The Rock Will Lead a Black Adam Solo Film

Deja Vu

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.

The Rock and DC Comics- Tonal Change

Two days ago, The Rock posted to Instagram about a meeting he had with DC Comics concerning the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The Rock was announced as a lead for the DCEU’s Shazam (yes, the hero is actually called Captain Marvel but due to copyright issues he is just Shazam at the moment) adaptation, playing the role of the villain Black Adam.

However, there has been little word on the project since then. Henry Cavill posted a picture of he and the Rock sharing a drink in late December, fueling speculation that The Rock would make an appearance in the next Superman solo film, especially since Cavill hinted at bright things for the future.

The Rock is one of the few stars who can engage audiences off charisma alone. He is not the greatest actor, but his work on Ballers shows that he is developing. I am excited to see that the project is coming together slowly but The Rock’s summary of the meeting leaves me slightly worried.

“Had a very cool and strategic meeting with the heads of DC about their entire universe. As a hard core DC fan, to get a real sense of the tonal shifts and developments coming in these future movies has me fired up. Something we, as DC fans have all been waiting for for a very long time.

Hope, optimism & FUN.

Even when talking about the the most ruthless villain/anti-hero of all time finally coming to life. Prepare yourselves DC Universe.”

I have discussed the obsession with making comic book films “fun” before and how this belief is founded on nonsensical assumptions.

“I am not anti-fun or anti-humour. I simply do not like it when the device is overused. While some Marvel films have juggled it well, such as The Winter Soldier (2014), the Thor series has been severely brought down by terrible and consistent one-liners imho. While Loki’s humour is handled well, Jane’s (Natalie Portman) and Darcy’s (Kat Dennings) end up being the Jar Jars of the franchise. My problem is not only the overuse of humour, but how Marvel has successfully conditioned people to believe that this humour is the mark of a good comic book movie. Nowadays, any film that lacks the same level of levity is deemed too “dark”, “gritty”, “depressing, “brooding” or “pretentious”. A lot of the criticism levied towards Man of Steel (MOS) before it was even released came from this misconception. The trailers were serious in tone, nothing about them screamed “dark” or “brooding”, but people were so used to Marvel’s marketing by this point. The MOS trailers did not have enough one-liners, enough levity in comparison to Marvel’s trailers, so people were thrown off. Everything is relative, and since the MOS trailers were found to be lacking in humour, they were immediately deemed too dark.

This brings up another issue I have with Marvel’s brainwashing. I often hear people throw around the word “dark” like it is an insult in itself. As if saying a film is dark is as bad as saying the acting was terrible, the writing was terrible etc. A film can be “dark” and also be good… While Marvel has darker material in some of its films, and has Netflix shows with much darker tones (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) it appears that Marvel’s status gives it more room to experiment than any other property has. Marvel’s trailers, films and tv shows can have darker tones without people complaining about them trying to “copy Christopher Nolan”, “not being fun” etc. While Marvel is allowed to experiment, change and adapt, DC is now forced to appeal to Marvel sensibilities in order to be less divisive among audiences.”

You don’t have to tell me that BatmanvSuperman (Bvs) of Suicide Squad (SS) had issues. The villains and third act for both films sucked. Some dialogue was weak, some acting was weak, Eisenberg was a terrible Luthor etc. I am not a DC “fanboy”. I don’t think that DC can do no wrong. I just hate the fact that people believe that the solution to these films is to make them more “fun”. Some of the things added to SS to make it more fun, actually made it worse, such as the overly abundant musical segways. The emphasis on adding more “fun” in could cause the writers, directors, studios etc. to overlook other issues, such as a weak villain or weak storytelling (which is not always tied to tone). Like this writer says, “‘Justice League’ Is Reportedly “A Mess” & That’s Fine, As Long As It’s a Fun Mess.” Words can not describe how much I detest this mentality. Sadly critics and audiences will probably love the film more for its tone even if everything else is terrible.

The Justice League trailer already had me worried that the studio is putting even more pressure on the directors and writers to lighten things up. Bruce Wayne seems completely out of character, and so does Barry Allen. Wally West (Allen’s nephew-in law) is the version of The Flash that is known for being comic-relief. Allen is a more serious character, but it seems like the writers have just changed Allen completely in order to get more room for humour. Wayne can be funny as well, but I find his humour is best when it is done similarly to the dry humour we’re familiar with from Alfred.

One of the best examples of Batman’s humour, in my opinion, comes from the animated film Superman/Batman Apocalypse. After a newly arrived Supergirl damages $50,000 worth of batcave equipment, Superman asks Batman to send him the bill.  Batman then says: “On a reporter’s salary, right.”

That kind of humour adds levity, without coming across as out of character. Unlike the “more or less” exchange in The Justice League. That is the issue I have with some of the “fun” people insist on, especially because people normally ask for fun because DC is dark relative to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). When there is an insistence on having “fun” in every scene it can just kill dramatic tension. As Jeremy Jahns said in his review of Doctor Strange, “Sometimes I want an epic moment instead of a funny one.”