HomeBabblingFailure Analysis: BLACK ADAM

Failure Analysis: BLACK ADAM

My kid is taking a video production class in addition to his school work and domination of the various junior varsity-level football programs amongst the San Francisco Bay Area public high school football teams. Part film-appreciation, part talent-mentoring, and all collaboration, about fifteen kids watch a flick and pitch a film and then work to produce it; they’ve done about three or four so far and they’re uneven and spotty but glorious in that you see kids working through the process. 

Walker is reading up on all the current leaders in the form, and is fascinated by JJ Abrams’ “mystery box” thematic explorations and starts to see occurrences of it everywhere. So he pitched a short about a guy who finds a package and has adventures with it until you get to the Cast Away final scene where what’s in the box isn’t important… and instead has a crazy reveal you don’t see coming. It’s kind of a tame action movie with the lowest stakes imaginable whose last shot is a crazy reveal that you kind of wonder just how dark it is in that writer side of his soul. It’s pretty badass for a fifteen year old.

But then the collaboration sets in, and there’s just a giant amount of, well, that’s going to be a tough shot without a crane and we don’t have access to a fire station and just a general sense of “does it have to be a lightbulb?” That, while frustrating, is an excellent way of being thrown in the deep end to have creativity solve production issues but still somehow find a way to compromise and collaborate and still marshall through to produce a thing that reveals a truth you want to talk about.

Honestly, I’m so jealous he gets to rock this class.

Anyway, in the environment where this is happening during the holidays, and folks have more time to argue about nonsense, Dan Shahin’s amazing comics survey YouTube show Million Dollar Mailbox had, as its special guest, Eliot R. Brown, who you old-timers might remember as a Marvel in-house wag who produced all the cutaways and blueprints and photo manips and all that that helped make the Mighty Marvel House of Ideas into a creative powerhouse for decades.

We somehow got on to that old saw “how to save the comics industry,” and ol’ Eliot had something to say. And, even given all that commentary on presentation you just read between the lines, is fine as far as it goes. Eliot was right about every single thing he said. But he wasn’t talking about saving the “industry” so much as he was talking about saving comics publishers of all stripes. Which, yes. Of course. But that’s not saying anything about the distributors and retailers and talent that are all getting your book into Little Jaysen’s hands. Publishers are only 20% of the industry at best. So you have to save the other 80% while you’re at it, or you’re just killing trees.

Messing around about the obvious turd that is Black Adam on social media, I mentioned that I just didn’t get who I was supposed to be rooting for, and noted DC PR shill Mike Shelling showed up to make with the snark. “You didn’t????” he wrote, with four question marks in the manner of a fourth grade girl, and not a 60 year old man. I replied that I didn’t, because the protagonist is a bad guy, and the antagonists are good guys, and neither set really has any defined goals, so as an audience member, I’m not invested in either side. I mean, come on.

And then, since that’s a short conversation about narrative with a guy whose linkedIn profile says he’s never had a job outside of PR flack, I kinda kept going on all the ways Black Adam failed the audience and why: things like, the magic lightning bolt changes bodies. I understand why they did it, but having Thoth Adam or whatever his name is be played by a smaller guy with The Rock’s head on it seemed like a Captain America thing. But the reason that worked on Cap was because the pre-hero form was a ninety-eight pound weakling. Adam was just a… guy with slightly smaller muscular build than the Rock? Not that distracting in the scheme of things, but in a flick where every other choice is weirdly off, too? Hey, everybody! Don’t let The Rock make storytelling choices anymore.

Of course The Rock and Warners and DC and everyone who worked on this thought, how do you not know who you’re supposed to root for? They think, well, The Rock is above-the-line; you root for the star of the show. Of course, right? Except the story you’re presenting doesn’t support that reading, so all you get from a regular viewer is WHAT A BORING MESS.

I think it’s hilarious the folks behind it forgot how movies are supposed to work and just made one for TikTokkers instead of movie goers. I mean, I would watch a JSA HBOMax show, but the problem with this flick is that it has nothing to do with anything, and nobody set up why the audience should care besides YOU GUYS LIKE THE ROCK, REMEMBER?

Well, anyway, James Gunn.

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Larry Young
Larry Young
Larry Young is a writer: non-fiction, graphic novels, and pop culture criticism. His work has appeared in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, VARIETY, and THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION. A frequent guest on the video podcasts MILLION DOLLAR MAILBOX and WORD BALLOONS, he’s also co-host of SERIOUS STAR TREK and the sister YouTube channel of this website.



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