BLACK ADAM (2022)
Sequel/reboot finds Task Force X being sent to the small South American island of Corto Maltese to destroy the ominous Project Starfish. Col. Flag (Joel Kinnamen) leads the charge, with the returning Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and a host of other freakish, reluctant heroes. They take heavy loses and some are captured, as we soon find out they were a distraction for the real squad, Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone). Now this new squad must make a few rescues along the way to accomplishing their mission.
Flick is written and directed by James Gunn and is basically a very simple plot dragged out over 132 minutes. It’s over two hours of juvenile humor, excessive gore—simply for the sake of being gory—and random action sequences, till we get to our last act confrontation with a giant alien starfish. It gets tedious quick as the colorful cast of characters meanders around for two hours before finally reaching their objective. There is a lot of blood and bullets along the way and that would be fine if it didn’t feel so made up as it goes along and rambles more than tells a story. A lot of the humor falls flat, the overblown CGI gore gets tiresome and the only thing that holds our interest somewhat is that Gunn has at least given some fairly ridiculous characters a little weight and depth. Even the climactic battle with the giant, alien starfish Starro feels like it could have used a bit more of the WOW factor. Iffy CGI blood aside, this foul-mouthed super hero flick—which wouldn’t be a bad thing if there was more wit to the vulgarity—has some top notch SPFX, some decent action scenes and a cast that is far better than the disappointing material. And speaking of that cast…
Once again Margot Robbie is the perfectly cast Harley Quinn in a sadly underwhelming movie. Harley is sidelined for a portion of the film in a silly and thankfully brief romance with a South American dictator sub-plot and once she does rejoin the squad, she is more of a second banana and seems to be written more dim-witted than her usual sarcastic cleverness. When will this actress get the flick she and her portrayal deserve? Elba is good as Bloodsport, who is basically a re-written Deadshot, as Will Smith wisely had had enough. Jai Courtney is fun as Boomerang, in a far too small part. John Cena is fun as the patriotic to the point of insane Peacemaker and one wishes he had some better dialogue and moments. KInnamen is fine as Flag and Davis is solid as a returning Amanda Waller. Real standouts amongst the new cast members are Stallone hilariously voicing the simpleton brute that is King Shark, David Dastmalchian is fun as the dour and sympathetic Polka-Dot Man and Daniela Melchior gives some nice heart to Ratcatcher 2. There are also a host of familiar faces in small supporting roles, such as Michael Rooker as Savant, Nathan Fillion as TDK and Alice Braga as rebel leader Sol Soria. A really good cast in a sadly underwhelming movie.
Overall, James Gunn writes and directs this flick like a giddy 13 year-old and, for the most part, not in a good way. He chooses vulgarity over wit, crudeness instead of cleverness and wastes a really good cast with a meandering mess of a superhero flick. As the Deadpool movies prove, R-rated superhero flicks can be a blast, but this one takes a real simple, basic story and stretches it out over two and a quarter hours. It’s tedious and rambles most of the time, with only a few standout sequences, such as Harley Quinn’s acrobatic and violent escape from captivity and Polka-Dot Man’s brief but triumphant moment in the last act. It’s a slight improvement over David Ayer’s awful original, but not by much and Gunn has shown he certainly can do better with his witty and fun Guardians of the Galaxy flicks and his gory, nostalgic Slither. Very disappointing.
Rated 2 (out of 4) underused Harley Quinns
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DC Comics based flick is an awful and tedious disappointment that makes the flawed Batman v Superman look like a masterpiece in comparison. The mess of a story has a ruthless government official (Viola Davis) planning to put a squad of imprisoned bad guys together as a black ops deterrent to the rising number of meta-humans showing up in the world. This group, including assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and the Joker’s (Jared Leto) main squeeze, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), is coerced into action via explosive devices injected in their necks a la Escape From New York. They get a chance for action when a powerful witch named Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) revives her equally powerful CGI brother and begins to build a weapon to destroy all mankind. The team reluctantly sets out to save the world that hates them and imprisoned them.
The flick’s mess of a script is written by David Ayer (writer and director of the equally bad Sabotage) who also lifelessly directs what might be one of the dullest superhero flicks in recent memory. The movie resembles the Ghostbusters remake at times with it’s swirling energies and omnipotent villains surrounded by pulsating CGI, but at least that flick had some life to it. Despite source material ripe for a good anti-hero flick, in the spirit of the similar but far superior Deadpool, this dull mess is routine and forgettable in every way. From the dialog, to the ho-hum action to the visual design to the cinematography, there is nothing here that stands out save for Margot Robbie’s short shorts which she looks quite fetching in. Ayer doesn’t generate any suspense, energy or even attitude as the film tries way too hard to be hip by flooding the soundtrack with dozens of pop songs and classic tunes. There were about five in the first two or three minutes. It’s obvious and gets annoying after a while. There really is very little to recommend in this flick with the few effective scenes being those involving Affleck’s Batman and they are not long enough to save this overbearing bomb.
As for the cast, they are completely wasted with only Will Smith showing some gusto in his portrayal of the assassin Deadshot and he has some of the best lines…which isn’t saying much. Despite showing potential in the trailers, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is only moderately amusing and never really has much to do except for some smart ass lines and a couple of so-so fight scenes with the Enchantress’s avocado-like minions. Jai Courtney gets a scant few laughs as the deranged Captain Boomerang, but like everyone else, he just never is given any truly impressive or impacting moments. This even extends to Jared Leto as the Joker and it’s really disappointing he is never really allowed to cut loose. He’s just an eccentric thug, nothing special. He showed potential, but the material is just not there and at the moment, the late Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson have nothing to worry about…come to think about it, neither does Cesar Romero.
IMO this is the biggest dud of the summer and certainly the most disappointing. It had good source material and a solid cast, but was put in the hands of someone who had no idea what to do with it. It’s dull, lifeless and on an action/FX level completely routine. Add to that the story is a jumbled mess and there is very little to recommend here other than simple curiosity, or to witness a cinematic train wreck in motion. Also stars Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Karen Fukuhara as team members El Diablo, Killer Croc and Katana respectively.
1 and 1/2 anti-heroines who deserved a much better movie.