As I discussed recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had a meeting with DC Entertainment to discuss the upcoming Shazam film slated for a 2019 release. Years ago, The Rock was cast as Black Adam, the film’s villain. Little was heard about the project until The Rock’s meeting with DC, and today we have even bigger news.
Black Adam will get his own solo film, prior to the introduction of Captain Marvel (a.k.a Shazam) in a later film. Some people love this idea, I am not one of them.
I don’t believe that The Rock is a great actor, but he is still one of my favourites. His charisma is off the charts and Ballers shows that he is also developing as a more serious, dramatic actor. I follow his Instagram religiously and respect his work ethic above all else. With that said, this move comes across as one fuelled solely by Johnson’s star power. The official reason provided for the solo film is that Black Adam has a very interesting backstory that the film-makers want to have room to tell. Johnson also says that is the main reason he wanted to play Black Adam, as opposed to Captain Marvel (he was offered both parts).
However, that reason seems like a smoke screen used to rationalize a move made with star power in mind. Some people argue that it doesn’t make sense for Johnson to play a villain opposite another actor, instead of a lead. Maybe they would have a point if we weren’t living in the golden age of comic book films. Big name actors (measured by pedigree or box office power) have all had relatively small parts in comic book films, compared to relative new comers. Spoilers for The Winter Soldier: Chris Evans gets his Captain America franchise while Robert Redford plays a villain who gets killed off at the end of the film. Jamie Foxx played Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. No one said Scarlett Johansson’s star power warranted her getting a Black Widow solo film before The Avengers, and Black Widow’s backstory is also very interesting.
Black Adam may have a great backstory and he may be a great character, but he was a character created for a hero. The Joker is my favourite villain and while I love his origin in The Killing Joke, I wouldn’t want to see a Joker solo film before a Batman film. Part of what makes many villains so great is their interaction with the hero. The push and pull between different conceptions of right and wrong, the way that the characters provide foils for one another.
Additionally, The Rock emphasized that DC films would now be bringing more “optimism, hope and fun”. That does not fit with Black Adam’s backstory or his persona as a whole. If this will be a story about a slave rising to power, I hope the writers don’t throw in one-liners simply to add some “fun” in.