is written. His character has the stance of Black Adam is a bad guy that needs to be taken down no matter what. He doesn’t waver from that but I can’t figure out why he is so set in that view. The other older JSA member, Doctor Fate, seems to be the most like-able and that’s partly because he doesn’t see Black Adam in absolutes. If the movie spent time explaining more about Hawkman - his origin story, his reasoning for reforming the JSA, why he feels the way he does - then I can like him more. As is, he’s a character that I want to like but just can’t get into as much as I want.
The story in general has a lot of standard set-up. And a final villain that isn’t all that memorable. He looks a little cool, but that’s about it. Now, without getting into spoilers, I’m going to address one major change this movie could have done to improve itself. Without giving too much away, the main plot centers around this magical crown that ultimately powers the big bad. There is some fighting between Black Adam & JSA, but they are forced to move on from that to focus on the plot. But…what if we got rid of the crown plot entirely? There is no big bad - the entire conflict and all the fights are between Black Adam & the JSA. We focus much more on how the people of Kahndaq view the invading hero team. We’ll then have more room to focus on characters like Hawkman and explain why they are acting the way they are. Maybe we can get a division within the JSA where the young heroes - Atom Smasher & Cyclone - actually start to object against Hawkman’s leadership and want to let Black Adam remain. If we give the time to give Hawkman a backstory to explain why he is so stubborn, he can be the on screen threat with Waller as a background threat that can continue to go up against Black Adam in future projects. Some of you might not think a plot without any clear cut bad guy can work, but I will then point you to “Deadpool 2”. The entire conflict of that movie was based on what the heroes should do regarding the potential future of a mutant kid. A movie where the conflict is based on a difference of opinion between the characters - not a secret villain that is manipulating everything from the background. A similar kind of plot with no clear bad guy could have been applied to this movie to really focus on the how Black Adam really tip-toes the line between good and evil.
Long story short, this is an all right movie. If I had to give a grade, I would probably go with 2 and a half stars out of 5. Not that bad, but definitely could have been better.