How ‘Black Adam’, The Rock’s First True Superhero Role, Will Reignite The Genre
Over the last decade, it can be argued that the biggest genre of filmmaking and the biggest movie star on the planet have somehow failed to intersect. Despite the superhero boom we’ve seen in the last 12-or-so-years since the release of The Dark Knight and Iron Man, Dwayne Johnson — who is the closest thing we have to a classic action star in the vein of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone — has yet to don the cape and cut the comic book check.
That very abstinence from conventional comic book filmmaking is what makes Warner Bros. locking him down to play Black Adam an absolute coup. Not only do you have The Rock — who is essentially a walking-half-a-billion-dollar-movie (at least) — and not only do you have him taking on an iconic character, but you have him playing such a role for the first time, which is an event in and of itself. This is the genius of Johnson’s career choices: he was likely offered dozens of various superhero roles over the last decade or so, but he kept his options open and watched the genre landscape unfold before committing to a character that he would likely be locked into playing for a handful of films.
This leads us to the most exciting dynamic, which is the character Johnson ultimately chose for his first foray into superhero tights: Black Adam. Perhaps more so than any character that Johnson has played in the last decade, Black Adam is very distinctly not your typical do-gooding hero. He is no golden boy Clark Kent — which side of the moral line he falls on varies depending on his personal motivations, as is the case with all archetypal antiheroes (which are certainly not found in the Marvel Cinematic Universe outside of Loki).
His Wikipedia classifies him as a supervillain and his Fandom page describes him as the strongest metahuman on Earth, which should tell you all you need to know to get excited about the character. Not only is Black Adam a divergence from traditional heroism, the character is a true departure from the ones Johnson usually plays, therefore creating the tantalizing prospect of not only seeing the film push boundaries but seeing Johnson do so as well.
As Johnson himself has frequently promised, Black Adam is going to change the hierarchy of power in the DCEU, which I read as a direct challenge to the franchise’s current reigning heavyweight champion, Superman.
Whether or not Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel appears in the film remains uncertain, but what is crystal clear is that Warner Bros. is treating the character’s entry into the DCEU as a game-changer, which is exactly the sort of storytelling approach that is worthy of this generation’s Schwarzenegger finally joining the genre that has perhaps defined 21st-century filmmaking.
Eric is a New York City-based writer who still isn’t quite sure how he’s allowed to have this much fun for a living and will tell anyone who listens that Gotham City is canonically in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter @eric_ital for movie and soccer takes or contact him firstname.lastname@example.org