The Rock’s Black Adam Has Been Stuck In Development Hell For 14 Years

The Rock’s Black Adam Has Been Stuck In Development Hell For 14 Years
Image: DC/Warner Bros.

Way back in 2007, DC fans caught wind of a new project on the near horizon: Shazam!, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the villainous Black Adam.

This was in the period following The Rock’s departure from WWE, when his star was quickly growing in the movie industry.

His enthusiasm for the character and the support of DC fans meant fervour for Black Adam’s appearance was high, but the film sadly never came to fruition.

Now, after fourteen years of waiting and hoping, we finally have a release date for Black Adam. While it’s not the Captain Marvel vs. Black Adam Shazam! movie that was originally planned, it’s still great to see the movie lock in concrete plans.

It’s been an incredibly long time coming for the film.

Who is Black Adam?

Black Adam is a villain (or anti-hero) that often butts heads with DC’s Captain Marvel, also known as Shazam.

Like all other DC characters, there’s two versions of his origin story (Pre-52 and the New 52).

In his classic origin, he’s an ancient Egyptian who inherited the powers of the wizard Shazam prior to Billy Batson (the current Shazam). Black Adam has a vendetta against Batson because they both wield the same power, and the villain is determined to prove he’s more worthy of it.

In the New 52, his origin differs slightly. Here, he’s the ‘violent’ protector of Kahndaq, a fictional city in Egypt, and plays more of an anti-hero role.

What do we know about Black Adam (2022)?

During DC FanDome, an online event held in 2020, we learned that DC’s Black Adam, starring The Rock, would be an epic solo film telling the anti-hero’s origin story.

From the early motion trailer, we know Black Adam follows the titular anti-hero as he escapes punishment for attempting to free Kahndaq (his home) from tyrannical rule.

While his crimes aren’t mentioned specifically in the trailer, it does imply he used violent means to free his people from slavery, leading to his imprisonment.

The film will cover these events, as well as Black Adam’s 5,000 year journey to modern day Earth where “nobody will ever stop him again”. Whether he’s a hero or a villain in this iteration is left unclear.

So far, all we know is Pierce Brosnan will appear as Doctor Fate, likely in an ‘antagonist-style’ role.

In March 2021, the movie was finally given a U.S. release date of July 29, 2022 — so it’s likely we’ll learn more about the film soon.

How did we get here?

black adam dc comics who is he
Image: DC/Warner Bros.

Black Adam first hit headlines around 2007, but it wasn’t until 2009 that The Rock was officially confirmed to play the role. At the time, he would simply play a part in the Shazam! solo film, which eventually came out in 2019.

But producers hadn’t reckoned with something we know about The Rock today: he’s one of the most charismatic stars in entertainment.

In 2009, The Rock was still dealing with his wrestling associations and a long line of middling roles. He wasn’t the ‘leading man’ powerhouse he’s become today.

But as development on Shazam! halted and rumours it’d been cancelled grew, The Rock was quietly building an empire for himself.

The reasons why it took Shazam! ten years to release have never been made clear, but it likely had to do with a combination of factors: Marvel’s successes in the superhero genre put pressure on DC to start building its own coherent universe.

Conflicting opinions meant even DC executives weren’t sure the film was actually releasing. The cost and effort of special effects was a major concern, and the reception for films like 2013’s Man of Steel was an even bigger one.

But the largest reason for the project’s initial shelving in 2009 is likely down to the ‘magical’ nature of Shazam.

The superhero’s story has always been very weird, particularly because the relationship between Billy Batson and his superheroic adult alter-ego is extremely nuanced.

Shazam! required a sharp, tongue-in-cheek script and a deep understanding of what made the character tick. It had to be ridiculous, but not so ridiculous that audiences wouldn’t believe in the character.

While this was mostly achieved in 2019’s Shazam!, an obvious consequence of the need for a lighter tone was Black Adam being sidelined.

In 2017, it was decided that Black Adam deserved his own spin-off, rather than being shoved into a light-hearted romp with Billy Batson.

When you compare the comedic tone of Shazam! to Black Adam’s darker anti-hero violence, the reason for the change is obvious. Both heroes have complimentary powers, but they each needed their own origin stories to do them justice.

While it took over a decade for Black Adam to get the film he deserves, the confirmed release date and start of filming locked in for April 2021 means we will finally get to see the anti-hero hit the big screen. After 14 years, the character’s story will finally be told.

With The Rock being such a big name, and the character have such a passionate fanbase, it’s likely Black Adam will play an important part in the future of the DCEU.

Black Adam is currently set to open in the U.S. on July 29, 2022.

While an Australian date is yet to be confirmed, we can assume it’ll stick closely to the planned U.S. release. Stay tuned to Gizmodo Australia for more news on this front.