It’s been 15 long years since Dwayne Johnson first expressed interest in playing Black Adam, a classic 1940s DC Comics supervillain. The project has been stuck in development hell for years, but the film will finally hit theaters this fall. And we now have the first trailer for Black Adamwhich gives us a glimpse into the character’s origin story and his inevitable encounter with the Justice Society of America (JSA).
(Spoilers for some of the comics below.)
The character had a cameo appearance as a villain in the first issue of The Marvel Family Comics in 1945. Canonically, he is an ancient Egyptian named Teth-Adam, whom the wizard Shazam chooses to be his successor. Teth-Adam was believed to be pure of heart, but once endowed with the powers of Shazam, he became corrupt, killing the ruling pharaoh and seizing the Egyptian throne. Unable to revoke these powers, Shazam banished Teth-Adam to the farthest star in the universe.
It took Teth-Adam 5,000 years to fly back to Earth – it was the 1940s after all – when he met the Marvel Family. Eventually, a family member tricks him into saying “Shazam” again, and Teth-Adam reverts to his human form, instantly aging by 5,000 years. This is the story that will be presented in 2019 Shazam, as the Wizard explains what happened to young Billy Batson. (In this film’s version, Teth-Adam, also known as Black Adam, unleashed the seven deadly sins on Earth and wiped out entire civilizations.)
DC Comics acquired the rights to Black Adam in the 1970s, and he became a recurring character in theirs Shazam family Comics. Initial interest in a character-focused film dates back to the early 2000s, with Johnson in the title role, but New Line Cinema put development on hold in 2009. In 2014, Warner Bros. took on the project with the intention of making Black Adam part of the DCEU. Johnson’s Black Adam was originally intended to appear as a villain Shazam, but by that point he was a huge, bankable movie star, and the studio decided to give him a film in his own right. (He appears briefly in hologram form as the wizard tells Billy the backstory.)
Black Adam Reunites Johnson with jungle cruise Director Jaume Collet Serra. The film’s premise is that an exiled Black Adam reemerges some 5,000 years after his exile and is thrust into the modern world, where his ruthless, no-prisoner-taking approach to fighting evildoers doesn’t quite fit into dominant culture mores.
Black Adam will also introduce the JSA into the DCEU. Pierce Brosnan plays Kent Nelson, aka Doctor Fate, a JSA member who wears a magical helmet. Noah Centineo plays Atom Smasher, a JSA member who can manipulate his molecular structure to alter his size and strength. Aldis Hodge plays Hawkman, an archaeologist and the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince. Its signature wings give it the power of flight. And Quintessa Swindell plays Cyclone, the Red Tornado’s granddaughter, who controls the wind and can create sounds.
Also joining the cast is Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz, a college professor and resistance fighter in the fictional nation of Kahndaq, Black Adam’s original homeland. She is a love interest in the comics and it seems likely that she will take on a similar role in the film. We also know that the crime group Intergang will appear in the film.
The trailer hints at the character’s origin story as we see Teth-Adam as a slave in ancient Egypt who loses his son and gains god-like powers very similar to Shazam’s. But other than that, we don’t learn much about the plot. This is apparently intentional, according to producer Hiram Garcia, who recently told io9 that this first trailer is meant to be more of a teaser. There are glimpses of Atom Smasher, Cyclone and Doctor Fate telling Black Adam he can choose to be a villain or a savior of this world. Thera also has a revealing interaction with Hawkman, who may be positioned as a moral foil for Black Adam’s antihero. Hawkman insists that superheroes don’t kill people. “Well I do,” replies Black Adam. And, of course, we get snippets of Johnson’s signature dry wit.
Black Adam hits theaters on October 21, 2022.
Listing image from YouTube/DC/Warner Bros