Sunday, September 6, 2015

What Does The Rock Know About Black Adam?


(The above image is linked from Muscle & Fitness' article announcing Dwayne Johnson's role as Black Adam in the upcoming "Shazam!" movie.)

Now this is interesting. In this interview, Dwayne Johnson reveals that he has been involved with the character of Black Adam and preparing for the role for “eight years.” That places the beginning of his relationship with the character right about the time that there were rumors circulating about him playing the hero of DC's movie about the character marketed under the trademark “Shazam!”, the original Captain Marvel.


What with the "Shazam!" movie announced to be released on April 5, 2019 (and there being a surprisingly well-informed and insightful article from Comic Book Resources), this seems like as good a time as ever the very briefly recap the history of this actor and this franchise.

Remember, there were lots of rumors going around back in those heady days of the mid '00's, as the whole superhero-movie thing was starting to heat up. "Shazam!" was being talked about as early as 2003, and was still a going concern as the decade progressed. No fewer than three scripts were written or being worked on by folks such as William Goldman and John August and at least two different directors were attached to the project, Peter Segal being the latest. Jake Gyllenhaal was at one time rumored to be playing the hero, but that proved to be a hoax. Brandon Molale promoted himself for the role very heavily at the time, there was even a MySpace (remember MySpace?) page and a fan club pushing for it.

Back in '07 MTV Movie Blogs ran a poll. Rumors were flying that Dwayne Johnson, then more popularly known as the pro wrestler “The Rock,” would be playing Captain Marvel. Johnson even came forth and said that people were talking to him about being in the upcoming “Shazam!” movie (this was before the “New 52” reboot in which the hero trademarked under the label “Shazam!” now actually goes by that name). A lot of people, however thought that he would be even better as Black Adam, the evil version of the World's Mightiest Mortal from the Middle East 5,000 years ago who had become the toughest bad guy in the DC universe). Some said this for racial reasons (the Big Red Cheese has always been depicted as Caucasian, and Johnson is a black-Samoan mix), and some just would rather see him as the Bad Guy. Johnson has played a villainous Middle-Eastern monarch before (as the Scorpion King in “The Mummy Returns”), so why not?

So Johnson and MTV Blogs put the question to the fans: who would you rather see Johnson as: Captain Marvel or Black Adam? (http://www.mtv.com/news/1570423/the-rocks-role-in-shazam-should-he-be-good-or-evil-you-decide/ http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2007/09/24/weigh-in-who-should-the-rock-play-in-shazam/) The answer was overwhelming: Black Adam, by 86% of the vote.

So Johnson humbly and good naturedly accepted the fans' verdict, admitted that he did not know much about the character, and said he would be happy to talk with the filmmakers about playing the role (http://www.mtv.com/news/1573336/the-rock-put-his-shazam-role-to-a-vote-and-the-results-are-evil/ http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2007/09/24/weigh-in-who-should-the-rock-play-in-shazam/). In the succeeding months, dedicated fans of the World's Mightiest Mortal were watching every move by Johnson and Peter Segal to see if they could get a hint of what the movie, and Johnson's performance and chemistry with Segal, would be like. Segal's “Get Smart” got particular attention, being as it was a comedy/action movie involving both of these people.

Interestingly, Michael Uslan, the producer of the Shazam! Project and longtime fan of the hero, told me that he had not heard about this. So either Johnson was making it up about talking to people about this, someone wasn't telling Uslan what was going on, or Uslan had a reason to keep some things on the downlow.

But by 2010 news and activity about the project had slowed down, and by the time of this interview (http://splashpage.mtv.com/2010/01/12/dwayne-the-rock-johnson-on-shazam-status-and-black-adam/, and this report of it http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/markcassidycbm/news/?a=13722) it was pretty much dead.

In late 2014, however, Johnson started dropping hints that he would be in a superhero movie. By this time the “clickbait” phenomena was in full swing, and every psuedo-news website and geek-fanboy blogger with pretensions to journalistic credibility and the need for hit counts ran with the story, despite the dearth of information about the project and sometimes embarrassing lack of knowledge of the character (this alleged “investigation” from Entertainment Weekly, for instance, gets remarkable mileage out of speculation and groundless “insight.” And their conclusion turned out to be incorrect. http://www.ew.com/article/2014/08/19/dwayne-johnson-shazam-rock-black-adam).

Dwayne Johnson speaks authoritatively about the character and about superhero mythology these days. He refers to BA as an “anti-hero” who used to be a slave and at one point says that superheroes are usually “born into” greatness. This reveals a shallow surfaceness of his research. The bit about BA having been a slave is very recent in the development of his character, and there are plenty of famous superheroes who were not “born in to greatness” (Superman and Wonder Woman were, for sure, but Spider-Man, Captain America, and the original Captain Marvel himself, for instance, were not). Kudos to Johnson, however, for at least trying to give the impression of comic book super-characters as being something worth taking seriously.

Johnson is also very conscientiously maintaining the party line about the name of the hero. I have yet to hear him utter the name “Captain Marvel” in his interviews since he started with the hints and intimations in 2014. While he did say “Captain Marvel” in interviews back in 2007, he is showing himself a team player and professional spokesperson by staying up to date with the marketing of the hero of the Shazam franchise.







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