The potential big screen relationship between classic comic book adversaries Shazam and Black Adam has been a huge question mark for a long time. It was first revealed that Dwayne Johnson was collaborating with DC Comics on a Black Adam project all the way back in September 2014, and yet those plans never crossed over with the Shazam! movie that has been developing for years and is making its way to theaters this spring. Fans are anticipating the showdown eventually, but it’s definitely not happening any time in the near future.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t something in the back of the minds of the filmmakers involved. As while Shazam! will not feature an in-the-flesh Black Adam when it hits cinemas, there is a very clear reason, as director David F. Sandberg and producer Peter Safran recently explained when talking about the classic villain and the role of Mark Strong’s Dr. Sivana in the upcoming film:
David F. Sandberg: Sivana is kind of the oldest villain for Shazam. It was always that; when I came on board it was always Sivana - because I think they sort of played with the idea of having the first movie be both Shazam and Black Adam, and felt like it needs more setup then you want to spend in the first movie, Shazam! We want to introduce him first before...
Peter Safran: Shazam's origin story is big enough to merit its own film, and I think that's really what everybody discovered early on, and when you see the movie you'll see that that's what it deserved. And that's what it got.
This past week I joined a small group of journalists on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California, where we not only had the chance to watch footage from Shazam!, but also participate in a roundtable discussion with David F. Sandberg and Peter Safran. The conversation touched on many subjects, but Black Adam was one that kept coming back around during the interview.
Black Adam’s presence – or, more accurately, lack thereof – was a topic instigated independent of what we got to see in the screened Shazam! footage, but it is worth noting that one of the scenes did seem to bring up the villain’s past existence in the DC Extended Universe. Specifically, the scene where the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) introduces himself to young Billy Batson (Asher Angel) includes a sparkly light show that visually plays out the history of the powers being bequeathed. The wizard says that the first attempt at choosing a hero was done long ago and recklessly, and millions were killed as a result. For those familiar with the source material, this sounds a lot like Black Adam’s history in ancient Egypt.
When I asked for confirmation about this, however, both David F. Sandberg and Peter Safran played coy, and wouldn't officially say one way or the other if I was interpreting the scene properly. The duo responded, all while smiling:
Peter Safran: You could read it that way if you choose to.
David Sandberg: It's a bunch of particles.
Peter Safran: If you saw something... it's like a Rorschach test. If you see that in it, you see that in it.
Take from that what you will. You'll be able to make the call for yourself when the film hits theaters in a few months.
As noted by the director, Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana does pre-date the existence of Black Adam, debuting in the pages of Fawcett Comics six years prior (1939 vs. 1945), but the latter has been long seen as Shazam a.k.a. Captain Marvel's archenemy. Part of the reason for this, as suggested above, is because his powers have similar origins and capacities as Shazam’s, making most battles between them an equal fight… on paper. One serious advantage Black Adam has is simple experience, having lived for centuries with his gifts, and initially being a brave Egyptian warrior named Teth-Adam instead of a young kid who has a drive to stand up to bullies.
Black Adam was created by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck, and while we've seen seemingly hundreds of DC villains adapted into live-action before, he's never been depicted in the medium (which is not something that can be said of Shazam). The fact that he's never been played by an actor before was part of the reason why Dwayne Johnson signed on for the part - in addition to being a fan of the character from childhood. In the comics Black Adam has become an anti-hero of sorts in recent years, which is clearly something that Johnson wants to pursue, but there is a certain level of expectation that he will be introduced as a villain.
Right now we still don’t know when we can expect Dwayne Johnson to make his DC Extended Universe debut – whether it be in another project, or his own solo movie – but one thing that the Shazam director and producer made clear is a legitimate desire to see the hero and villain square off at some point in the future. Asked about the possibility of seeing Black Adam in Shazam 2 or another sequel, David Sandberg and Peter Safran said,
David Sandberg: You want to see it at some point, because it's a classic villain.
Peter Safran: He's a perfect adversary, so one would hope that eventually you see those two on screen together - at some point. But it's not in this one.
DC fans will have to wait patiently for that epic and highly anticipated battle, but before then we have the exciting debut of Shazam! on the big screen in just a few months. Starring Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Ian Chen in addition to Djimon Hounsou, Asher Angel, and Mark Strong, the latest superhero feature will be flying high and into a theater near you on April 5th. It’s easily one of our most anticipated features here at CinemaBlend, and we’ll excitedly be bringing you more updates about the film between now and its release.