It has been 15 long years since Dwayne Johnson first expressed interest in playing Black Adam, a classic DC Comics supervillain dating back to the 1940s. The project was stuck in development hell for years, but the film is finally coming to theaters this fall. And we now have the first trailer for Black Adam, giving us a peek at 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 made 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 the latter’s successor. Teth-Adam was presumed to be pure of heart, but once endowed with the powers of Shazam, he became corrupt, killed the ruling pharaoh, and took over the Egyptian throne. Shazam was unable to revoke those powers, so he exiled Teth-Adam to the most distant star in the universe.
It took Teth-Adam 5,000 years to fly back to Earth—this was the 1940s, after all—at which point he encountered the Marvel Family. Eventually, one family member tricks him into saying “Shazam” again, and Teth-Adam reverts to his human form, aging 5,000 years instantly. This is the story depicted in 2019’s Shazam, when the wizard explains what happened to young Billy Batson. (In that film’s version, Teth-Adam, aka 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 their Shazam Family comics. Initial interest in making a film that would be centered on the character dates back to the early 2000s, with Johnson in the title role, but New Line Cinema placed development on hold in 2009. In 2014, Warner Bros. picked up the project, intending to make Black Adam part of the DCEU. Originally, Johnson’s Black Adam was meant to appear as a villain in Shazam, but by then he was a huge, bankable movie star, and the studio decided to give him a standalone film. (He does briefly appear in hologram form when 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 re-emerges some 5,000 years after his banishment and is thrust into the modern world, where his ruthless take-no-prisoners approach to combating evil-doers doesn’t quite fit in with the prevailing cultural mores.
Black Adam will also introduce the JSA into the DCEU. Pierce Brosnan plays Kent Nelson, aka Doctor Fate, a JSA member who wields a magical helmet. Noah Centineo plays Atom Smasher, a JSA member who can manipulate his molecular structure to change his size and strength. Aldis Hodge plays Hawkman, an archaeologist and the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince. His trademark wings give him the power of flight. And Quintessa Swindell plays Cyclone, the granddaughter of the Red Tornado, who controls wind and can generate sound.
The cast also includes Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz, a university professor and resistance fighter in the fictional nation of Kahndaq, Black Adam’s original homeland. She’s a love interest in the comics, and it seems likely she’ll fill a similar role in the film. We also know that the Intergang criminal group is going to 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 is granted god-like powers quite similar to Shazam’s. But we don’t otherwise learn much about the plot. This is apparently by design, according to producer Hiram Garcia, who told io9 recently that this first trailer is meant to be more of a teaser. There are glimpses of Atom Smasher, Cyclone, and Doctor Fate, who tells Black Adam that he can choose to be a villain or a savior of this world. There’s also a telling interaction with Hawkman, who is possibly being positioned as the moral foil to Black Adam’s antihero. Hawkman insists superheroes don’t kill people. “Well, I do,” Black Adam replies. And of course, we get snippets of Johnson’s trademark dry wit.
Black Adam hits theaters on October 21, 2022.
Listing image by YouTube/DC/Warner Bros