‘Black Adam’ Starring Dwayne Johnson: What to Know about Shazam’s DC Spin-off

It’s hard to keep all the comic book heroes and villains straight. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Black Adam in a new DC Comics feature film coming out from Warner Bros. on Oct. 21, but even loyal comics readers may have no idea who this character is. A new trailer for the film was released on June 8. Here’s a look at this intriguing character and his past.

Who is Black Adam?

In the original comics, Black Adam is a corrupted ancient Egyptian with a complicated backstory. His original name is Teth-Adam, and the wizard Shazam grants him Shazam’s same powers. However, once loaded up with power, he turns evil. He decides to conquer the world, starting with Egypt. Shazam can’t take back the powers he gave Black Adam, so instead he banishes Black Adam, who doesn’t make it back to Earth until 1945.

But comic book stories are flexible, and Black Adam’s story has been rewritten several times since his first run-through. You could spend months digging through old issues, catching up on all his storylines. There’s no question that you won’t need to know anything about Black Adam’s comic past to understand the movie — DC isn’t about to cut out a huge number of potential moviegoers.

What are his powers?

He has the powers of Shazam, whose name originally stands for the wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles and speed of Mercury. (But later on in his comic history, these powers are attributed to Egyptian gods.)

Either way, he’s kinda like Superman: He’s got it all. The movie trailer shows Black Adam not even blinking when he gets hit in the face with an iron rod, then tossing the guy who hit him an enormous distance. He’s also impervious to automatic-weapon fire, and he can fly. He can also catch rockets.

Is he a hero or a villain?

Originally, a villain. And he seems to lean that way in the film. But yes, moviegoers love The Rock, and maybe Warner Bros. will be tempted to give him a revelation that turns him good. Call him an antihero? Like how people rooted for Tony Soprano even though they knew he was doing bad things?

The trailer gets right to this question, saying, “In this world, there are heroes and there are villains. Heroes don’t kill people.” And Black Adam replies, “Well, I do.”

He’s also told in the trailer that he can be “the destroyer of this world, or you can be its savior.” Though Black Adam doesn’t say which way he’s leaning, he’s then seen to catch a rocket that would’ve killed two regular humans in a Scooby-Doo-style van. So at least he’s THEIR savior?

One of the YouTube commenters on the trailer addresses the dilemma, writing, “Looks like a solid movie, just hope they keep him as a villain, I get Dwayne’s star power and how he’s the Hollywood action hero guy, but Black Adam is way more interesting as a villain.”

Who are all those characters in the trailer?

In the trailer, Black Adam says he was a slave until he died — and then he’s shown being horribly murdered: slashed and thrown off a cliff. “Then, I was reborn a god,” he says, adding that his son sacrificed his own life to save him, and as a result, “Now, I kneel before no one.”

Pierce Brosnan is prominent in the movie trailer. He plays Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate, a member of the Justice Society of America and the son of an archeologist. That elaborate hat he puts on is the Helmet of Fate, which gives him superpowers.

Other JSA members appearing in the movie are Carter Hall/Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), an archaeologist who can fly; Albert Rothstein/Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), who can change his size and strength; and Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), who controls wind and generates sound.

What’s the song in the Black Adam trailer?

The background music in the Black Adam trailer is the 2011 song Murder to Excellence, by Kanye West and Jay Z. It samples a traditional Romanian tune, Purtata Fetelor de la Căpâlna.

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