Finally!The Rock is coming to the #DCEU, starring in both Shazam! and a Black Adam origin story. For some, it may be hard to imagine Black Adam as anything more than an extremist, power-hungry god and arch-nemesis of #Shazam (who also has some occasional bouts with Superman). However, Black Adam isn't your ordinary villain.
With a combination of his rich Egyptian history and all of the elements that make villain origin stories interesting — poverty, power, greed, corruption and death — #BlackAdam is just the movie that fans have been looking for. In fact, it'll be the story that Hollywood has been trying and failing to make for years.
An Origin Story Made For Greatness
A villain needs complexity and motivation, not just a desire to be evil for evil's sake. The Rock himself opted to play Black Adam instead of Shazam for that very reason:
“What made me choose Black Adam? I just felt Black Adam was inherently more interesting to me because I felt there were more layers to Black Adam, starting out as a slave and then ultimately becoming the anti-hero who we enjoy today.”
No Realistic Character Would Actually Say They're A Villain
A great story from a villain's perspective must really explore his or her psychological makeup and beliefs. In other words: what makes them evil when they believe they're doing good?
One of the best origin villain stories is The Godfather Part II, which won the Oscar for Best Picture by exploring the origins of Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro) while highlighting the burden placed on his successor and son, Michael (Al Pacino), who both commit unspeakable acts in the name of protecting and strengthening their family.
That dual timeline formula would work very well in presenting both Shazam and Black Adam dueling in the present before going back in time with the latter’s origin.
George Lucas' Star Wars prequels weren't nearly as critically acclaimed, but they explained that Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader to save the woman whom he loved, not just because he wanted to commit atrocities for their own sake.
That's a lesson that Black Adam should heed when depicting his journey and transformation. There needs to be a focus on Teth Adam being dragged and battered by his slavers, creating such an empathetic response that no matter what we know happens later, we’d want to see him prosper in the moment.
But A Great Villain Can't Just Be A Moody Hero
Dracula Untold wanted audiences to relate to one of the most famous villains in the history of fiction by presenting him as a guy who just wanted to save his people. Unfortunately, Dracula Untold didn't actually make fans afraid of him; the immortal vampire formerly known as Vlad the Impaler came off as purely heroic.
While it's important to show the villain's perspective, Dracula Untold wasn't at all true to the character. Failing to reflect the source material for the sake of likability is something that Black Adam must avoid.
The DCEU can present Black Adam in a light that creates empathy, and we can even occasionally celebrate when he's triumphant, but let's not forget why he's a villain in the first place.
Are Deadpool And Harley Quinn The Blueprint?
Deadpool is more of an antihero than an outright villain, but if we’ve learned anything from 2016, it's that badassery makes money. Wade Wilson isn't selfless and upstanding like Captain America, but we still rooted for him because he had a moral code of some kind.
Likewise, Suicide Squad followed a group of criminals forced to be heroes, and — while critics may have hated it — the film raked in $754 million at the box office, making Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn an overnight icon. Gotham City Sirens will see her join fellow antiheroes Catwoman and Poison Ivy.
While Black Adam is an extremist who uses his powers as a means to an end, his urge to rid the world of oppression is heroic in its way. DC should give us a tragic story with strong content (we can handle it) and not water it down into something full of optimism and lightheartedness. That’s what Shazam is for!