Dwayne Johnson hopes Black Adam is the beginning of "a very long storytelling road"

"When we were talking to Warner Brothers, one of our pitches was that you have a character here, I think, that people would really gravitate towards and really appreciate a character who hasn't been shown. He's fresh."

At an event on the Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burkbank, California, Dwayne Johnson is talking Black Adam, the upcoming DC movie that he stars in and produces. It's the day before the first trailer makes its online debut and Total Film has had an early look at the promo ahead of a press conference with Johnson and his filmmaking team: director Jaume Collet-Serra and producers Beau Flynn and Hiram Garcia.

"It's not hyperbole – he is blessed with these powers that are so unique and awesome, he has the ability to change the hierarchy of power in the DC universe," continues Johnson. "And then, coupled with that, it was the opportunity to take the JSA [Justice Society of America], who predated Justice League, [to the screen]. We have the resources, we have the material, we have the IP."

The film – Johnson’s first foray into superhero territory – concerns a superpowered antihero from the fictional North African country of Kahndaq, who was imprisoned 5,000 years ago. Now he’s back and looking to dispense his own unique brand of justice. Johnson is reteaming with his Jungle Cruise director Collet-Serra for the DC flick.

"Very early, one of the things that Jaume had said was, 'What's your favorite Clint Eastwood movie?'" Johnson recalls. "And I said, 'Probably Dirty Harry or Unforgiven.' And he goes, 'Well, that makes sense, because Black Adam is unforgiving. But also, we should make the Dirty Harry of superheroes and supervillains.'"

"In a world where not everything is black and white, you need to kind of operate in that grey area," says Collet-Serra. "And that's what we try to do with Black Adam."

Black Adam vs Hawkman

(Image credit: DC/Warner Bros.)

Johnson – along with regular producing partners Flynn and Garcia – has been working on bringing Black Adam to the screen for years. In the comics, Black Adam has been the archenemy of Shazam, and they almost debuted in the same movie. "The original plan, maybe five, six years ago I think, was to tell the two origin stories of Shazam and Black Adam, in the same movie," says Johnson. "And that's what we had worked on. The script was delivered. When we all read the script, I immediately felt like, ‘We have to separate these two movies, we have to honor Shazam, and that origin story, and what that is, and what that can be for the fans. And then we also have to tell our story, too, as well.' It was important, I think, to separate them and now tell each story, respectfully."

Garcia – who’s worked with Johnson on countless films including Fast Five, San Andreas, and Jumanji: The Next Level – speaks about the thrill of bringing a couple of unique firsts to moviegoers. “What an honor to not only do the first superhero movie for DJ, but then to introduce the JSA which the comic-book fans out there know was one of the first [superhero] organizations," he says. "It was a huge amount of responsibility for us to cast it right and make sure we're getting people that captured all those characters." In the film, the Justice Society of America comprises Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and their abilities are glimpsed in that first trailer.

"I’ve had the privilege to work with Dwayne for a very long time, and I've never seen him work this hard in to prepare for a film," says Flynn. "Not only to honor the mythologies, but also physically, he worked so hard every day for years leading up to this role. It's an incredible stress on your life, in terms of a specific diet, in terms of working out, in terms of really being disciplined… And we don't know any superheroes that have ever been in a suit that doesn't have any pads. That was extraordinary to witness, really."

If this team has their way, that commitment will extend way beyond just this movie. Black Adam could be a launchpad from which to really expand this area of the DCEU. “I am 100% committed to not only Black Adam, but then expanding the Black Adam universe, the DC Universe," says Johnson. "I am an optimist from the word go. To me, and to all of us up here, all universes exist in our heads. And you know, we all will work very hard to make sure that we're honoring the mythology but also giving the fans what they want. And I hear [the fans], we all do. I pick up everything they're putting down, and it doesn't get by me, it doesn't get by these guys. So this is the beginning – hopefully, fingers crossed – of a very long storytelling road, where Black Adam is the anchoring jet fuel now, that will then push and press this universe out.”

Black Adam opens in cinemas internationally from October 19, and in the US on October 21. In the meantime, check out our roundup of 2022's biggest upcoming movie release dates for everything else coming this year. 

Matt Maytum
Editor, Total Film

I'm the Editor at Total Film magazine, overseeing the running of the mag, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.