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‘Black Adam’ Draws Negative Reviews: Dwayne Johnson’s DC Film Is ‘Repetitive’ and ‘Anti-Entertaining’

The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe may be about to change with “Black Adam,” but the new film is landing low on the hierarchy of critical reputation for Warner Bros.’ last decade of superhero entries.

With reviews hitting for the Dwayne Johnson vehicle this afternoon, “Black Adam” currently stands at a 32% approval rating from top critics on the the review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Among the website’s broader group of approved critics, it is at 54%. Should the top critics number stand, it would mark the lowest such figure for a DC film since 2017’s “Justice League,” which netted a 23% approval rating from top critics and was so reviled among fans that a reworked version was eventually ordered by Warner Bros., arriving in the form of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” in 2021.

In a somewhat favorable review for Variety, chief film critic Peter Debruge conceded that “the film’s whole purpose is to give Black Adam a suitably grand introduction on the assumption that he’ll be pitted against a more deserving adversary soon enough.”

Most others have been less receptive to the origin story, though many have highlighted Johnson’s performance as a key strength. “Black Adam” marks the star’s first time anchoring a superhero film — a job that the actor’s chiseled physique and commercial dominance would suggest was inevitable.

In a lightly positive review, the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said that Johnson’s “massive bulk, planet-sized head and sly gift for deadpan humour all make him a great superhero.”

Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, critic John Defore discussed the star’s long attachment to “Black Adam, writing that “his passion project serves the character well, setting him up for adventures one hopes will be less predictable than this one.”

In his IGN review, Joshua Yehl gave “top marks” to Johnson for “making his Black Adam just as steely and imposing as in the comics.” But he criticized the film for being “packed with undeveloped characters and an excessive number of repetitive action scenes, to the point where its half-baked debate on what it means to be a hero is lost in all the noise.”

Rolling Stone senior editor and film critic David Fear wrote that “not even the pleasure of watching Johnson enter into a blockbuster template he seemed destined to dominate can make up for how generic, flavorless and incoherent this is.”

At The Wrap, Alonso Duralde called the film “anti-entertaining” and deemed it “one of the most visually confounding of the major-studio superhero sagas, between CG that’s assaultively unappealing and rapid-fire editing that sucks the exhilaration right out of every fight scene.”

Indiewire critic David Ehrlich panned the film, opening his review with the question of “What happens when Hollywood’s most risk-averse movie star collides with Hollywood’s most risk-averse movie genre?” His answer? “Exactly what you’d expect. Only worse.”

ScreenCrush critic Matt Singer deemed the film “pretty middling” writing that it “plays like a committee-made product designed to zhoosh up the stagnant DC Extended Universe with a massive star and a batch of new heroes to spin off into future movies. After two hours of dour table setting, you’re left with a clear direction for DC’s cinematic future — and a lot less interest in actually watching it.”

While promoting “Black Adam,” Johnson has teased that bigger battles are on the horizon for his eponymous antihero. Leaked videos of the film’s end credits scene have also stirred up online chatter, providing a hint of who Black Adam could showdown with in the future.

Beyond his starring role though, Johnson has stated that he envisions himself as a potential “advisor” for DC Films. Under the new leadership of CEO David Zaslav under Warner Bros. Discovery, the upcoming slate of DC films has become a matter of careful strategy, with Zaslav stating that the company is seeking out a leader akin to Marvel Studios’ head Kevin Feige to shepherd the next decade of the studio’s comic book content.

'Black Adam' Review: The Rock Cuts Loose in Noisy Supervillain Spectacular

Those crazy fools, they finally did it. They put The Rock in a superhero movie. Cross the biggest action superstar with the most overblown effects-driven genre and you get Black Adam, a face-melting big screen spectacular.

This is peak blockbuster -- for better and for worse.

So Black Adam is a ton of fun, if you like that sort of thing, headlined by a humorously homicidal antihero who puts an irreverent spin on the superhero formula. Playing a rare villain(ish) role, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is let loose to unleash carnage with a knowing smirk to camera. 

From Black Adam's skull-crushing entrance to a ludicrously violent riff on the super-speed sequences from the X-Men movies, the film delights in dealing out death and destruction (but y'know, in a fun way). Start to finish and through the inevitable post-credits scene, Black Adam is a guilty pleasure that isn't even the slightest bit guilty.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Black Adam is released in theaters Friday, Oct. 21.

Story-wise, Johnson plays Teth-Adam, ancient champion of a perennially oppressed (fictional) Middle Eastern nation called Kahndaq. An introductory voice-over fills us in on his past, his powers and, of course, the magical superweapon everyone will be chasing. (This time, it's the Crown of Something Or Other.) 

Awakening in the present day, Adam is bemused by new-fangled progressive ideas like not melting people into skeletons for looking at him funny. A team of superheroes called The Justice Society is dispatched to take him down, plus an army of mercenaries with infinite ammo and a council of demons looking to unleash hell. It won't surprise you that things get very loud very fast and basically stay that way for two hours.

Johnson is the titular antihero, but this much-delayed flick sees a whole squadron of DC Comics heroes make the leap from comic book pages to big screen. Noah Cintineo, Quintessa Swindell, Aldis Hodge and former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan are along for the ride as the Justice Society of America, a bunch of DC comics superheroes you may know and love -- but probably not. They're hardly Superman or Spider-man league, let's put it that way.