Welcome back to Why It’s the Best, ComicBook.com’s ongoing column explaining why a TV show, movie, comic book, or other property is the best of its kind. Today we’re doing something a little different, and looking into the future instead of the past. With Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's latest big screen adventure, San Andreas, out this weekend, we couldn't help but feel even more excited for what will be his best role yet: Black Adam in DC Entertainment's Shazam!
To be clear: I am arguing definitively why Black Adam will be the best role for The Rock yet. In future columns, I may argue why another role is. You can check out the previous editions of the Why It’s the Best column by clicking here. Think of this as debate class, and this week I’m pro-Black Adam.
But that’s an easy task, because Black Adam will definitely be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s best role ever.
What You’ll Be Watching
Part of DC Entertainment and Warner Bros’ new extensive list of comic book movies coming to theaters from 2016-2020, Shazam is scheduled for April 5, 2019 – but in some ways seems farther along than the films coming in 2017 and 2018 from the same producers. Thanks to weeks of teasing and strategic social media leaking of his talks with DC and WB, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was able to officially announce his role in the film rather early: that of not the titular hero, but of the villain, Black Adam.
What Makes It Unique
Well, Dwayne Johnson’s star power has never been higher. Coming from the world of professional wrestling, there’s no question he’s Sports Entertainment’s biggest success story and crossover hit. As The Rock, he was the People’s Champion. Now as Dwayne Johnson, he’s Hollywood’s hope, and a Producer’s dream. Johnson being cast in a film seems to guarantee extra butts in seats, and extra butt kicking in your film. He joined the Fast and Furious franchise, and it became a billion dollar plus hit machine – no coincidence (though not all Johnson by any means). With his star higher than ever and somehow still on the rise, he could likely have his pick of superhero roles with Marvel or with DC – and he instead chose to go with a villain. Yes, arguably the most bankable star in Hollywood is both waiting a couple of years and going with the antagonist role instead of playing the hero.
Why He'll Be The Best
And thank the blessing of Shu, Hero, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen that Johnson went this route.
Black Adam isn’t your average villain; he was a hero in his own right, at least when he originally gained his powers from those six Egyptian gods. As the champion of Egypt, then much of the rest of the Middle East including the fictional DC Comics nation of Kahndaq, Teth-Adam, as he was known in his regular human form, worked to save Kahndaq… but how he got his power was the ultimate betrayal: he stole it from his nephew, in hopes of revenge against slavers and anyone who would seek to own another human (in his latest origin, anyway!).
And so, while many villains like to tell themselves they’re the heroes of their own story, you could make a very good argument that Black Adam really is. While he did steal his powers, he took them for fairly altruistic reasons, and wants to do more good than bad. In other incarnations of the character, he’s redeemed himself into an outright hero, even joining an iteration of the Justice Society for a time. Ultimately, this is a complicated man, with unique motivations, a millennia-long history, and as much sympathy as any villain.
Huh. Complicated, thousands of years long history, ties to gods, motivated by feelings of family and inadequacy – sound like someone you’ve seen in the comic book movies? Yeah, we’re thinking a lot about Loki too.
Loki was without doubt the highlight of both Thor films, and a major reason why Avengers came together so perfectly. Tom Hiddleston portrayed that character as devious, but misunderstood; as conniving, but also sympathetic. Indeed, Johnson needs to start studying Hiddleston’s performance now, because the formula, the background, and the character are all there: The Rock just needs to take hold of it and lay the smackdown.
Ultimately, there’s little doubt that at this point in his career he’ll be able to do just that. While not known much for his subtlety and nuance, he has shown at least some range as an actor, with the Fast and Furious Hobbs – a brash, no-nonsense ass kicker, being tempered by Pain & Gain’s Paul, whose confidence actually reveals a shocking lack of knowing much about himself. Heck, even his own character, The Rock, during his long stint in the WWE, bounced from “face” to “heel,” juggling the idea of whether he was a good guy or a bad one, a hero or a villain, and he had just as many people cheering for him when he was the latter as the former.
So a villain who isn’t quite a villain, a man who wants more from life, a hero in his own right who is trying to ensure a legacy – these are all things that already describe Dwayne Johnson, and make no stretch of who he needs to portray. It’s clear that through his own fandom he knows all of this about Black Adam. He chose the character because of all this. “I just felt Black Adam was inherently more interesting to me because I felt there were more layers to Black Adam,” he told Digital Spy when asked why he chose the character. He liked that the character “started out as a slave, and then ultimately [became] the anti-hero who we enjoy today.”
The Final Word
And so, here we are, still well over three years out, talking about how exciting this role choice, for this actor, is. With his trademark smile, it might be hard to imagine Dwayne Johnson as a villain, but when you’re actually supposed to imagine him as a hero who has gone wrong, as a villain by circumstance more than by determination, it gets easier. Indeed, we’re willing to tell you now, over three years early, that it will be Johnson’s best role ever.