I never got into superhero comics and movies. Still I watch some of the latter every now and then when friends ask me to join them. So I'm the least expert one can be on the topic of superhero pop culture. So far my takeaway from these movies was always that they don't possess much value beyond their main function as throw-away entertainment. Ironically Black Adam (2022), out of all superhero flicks, came to leave somewhat of an impression on me.
Now according to my friend who brought the film along (and who really knows his superhero lore), this movie has quite the context and backstory! Apparently the film's main protagonist is actually the main villain from another superhero's comic book series. Black Adam was originally meant to appear as such in a movie adaption of Shazam!, but fate took a turn towards the odd when star actor (and former wrestling legend, apparently) Dwayne Johnson was cast for the role of the villain. In a twist the decision was made to split the movie into two – one starring the actual hero Shazam, and another one featuring Adam Black as antihero. And it shows. I've never seen another movie quite like this one that has such a hard time deciding whether it wants to portrait its main character as a hero or a villain. Lines such as This feels wrong! and You're not supposed to be here! hit home so hard that they are easily received as comedy gold.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The movie is rife with off-tone jokes and manages to feature anecdotal political commentary that only serves as fantasy backdrop to the film's prominent action scenes. At that point you probably shouldn't bother incorporating political commentary at all. I've probably never witnessed a movie be this insensitive before.
The context surrounding Johnson supposedly having insisted on making this movie reminded me a lot of Bruce Willis' Hudson Hawk, but with the hubris of the starring lead actor on a whole other level. Watching this had me feel like somebody was getting a few likes too many on his social media accounts. How else does one decide they had to turn their favorite villain into a hero?
Everything about movie Black Adam feels so forced and out of place it's hard not to notice and not to raise eyebrows. I can't help but call this one a phenomenon of its time.