HomeAAPI ActorsDwayne The Rock Johnson strikes fools gold for diversity

Dwayne The Rock Johnson strikes fools gold for diversity

By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Reporter

Black Adam is a superhero film that seems to be a triumph for diversity with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the titular character, but in many ways, this is diversity gone wrong. Its box office success means it is unlikely that the people behind the DC cinematic universe will reflect upon the problems this film presents.

The film is set in a fictional West Asian-ish country named Kahndaq where a ruthless ruler Ahk-Ton (Marwan Kenzari), wants to build a crown that will give him more power, the Crown of Sabbac. In the mines, slaves search for the rare mineral Eternium. When one finds it, there is both a celebration and a rebellion. One of the slaves becomes a hero, but that hero is only a legend in contemporary times.

An archeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) finds the crown, but her team is ambushed by the military gang that is terrorizing the country. Adrianna recites the words that free Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson) who kills the gang members.

Adrianna and her son help Teth-Adam adjust to the new times but from the US the Justice Society arrives to take Teth-Adam into custody. He also needs to defend himself against the Justice Society: Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo). But who will save the people of Kahndaq from US intervention and the oppression of this extremist military gang?

Barcelona-born director Jaume Collet-Serra does well enough with the endless action scenes, but fails in maintaining good timing and balancing the tone during the moments the scripted humor in this screenplay by Adam Sztykiel (Made of Honor and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip) with  Rory Haines and Iranian-American (raised Muslim) Sohrab Noshirvani (The Mauritanian). The theme of justifiable violence is also problematic. At just over two hours, the film feels long. Be sure to stay for the mid-credits Superman scene.

While this film features heroes who are Black and White, shouldn’t Teth-Adam/Black Adam be either North African or West Asian? Johnson is African American and Samoan, but he isn’t representative of North Africa or West Asia. East Asia gets a dubious moment when during a search one of the characters veers off into a Mandarin Chinese-speaking area, but there is no one of East Asian descent in a primary role although the race has been changed for one of the members of the Justice Society, Hawkman.

While the casting of Quintessa Swindell as Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone has been celebrated as smashing barriers, but the casting of the heroes seem like an expansion of the Black and White binary of diversity and not representative of true diversity. For a longer, more detailed analysis, visit my blog AgeOfTheGeek.org.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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