Black Adam review – the Rock is back in Spandex for surrealist superhero comedy

With his imposing bulk and gift for deadpan humour, Dwayne Johnson makes a charismatic DC hero – but sadly, he’s in a class of his own

Finally – the one movie star born to be a superhero has stepped in front of the greenscreen. Dwayne Johnson made his name in Spandex in the WWE wrestling ring; now he has slipped back into stretchy fabric as Black Adam, the ambiguous mythic villain-hero of the DC Extended Universe, the 5,000-year-old former slave who reached for glory. He is the once and future king of the mysterious made-up Middle Eastern land of Kahndaq, and he is now sensationally reborn into a modern world where ordinary Kahndaqians are longing for someone to liberate them from the neocolonial corporate-military complex now imposing its tyrannical control.

Johnson’s massive bulk, planet-sized head and sly gift for deadpan humour all make him a great superhero. Where most men his age have a fold of fat across their gut, Johnson has one along the back of his skull. Droll, witty, and proportioned like the proverbial outdoor brick-built convenience, Johnson is well placed to realise the superhero movie’s potential as surrealist action comedy. It’s a shame that all these other DC-ensemble heroes crowding into the action are frankly not really in his class, although Viola Davis’s brief cameo as Task Force X chief Amanda Waller brings the menace.

When Kahndaqian archaeologist and resistance fighter Adrianna (Sarah Shahi) discovers the ancient crown made of the powerful substance eternium, she sets in train a sequence of events which liberates Johnson’s mighty Adam. But the Justice Society of America intervene: they cannot tolerate this new rogue fighter so they must suppress him or persuade him to collaborate; they are Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) – and frankly they are all a bit moderate in terms of charisma, and a distraction from Adam’s fraught grapple with destiny. But Johnson has the chops for it.

• Black Adam is released on 21 October in the US and UK.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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