During the Rock’s promotional tour for Black Adam, a fan sent their baby toward him, through the hands of many strangers. Everyone cheered as the baby, swaddled in pink, landed in his massive arms onstage. Such is the cult that has formed around the man born Dwayne Johnson, now peaking with the cinematic scale-up of a DC Comics side character.
Johnson previously rejected a Black Adam cameo in Shazam! 2, despite the character being canonically familiar as a Shazam villain. It would be an “incredible disservice” to the character, he said, oozing the same hijacking side-quest energy as when he entered, then exited, the Fast & Furious world with an odd, bloated spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw. That movie made big money, and Black Adam will too. The Rock is very popular.
Is his new cult chapter any good, though? Not really. Somehow one of its major problems is that the Rock isn’t in it enough. When he is, he doesn’t speak enough, and when he speaks, he’s doing a stoic fish-out-of-water ancient-man bit that’s a worse version of Dave Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy. The CGI set pieces of the fictional, vaguely Middle Eastern city of Kahndaq are dreary and boring. There’s a political parable in there somewhere—something about strongman fascism that maybe, accidentally or not, suggests that there’s a good version of the stuff, but it isn’t cooked well enough to come through. The action occasionally entertains.
The rest is a muddle of virtually nameless side characters doing exposition and failed gags. Pierce Brosnan is wasted in what feels like a lot of scaffolding for future DC movies, or TV shows; rarely do we feel like we are experiencing the thing itself, but rather a setup for a different, later event, which will probably not be the real thing either. PG-13, 124 min.