'Black Adam' wants to be a Marvel movie, but can't leave the Snyder era behind - and it highlights the mess new DC Studios bosses will have to sort out

‘Black Adam’ wants to be a Marvel movie, but can’t leave the Snyder era behind – and it highlights the mess new DC Studios bosses will have to sort out

  • “Black Adam” tries to balance Marvel humor with a Zack Snyder-esque tone.
  • This highlights the mess that new DC Studios bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran will have to sort out.
  • But if the movie does well, it’s intimidating to be the template for future DC films.

“Black Adam,” DC’s new superhero movie starring Dwayne Johnson, opens 5,000 years ago with an origin story for the title character.

During this first prologue, a prisoner is thrown into a pit in slow motion in a moment reminiscent of a scene straight out of Zack Snyder’s 2006 film “300.”

Snyder kicked off an era of DC movies with “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” that culminated in “Justice League” (then the HBO Max-exclusive director’s cut, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”) .

“Black Adam” shows that the shadow of these films still looms large, no matter how studio Warner Bros. wants to escape it.

There are plenty of Snyder-esque moments in “Black Adam,” especially when it comes to slow-motion action sequences and an overall dark tone. Johnson’s Black Adam is a serious-faced anti-hero who isn’t afraid to kill a lot of people.

But early in the film, the “Justice Society” is introduced, a group of four superheroes – Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Atom Smasher and Cyclone – who only get backstory through throwaway lines of dialogue. They infuse the film with a certain sense of humor, especially Atom Smasher, played by Noah Centineo, who does his best Tom Holland Spider-Man impression.

There are also random music drops, such as the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It, Black,” an apparent effort to add a fun personality to Black Adam’s destruction. The combative tones are confusing.

“Black Adam” is the perfect synthesis of both the last decade of DC films and what the franchise wants to be in the future. It is a balancing act; strives to better compete with Marvel, but can’t completely abandon the Snyder era. This dynamic highlights the mess inherited by new DC Studios bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran.

Idris Elba and director James Gunn on the set of

Idris Elba and director James Gunn on the set of ‘The Suicide Squad’.

Jessica Miglio/™ & © DC Comics

‘Black Adam’ is an ominous start to the Warner Bros. era. Discovery of the DC Movie Universe

Warner Bros. Discovery announced Tuesday that Gunn, who directed DC’s “The Suicide Squad” and created its Max spin-off series “Peacemaker,” and Safran, producer of several DC films and “The Conjuring,” would serve as co-CEOs and co-chairmen of the newly created DC studios, overseeing DC’s films, television and animation.

This ended the search by the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery of a framework to steer DC content in a new direction, similar to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige.

I recently wrote about the hurdles the 10-year plan already faces, which Gunn and Safran will need to resolve. There are many different cooks in the kitchen, Johnson being one of them; the actor reportedly circled former DC Films president Walter Hamada to land a big-name cameo in “Black Adam.” Johnson has also publicly stated that he doesn’t think DC should “want to be Marvel.”

The drama might have been worth it if “Black Adam” was a good movie. With an almost incomprehensible story, dizzying action sequences and an atrocious script, it’s not a good start for the Warner Bros. era. Discovery of the DC Cinematic Universe. Just don’t believe me: it has a 39% review score on Rotten Tomatoes.

But there seems to be a chasm between critics and the general public. The film has an audience score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and received an adequate B+ rating from CinemaScore, which surveys audiences on a film’s opening night.

It’s also done decent business at the box office, grossing nearly $150 million worldwide so far, including $67 million in the United States during its opening weekend.

superman man of steel henry cavill

Henry Cavill as Superman in ‘Man of Steel’.

Warner Bros.

These are average numbers for most big-budget superhero movies. The fourth “Thor” film made $144 million when it debuted in the United States. DC’s “The Batman” grossed $134 million in its first weekend.

But Black Adam is also a lesser known character. The coming weeks will better determine if the film is a real success. If the film maintains its box office momentum, does Warner Bros. Will Discovery think moviegoers expect from their DC movies?

The prospect is daunting. For all its troubles, the DC Movie Universe had at least seemed to be course-correcting. Since Snyder’s departure, he’s produced critical favorites like “The Suicide Squad” and “Shazam!” as well as box office hits like “Joker” and “Aquaman.”

It took a stand-alone film approach, giving filmmakers the ability to put their own spin on their films rather than focusing on an interconnected universe.

“Black Adam” leans towards the latter. Viola Davis appears as her “Suicide Squad” character Amanda Waller and another high-profile DC superhero returns for a cameo. The director, Jaume Collet-Serra, not only brings his own personal touch, but borrows familiar touches from previous DC films directed by Snyder.

Johnson says he doesn’t think DC should do things like Marvel, but his film sets the stage for DC to take another crack at the entire “cinematic universe.”

I just hope “Black Adam” isn’t his plan.

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