I don’t know anything about the source material for this movie. It’s possible, I guess, that this is one of the older comics, and so everything about it that feels stolen from other comics – which is basically all of it – isn’t actually stolen. But, it’s 2022, there have been an absolute ton of comic book movies this century, and this movie just feels like a bunch of tropes lifted from those (as well as some other movies) rather than anything remotely original.
I just looked it up and it looks like the character dates from 1945. So he really should feel like one of the originals. The problem is, this movie came way too late. He feels little bit like some bizarre, ancient, morally confused Superman. (This version of him is apparently a reboot.) And the super heroes around him feel like another series of unknowns like those in the Suicide Squad movies (including a DC version of Storm).
The film begins with the origin story, because of course it does. This origin story takes place in some part of the DC world that I’ve never heard or seen referenced before. (This is apparently a new spin on Black Adam.) The world he comes from both vaguely references the Jews and Palestinians, depending upon what part of the film we’re talking about, but mostly it’s just vaguely Middle Eastern like so many films set in this part of the world.
The Justice, um, Society feels like a cut-rate X-Men. They even have their own mansion and plane, both of which look suspiciously like those belong to the X-Men. Again, it’s possible that the Justice Society predates the X-Men in the comics, but that’s not how it happened in the movie world. And basically everything to do with this part of the film feels cribbed together from the X-Men and Avengers films.
The whole thing is just really, really lazy in terms of how it looks and feels. It feels like some kind of Scorpion King-MCU hybrid without the all star casts of the MCU films. (Is it just a symptom of my age that I only know who three of these people are?) So many scenes echo other films that I would have had to take notes to give you even a remotely complete list. Say what you will about some of the other DC films – and they’re usually not very good – but at least they feel like are their own movies. This just feels like a rip off.
And then there’s the plot, which never makes much sense. Aside from the usual MCU-esque shenanigans about fights between heroes and villains that kill tons of bystanders with Our Heroes literally only caring about the lives of a few people (in this case, basically just one boy), there are some really strange plot machinations. SPOILER
By far, the worst one is how the Justice Society convinces Black Adam to put himself into jail with, like, 25 minutes left in the movie. Maybe, had this happened at a different time in the film, it wouldn’t have seen so absurd, but they literally lock him only for them to discover momentarily that it was a terrible idea and he needs to free himself to save them. Variations of this plot have appeared in another comic book films but I’m not sure it’s ever been so rushed or so clunky before. I was watching the film on a plane (of course) so I knew how long it was and when they locked him up there was only one possible outcome. (The other outcome would have been so strange for a comic book film it seemed impossible.) So it just feels like a waste of the audience’s time.
I basically hated it while watching it. But, nearly a week later, finally getting to this review, that antipathy has calmed somewhat. The production values, if derivative, are totally fine. The script is bad but the acting is mostly fine. Days removed, I am having a harder time being mean to it than I might have been had I remembered to write this the same day or next day. So though 4 feels charitable, 4 it is.