The power structure of the DC Universe may be shifting with the release of “Black Adam,” but Warner Bros.’ latest superhero film ranks low in terms of critical acclaim for the studio’s previous ten superhero films.
“Black Adam” presently holds a 32% approval rating from leading reviewers on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, with reviews for the Dwayne Johnson film having been released this afternoon. 54% of the website’s wider community of approved critics approve of it.
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If the top critics number holds, it will be the lowest such figure for a DC film since 2017’s “Justice League,” which received a 23% approval rating from top critics and was so reviled by fans that Warner Bros. ordered a reworked version, which will be released in 2021 as “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.”
Peter Debruge, the chief film critic for Variety, stated in an approving review that “the film’s entire objective is to give Black Adam a properly epic entrance with the expectation that he’ll soon face a more deserved foe”
The majority of critics have been less receptive to the genesis story, while many have praised Johnson’s portrayal. “Black Adam” marks the actor’s debut as the protagonist of a superhero picture, a role that his sculpted appearance and box office supremacy suggest was inevitable.
Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian wrote in a moderately positive review that Johnson’s “huge bulk, planet-sized cranium, and subtle talent for deadpan humor all make him a fantastic superhero.”
John Defore, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, commented on the actor’s extended association with “Black Adam,” stating that “his passion project serves the character well, preparing him for adventures one hopes would be less predictable than this one.”
In his IGN review, Joshua Yehl praised Dwayne Johnson for portraying Black Adam with the same ferocity and imposingness as in the comics. However, he critiqued the picture for having “undeveloped characters and an overwhelming number of repetitious action scenes, to the point where its half-baked discourse on what it means to be a hero is lost in all the commotion.”
David Fear, senior editor and film reviewer for Rolling Stone, stated that “not even the thrill of witnessing Johnson join a blockbuster template he seemed meant to conquer can compensate for how bland, flavorless, and incomprehensible this film is.”
Alonso Duralde, writing for The Wrap, described the picture as “anti-entertaining” and as “one of the most visually perplexing of the major-studio superhero sagas, with CG that is assaultively ugly and rapid-fire cutting that drains the excitement from every battle sequence.”
David Ehrlich, a writer for Indiewire, opened his review of the picture with the question, “What happens when Hollywood’s most risk-averse film star collides with Hollywood’s most risk-averse film genre?” His response? “Exactly as anticipated. Nothing but the worst.”
ScreenCrush critic Matt Singer described the picture as “quite average,” stating that it “plays like a committee-made product designed to zhoosh up the sluggish DC Extended Universe with a major star and a group of new heroes to spin off into future films.” After two hours of dreary table setting, you are left with a clear path for DC’s cinematic future — and much less desire to watch it.
While promoting “Black Adam,” Johnson has hinted that the titular antihero may soon engage in larger confrontations. Leaked videos of the film’s end credits scene have also sparked online discussion, offering a hint as to who Black Adam may face off against in the future.
In addition to his main role, Johnson has expressed interest in becoming a “consultant” for DC Films. Under the new leadership of CEO David Zaslav at Warner Bros. Discovery, the upcoming slate of DC films has become a matter of careful strategy. According to Zaslav, the company is seeking a leader comparable to Marvel Studios’ head Kevin Feige to oversee the next decade of the studio’s comic book content.