DC’s ‘Black Adam’ Subverts Fan Expectations


Warner Bros. Pictures

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars anti-hero, Black Adam, in the newest edition to the DCEU (DC Extended Universe).

Kylie Baker

In the face of Marvel Studios’ wild success, DC fired back at its rival with its newest movie featuring a superhero that very few had ever heard of: “Black Adam.” This latest film was an instant hit at the box office, smashing through with nearly $140 million on opening weekend. Even with a crushing 39% score from critics at Rotten Tomatoes, fans rushed to the theaters and were not disappointed.

The character of Black Adam, also known as Teth Adam, debuted in 1945 by Otto Binder and C.C. Beck; this supervillain was created in direct opposition of the hero known as Captain Marvel, more modernly known as Shazam. Teth Adam was the original holder of the powers of ancient Greek heroes that Shazam wields, but was sealed away by the Wizard for becoming power-hungry. 

Director Jaume Collet-Serra, however, takes a different perspective of the villain. Black Adam’s actor, Dwayne Johnson, worked closely with Collet-Sera to push an anti-hero narrative.

Originally, Black Adam was never going to have a solo movie, and would’ve featured in “Shazam!” (2019), but DC wanted to build up the rivals individually in order to have a more impactful fight.

Not only does Black Adam himself face a narrative change, but his backstory and the importance of his character do too.

The original iteration of Teth Adam was a crude caricature of ancient Egyptian stereotypes, something Johnson and Collet-Sera agreed had to go. Collet-Sera reimagines the narrative with fictional country Kahndaq, a nation facing colonialism in ancient and modern times.

“Black Adam” uses this location to provide commentary on imperialism in the Middle East and Africa, displaying the resource stripping and slavery of Teth Adam’s time, to the oil drilling and military presence in the modern era. Intergang, Kahndaq’s occupiers, serve as an allegory to Western occupation techniques in their brutality towards citizens, their destruction of land and monuments in the pursuit of rare ores, and the lack of global organizations stopping them.

Casting director Rich Delia took steps to create a diverse cast full of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC stars. Many characters that have long since been portrayed as white were cast instead based on raw talent, such as Dominica-American Aldis Hodge who delivers a stoic and witty performance as Hawkman, or African-American and nonbinary actor Quintess Swindell blowing the audience away as Cyclone.

All in all, despite critics’ outcry, “Black Adam” is an instant hit for DC and has propelled them back into the spotlight. 

(Oh, and make sure to stay through the credits for a very exciting cameo!)