After months of debate and speculation, DC Entertainment revealed that Dwayne Johnson would not be playing John Stewart, Lobo, or superform Billy Batson (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) and would, instead, portray Shazam villain Black Adam in the titular character's solo film - set for release in 2019. Since that time, Johnson has talked up Black Adam as a complicated baddie with grey morality - indicating that the studio could evolve the character over multiple appearances, gradually transitioning the villain to reluctant hero.
Still, very little is known about the Shazam film - which comic book storylines the movie will pull from or how Shazam will be connected to the larger DC cinematic universe, not to mention who will portray the onscreen pairing of young Batson and his muscly superhero alter ego. Nevertheless, a new interview with Johnson makes it clear that, whatever occurs when his character comes face-to-face with Shazam, DC has longterm plans for Black Adam.
Speaking with IGN while promoting his upcoming appearance in Furious 7, Johnson shared his excitement for Shazam and an intriguing arc for Black Adam long term - even suggesting that the Shazam movie villain could eventually appear in a Justice League film (as an anti-hero).
Check out the video interview below (along with the full quote further down):
IGN: We are so excited to see Black Adam as this anti-hero imagining there's going to be this antagonistic relationship with Shazam, but I'm wondering, are you interested in exploring his heroic side down the line. Do you think that he could eventually join the Justice League?
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson: I think so, and I think you always want to leave that creatively open, that he could join the Justice League and I think... that's the fun part of creating this character right now and everybody involved, from the studio, from New Line, to Warner Bros as well, to the writer, our producing partners. You want to... you definitely want to engage in his heroic side, but that has to be earned and with the mythology of Black Adam starting off as a slave, because when you start off as a slave, just inherently, there's things in your DNA that piss you off. And that's the bottomline, so I think we have to respect and pay homage to the true mythology and then the heroic side will come down the line, but I think it's important and we all feel it's important and I believe the fans at IGN feel it's important to make sure the homage is paid at the beginning because then you have a stronger foundation to stand on, and so he will become an anti-hero, but at first... daddy's got to go to work.
While DC has been very quiet about the Shazam movie, aside from announcing Johnson as the villain, it's very clear the actor has an idea of where the studio would like to take his character down the line. Still, fans should be happy to hear that DC and New Line Cinema aren't rushing to turn Black Adam into a full-on hero (albeit a ruthless one) and will, conversely, take their time in exploring the villain's suffering and bitterness - as a former Egyptian slave. Gifted with divine power, Black Adam is corrupted, and elects to use the power of Shazam to enact vengeance on oppressors.
As a result, the character inherently includes a moral grey area: using powers to subvert threats to his people and kingdom but, often, by pushing the boundaries of honor and selfless heroism. To that end, it's easy to see how Black Adam's story could fit into the larger DC movie universe: a good man is given the ability to fight evil and oppression but becomes poisoned by fear and arrogance - only to become the oppressor that a new hero (Shazam) must overcome (a story teased in the closing moments of the original Green Lantern movie, as it happens).
Given Johnson's hints at more heroic appearances in the future - it's likely Shazam will help Black Adam see the error of his ways (even if the two never completely see eye-to-eye). The result would be a Black Adam that earns his spot as a Loki-like anti-hero onscreen and within the fiction - a character that manipulates events around him for personal gain and will, when the odds are not in his favor, team-up with good guys to take down a larger threat.
However the story plays out, it's exciting to hear that Johnson understands the importance of "earning" his place alongside DC's biggest and most loved heroes - instead of simply fast-forwarding through the character's arc just to get the fan-favorite actor onscreen with Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Henry Cavill.
Despite a few notable examples, Johnson's comments are an indication of a shift in Hollywood - away from hollow attempts in adhering to the source material (especially in physical appearance) toward actually taking the time to depict complicated heroes and villains that have evolved over half a century in print. It's clear, with a charismatic actor in the role, backed by years of relatable human drama on the printed page, that Black Adam has the potential to be a major selling point in the upcoming DC movie universe.
Considering recent rumors suggesting that Shazam could appear sooner than 2019, it sounds as though the studio sees a lot of potential in this corner of the DC shared universe brand.
We'll keep you updated as we hear more about Shazam.
In the meantime: 6 Actors Who Could Play Shazam
Shazam will be released in theaters on April 5th, 2019.