EXCLUSIVE: Sometimes things are just meant to be, and in a great way.
The movie, which reps filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra’s reteam with the action star after last summer’s Jungle Cruise, was originally expected to open next weekend, July 29, but was forced to move October 21 due to the pandemic backlog of VFX houses and the movie’s 2,000-plus visual effects shots. (Warners backfilled the date with Johnson and Kevin Hart’s animated DC League of Super Pets, which we hear could have a $30M start.)
But when one door closes, another opens, and now Black Adam gets to make a seismic splash in Comic-Con’s Hall H on Saturday. The confab’s return to in-person after three years because of the pandemic wouldn’t be complete without the booming presence of The Rock. Some panels here at SDCC (The Rookie, Abbott Elementary) beamed their cast in virtually. Heck, never, for The Rock.
“When Dwayne commits to something, he does it big,” said one source with knowledge of the action star’s maneuvers here at Comic-Con.
During the pandemic, when movie theaters were closed, studio marketing folk griped they couldn’t launch a tentpole without the advertising and box office capitals of New York City and Los Angeles open.
Well, it’s been clear, you can’t trigger an earthquake on a superhero movie without stepping foot at San Diego Comic-Con, and the estimated low-million dollar spend it takes to shout your message to the sky here is worth every penny. And adding to that is Johnson’s gargantuan reach to 460 million social media followers across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok.
Johnson is already chronicling SDCC:
Yes, Black Adam‘s move to the fall isn’t upsetting; rather, it’s a golden opportunity. Starting in mid-August, the domestic box office will enter a roughly two-month period of adult counter-programming, no doubt creating anticipation for Black Adam‘s release, arguably the first multi-quad tentpole.
“We’re happy with the date,” Collet-Serra said about the new October release plan. “We’re a week off from Halloween with a movie that’s very edgy.”
We caught up with the Spanish director before Saturday’s Warner Bros panel to talk about all things Black Adam.
It was during Collet-Serra’s time directing Jungle Cruise that he boarded Johnson’s DC dream project, one which the former wrestler had been nurturing since 2009. For Collet-Serra, Black Adam repped an opportunity to up his production game, and swim in a unique movie that was a throwback to 1970s films like Dirty Harry, a pic he pitched as his inspiration for the DC superhero to Johnson.
“Shallows had visual effects, Jungle Cruise was the next step. I learned a lot and enjoyed the process of world creation, and just being at the forefront of the technology and working with the smartest people in the world. And basically, Black Adam doubles down on the that,” Collet-Serra says.
“When I read the script, I gravitated toward the origin story of this unconventional character. I like how he operates in the gray, and has a particular sense of morality and justice, similar to some of the movies in the 1970s where the system is broken and someone needs to do something for justice. Early on, I said that this could be the Dirty Harry of superheroes. Someone who won’t follow the rules, but does the right thing. The corrupt system won’t protect the innocent anymore. Black Adam could be that [society’s] hero.”
Johnson gave props to Collet-Serra for the Dirty Harry jumping-off point at CinemaCon where the first trailer debuted, exclaiming that the 1971 Clint Eastwood film “was their North Star” for a project he’s held dear for so long.
“It’s one of those things that gets me out of bed,” added Johnson
Black Adam the movie begins in present day Middle East, in the fictional country of Kahndaq, which is similar to Egypt.
In regards to the hero’s backstory in the comics, the Sunni Muslims viewed Black Adam as a prophet along the lines of Mohammed. Close to 4,000 years ago, Black Adam was born. However, his city was attacked and burned to the ground by villain Ahk-Ton, with the superhero’s first wife and children among those killed.
“In reading the comics, Black Adam was rooted in family and what happened to him; there’s an emotional story at the core of it all,” Collet-Serra says.
In the comics, Black Adam goes to extreme lengths to protect his city. However, Shazam removes Black Adam’s powers and entombs him for centuries. (There’s been buzz that Shazam or Superman would be making a cameo in the Black Adam movie, but Collet-Serra pours cold water on that. “Our movie is an original story,” he says. “By the time the movie ends, he doesn’t know who Shazam or Superman is.”)
Black Adam finally awakes after 5,000 years when he was bestowed with powers, freed from his earthly tomb. “He has to adapt to why he is here, what the world is about,” explains Collet-Serra.
In his new world, Black Adam and other characters have access to certain alien technology. Hawkman, played by Aldis Hodge, has access to some of that as well with the Hawk cruiser. There are also elements of magic and eternity tied to the Shazam world.
In regards to Black Adam being the DC anti-hero in a world full of justice do-gooders like Batman, Superman and Shazam, Collet-Serra acknowledges, “Yeah, but in our movie, he’s figuring that out.”
The Justice Society of America, which includes Hawkman, Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), are called in to stop Black Adam after he awakes.
With Warner Bros looking to bridge the gap between its DC movies and HBO Max series — i.e., James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker and Matt Reeves and his Batman movie and upcoming Colin Farrell Penguin series — Collet-Serra isn’t aware of any spinoff series in the works connected to Black Adam at present.
In the meantime, he promises that we’ll see a different Johnson than we’ve never seen before on screen.
“He has such a presence,” the director says. “Black Adam doesn’t speak a lot, which allows him to tap into different resources.”
“He can let his presence permeate in a scene in such a way versus other roles where he has had more interaction with people.”
“You can tell he’s comfortable in the role,” Collet-Serra says about Johnson. “The moment he walks on set, it’s like a boxer walking into the arena.”
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