‘Black Adam’ Negative Reviews: Dwayne Johnson May Not Be DC’s Savior

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 mediocre 30% approval rating from top critics on the the review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Should the 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.

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