It’s hard to believe that it has taken this long for Dwayne Johnson to star in a superhero movie, given not only his immense physique in a genre that calls for it, but also considering how much the world of capes and other gimmicks resembles Johnson’s earlier stint in WWE. But, then again, Black Adam has been in development hell since before even the MCU was a thing. You can’t help but wonder, though, just what hierarchy of power is even left to be shaken up at this point in time, and if Johnson’s comic book parable is just too little, too late.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Once a slave in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Kahndaq, Teth Adam (Johnson) liberated his people from oppression and was deemed a ‘champion’ by the deities who gifted him the powers of various Egyptian gods. After using these powers for vengeance however, he was imprisoned and for 5,000 years, he rested peacefully. But when Kahndaq is threatened once more, this time in the present day, Teth is reborn in a world he no longer knows; his controversial methods of killing and violence tick off DC alum Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) who sends in rogue heroes Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan) of the Justice Society of America to imprison Adam and ensure his powers are suppressed.

It’s a shopworn superhero narrative that throws together the political threads of Batman v Superman and the fish-out-of-water themes of Shazam! with the moodiness of Man of Steel, creating a melting pot that feels as messy as Wonder Woman 1984 but not quite as bad as Suicide Squad (2016), hitting every genre tropes and cliché along the way for good measure. There’s the clunky, overwrought exposition to give us the backstory on our titular hero; the comedic side-characters (Noah Centineo’s Atom Smasher) to offset the anguish of the stoic central performance; we even have the side-kick kid and sky-beam CGI finale. It’s a dish we’ve tasted many times before.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

That being said, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it! Black Adam is still a largely entertaining time thanks to some fun direction from Jaume Collet-Serra and a committed turn from Johnson. Teth Adam is one of the more morally complicated antiheroes we’ve seen given the solo treatment, walking the fine line between hero and villain rather well – the film itself even offers an interesting angle on what makes one a hero. Venom and Morbius both struggled with making their antagonistic characters feel imposing, but Adam always teeters on the darker side; it probably helps that the JSA are there as a counterpoint to his actions. While their goals may be aligned, Adam’s intentions are violent and vengeful while the JSA (Hawkman, especially) carry the more traditional hero mantle. He kills, they save. It’s a fun dynamic and allows for some inventive, exciting action sequences throughout. And not only does it make the film feel that little bit more nuanced, it also sets Black Adam up as very intriguing presence within the DCEU going forward. Maybe there’s some hope for the future of this cinematic universe after all.

Black Adam is out in cinemas now.