Let’s Talk About the Weakest Part of ‘Black Adam’
Black Adam, which is currently arriving in theaters, has the dual purpose of being an origin story to an antihero character, and being a product that will help launch a new rebirth thing for the DCEU. After a bombastic, high-octane first and second act, the third act is were things sort of unravel while still trying to deliver the kind of action-based pathos we are used to getting in a comic book action movie. Let’s get into it.
Black Adam spoilers ahead!
After revealing that it was his son and not him that was originally chosen to be the hero of Kahndaq, and that his son died giving those powers up to save him, Black Adam decides that he will power down and accept being imprisoned in an underwater cell. Of course, as soon as Black Adam is locked away, that is when our villain, Sabbac, arrives.
Ishmael Gregor/Sabbac is the current leader of the Intergang and a descendant of a pervious invader of Kahndaq. Knowing that Black Adam’s rage would send him to the underworld while holding the demonic crown, he gains the power of demons and transforms into Sabbac—a demonic foil to Black Adam.
Doctor Fate has a vision of the death of a JSA member by the hands of Sabbac and realizes that the only person who can defeat him is Black Adam. Who would’ve guessed? While the rest of the Justice Society of America try to fight off this new threat, Fate uses his sorcery to help Adam escape while delaying the villain’s onslaught. Fate sacrifices himself to protect Hawkman from dying.
Sabbac sits on the throne of Kahndaq and brings forth demons in the form of skeletons. Those provide something for our normal heroes to fight against and serve as a symbolic way for the people of Kahndaq to reclaim their autonomy and take back their city after so many generations. Then, of course, Black Adam manages to escape even though he’s got something in his mouth to keep him from going full Shazam. So you get a very masculine run through the enemies with Black Adam until he gets into the water. He struggles to the surface, and at the last second, has a vision of his son telling him that his mission still needs to happen, and he is finally able to transform fully into a newly-caped Black Adam.
Working with Hawkman, who uses a trick with Fate’s mystical helmet, the JSA and Black Adam manage to defeat Sabbac. Black Adam decides to be the champion and ruler of Kahndaq, with the somewhat approval of the JSA. In the mid-credit scene, Amanda Waller warns Black Adam to never leave Kahndaq on pain of death. Superman arrives afterward and tells Adam they need to talk.
Sequel bait situated.
For me, Black Adam is no worse than a lot of other superhero movies that tend to get a little wonky towards the end but still have solid bones. The frustration with the third act of Black Adam is that it is so disconnected from the much more personal story that is supposed to be happening. Black Adam is fundamentally a discussion about what it means to be a hero and what kind of people can choose to become heroes versus the kind of people who have a darker side to what they see as justice.
Sabba is okay as an antagonist, but he’s so underdeveloped that it could be literally anybody. And the personal aspect of him being a descendent of the king who enslaved Black Adam and now still being a kind of imperialist colonizer is fine, but undeveloped. A stronger third act should have revolved around just the gang itself and they should’ve saved that character, and the JSA, for a sequel because these are kind of stories that take more than just one film to dissect. I mean, we didn’t get rid of all of Hydra in one movie—I mean, kinda, but not really. We don’t always need a fight.
(featured image: Warner Bros.)
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