For almost as long as I can remember, I have been a big fan of superheroes. My first real foray into any sort of shared superhero universe was the Super Friends cartoon from the late 70s and early 80s. Similarly, I had discovered the characters of the Marvel universe at approximately the same time; but it was the heroes of DC comics that always appealed to me more; Batman in particular, but I digress.
Last night, after missing it’s all-too-brief theatrical run, I watched Black Adam for the first time on HBO Max. That they’re calling the movie a commercial flop is hardly a surprise. It wasn’t terrible; but I’m glad that I waited until it started streaming to watch it.
The movie came saddled with a ton of baggage. Zack Snyder‘s initial attempt at the “DC expanded universe“ met with mixed results. By the masses, it was seen as inferior to Marvel Studios’ MCU. Even the comic fans, like myself, are divided on it. In my opinion, the “Snyder verse“ was simply too dark. However, there were many passionate fans of Zack Snyder’s work that forced DC/WB’s hand into releasing the four-hour director’s cut Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Of course, it would be revealed later on that many of these online petitions to release the Snyder cut originated from automated social media accounts, and not actual fans.
Ben (Batman) Affleck, dealing with his own inner demons, it was ultimately dropped from a planned solo Batman film. Eventually, that movie morphed into Matt Reeves’s The Batman.
Then, of course, there’s the exploits of Ezra (Flash) Miller. His behavior, coupled with Warner Bros. own financial woes, has forced “the flash“ to be delayed by roughly a year and a half… And counting.
Finally, there is the shake up that is acquired at WB, following the purchase of Warner Brothers by discovery. Even before the merger, the studio was looking for a way to close the gap between DC’s film franchise, and that of the MCU. To that end, Warner Bros hired James, Gunn and Peter Safran to spearhead the newly-christened DCU, thus making the remaining DCEU films (Shazam 2, Aquaman 2) effectively meaningless.
While all of this was transpiring, Dwayne Johnson was campaigning for, then creating, and finally promoting his self-proclaimed passion project: Black Adam.
Even in a pre-Covid world, Black Adam was always a risky subject for a feature length film. The success of Joker was an exception to this rule. Historically, Black Adam has been a villain in the comic books. Furthermore, he and his adversary, Captain Marvel/Shazam, maintain only a fraction of the popularity they once held in decades past.
The film, unsurprisingly, did not live up to Johnson’s hype. It would later be revealed that Johnson was trying to leverage his way into corporate power grab for the DCEU. It was not a terrible movie. However, I think it would have been better by tying in more with the blossoming Shazam franchise. As a fanboy, it was neat to see several members of the Justice Society on-screen, trying to stop Black Adam.
And while, I disagree with the skeptics who claim that moviegoers are experiencing a “superhero fatigue“ I do feel that audiences are experiencing “DC burn out“. As a lifelong DC fan, I view the premiere of each new DC project with increasing skepticism. In fact, to this date, I’ve never seen the original Suicide Squad film, nor have I seen The Batman in its entirety.
It will be interesting to see the next step in the evolution of DC Comics-based films. It can’t get any worse, can it?