Black Adam repeats an early DCEU Problem


Dwayne Johnson joins the DCEU in “Black Adam,” but the first trailer for the film shows that a serious problem with early DCEU releases like “Man of Steel” still persists. The main villain turned anti-hero Shazam may end up working in his own movie, but future projects in which Black Adam meets the Shazam family may suffer. If Black Adam is to become a beloved part of the haphazard DCEU, DC and Warner Bros. must solve this ongoing problem.

In Black Adam, Dwayne Johnson plays Tet-Adam, an antihero with powers comparable to Shazam, who is imprisoned for 5,000 years. In the short trailer, scenes in which Black Adam cries over his dead son contrast with humorous gags, including a grunt that hits the antihero to no avail. The trailer shows how the character interacts with other heroes from the Justice Society of America (JSA), the first superhero team of the DC universe. These include Hawkman, Atom Smasher, Cyclone, and Dr. Faith, played by Pierce Brosnan and seemingly taking on the role of Black Adam’s mentor.

Tone balancing has never been the DCEU’s strong suit, and Black Adam continues this problematic trend. Even in the first part of the DCEU, “Man of Steel”, director Zack Snyder could not create a suitable tone for Superman, as a result of which the film turned out to be too gloomy, contradicting the bright personality of the hero. By showing the tragic side of Black Adam, his dark origins linked to the death of his son, director Jaume Collet-Serra makes the latest DCEU film seem just as harsh. However, it also contains jokes much more reminiscent of the tone of the MCU, showing that DC still can’t decide what tone it wants its movies to be.

Of course, not all DCEU movies should have the same tone, as evidenced by the tonal difference between “Batman” and “Suicide Squad.” Shazam! succeeds precisely because of its silly, funny tone, and even darker elements like Mark Strong’s Dr. Sivana work in a comic book-inspired universe. Moreover, Shazam Zachary Levy is literally a child who becomes a superhero, so a lighter tone is very appropriate for this film. But Black Adam, it seems, can’t be a lighthearted superhero where Dwayne Johnson comically catches rockets and is practically invulnerable, or a harsh character about a violent superhero with a dark past.

This tonal problem can be fixed in the film, as it may happen that the trailer for Black Adam includes several lighter scenes, and the rest are generally darker in tone. However, if Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam ends up meeting the Shazam family, the inconsistent tone of his film may contradict the Shazam sequel! “Rage of the Gods”, which is likely to be a fun and light film, like its predecessor. However, according to Shazam! “Rage of the Gods” director David F. Sandberg (via Games Radar) has no plans at this stage to include Black Adam in this film. Regardless, “Black Adam” needs to set a consistent tone if it wants to become a successful DCEU movie.