If there’s one thing that no one in Hollywood has ever doubted, it’s that Dwayne Johnson was born to play a superhero. It’s effectively what he’s already been doing for his entire post-wrestling career anyway, portraying bulging men accomplishing impossible feats, like the time he held back a helicopter from taking off in Hobbs & Shaw, relying on nothing more than the strength of his bare hands. But given that Johnson’s biggest attribute aside from his muscles is his natural charisma and sense of humor, does it not seem as if his first big superhero outing should perhaps have been a character willing to crack a smile? Judging from the first trailer for Black Adam below, though, that shouldn’t be something you’re expecting to see. The ultra-familiar looking collection of standard superhero material hints at a film that very much feels like the product of a 20-year-long cycle of superhero cinema.
Black Adam is essentially an antihero, a former slave imprisoned for 5,000 years before he’s reborn with superpowers he shares with the magically empowered hero of the DCEU’s Shazam. In the comics, Black Adam is the longtime nemesis of Shazam, but here it looks like the screenplay is trying to delicately toe a line between “cool antihero” and “villain willing to kill people,” relying on the popularity of The Rock to effectively protect the character’s reputation regardless of what he actually does.
DCEU geeks, meanwhile, mostly seem to be relying upon the film as a conduit to enjoy more golden age DC superheroes at this point, as the presence of the Justice Society of America means the introduction of many new heroes. Among them: Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher, a hero who can control his molecular structure to grow and shrink; Aldis Hodge as classic JSA leader Hawkman; Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone, who can control wind and generate sound; and Pierce Brosnan as the sorcerer Doctor Fate, rocking an iconic enchanted helmet. Brosnan in particular receives a lot of screen time in the trailer below, and could well be Black Adam’s saving grace.
Still, it’s hard to get past just how tired and familiar all of this feels, right down to a recreation of the classic “flying with fighter jets” scene first depicted all the way back in 2008 in Iron Man. Have we simply sailed well past the point of diminishing returns on superhero fare? Or does Black Adam still have a few surprises in store? We’ll find out when it hits theaters on Oct. 21, 2022.