Are you ready to meet the Justice Society of America? Black Adam brings the famous squad to screens, and they're more than ready for action. Aldis Hodge's Carter Hall, AKA Hawkman, leads the team as they take on Dwayne Johnson's eponymous anti-hero. Carter's joined by a fellow long-time member of the JSA, Pierce Brosnan's Kent Nelson, AKA Doctor Fate, a man with the ability to manipulate reality and see the future, as well as two newcomers – Noah Centineo's size-changing Atom Smasher and Quintessa Swindell's wind-harnessing Cyclone.
Though a superhero team, the JSA has to answer a few questions throughout Black Adam. Are they fighting the right guy? Who's the hero of this story? Plus, they each have their own demons to face, such as Atom Smasher living up to his uncle's name, Atom, after borrowing his suit for the mission.
"He comes from a family of superpowers," Centineo tells Total Film. "His uncle was a superhero. His grandfather was a villain under very precarious circumstances. He's got this really complicated history that informs the way he walks in rooms. He has to live up to a reputation, and it's a lot of pressure for him. He just wants to prove himself as a superhero."
That information came from the comics, which get "darker, pretty sarcastic" for his character. Centineo, though, is anything but. Sitting alongside Hodge, the pair laugh as the Hawkman actor jokes about his hero's origins. "His father is a hawk, his mom is a pigeon," he says, pretending to be serious. "He comes from a long history of birds."
"Chickens," Centineo adds.
"Chickens definitely," Hodge says and they burst into laughter. "Hawkman has a multitude of different choices when it comes to his backstory," he continues, now actually serious. Hodge, a long-time comic book reader, went back to the source material to make sure there was "consistency and familiarity" between the pages and his on-screen version. Hawkman, however, has multiple origin stories, including a version in which he has existed for millennia. Hodge won't be drawn on the specific version he drew from. "He's on a journey of trying to learn and understand what leadership is to him and really define what justice is in Black Adam," he says. "For fans that know the history, they can see what pulled into where."
Hawkman's closest relationship in the movie is with Doctor Fate, the pair going through a surprisingly emotional journey together. "That was the most appealing aspect of it for me as an actor, the content of his heart and his emotions and what he brings from the very beginning," Brosnan says. "I just love the relationship between Hawkman and Kent Nelson, they've known each other for eons, they've traversed the universe and once you enter into that realm of magical thinking, it allows you to create what I created in this movie. I started with the man, with Kent Nelson, and from there you work out, keep it as simple as possible, play what's on the page, bring to it your own emotional gatherings of life."
The name's Fate. Doctor Fate.
Despite having been James Bond, Brosnan says that this was the first superhero movie he was approached for following a failed meeting with Tim Burton to play Batman back in the '90s. ("The right man got the job there," he says of Michael Keaton landing the role.) "Doctor Fate found me at the right place in time in life," Brosnan says of taking the role. "I was aware of Black Adam through my four sons, they are aficionados of this genre. And I love the comic book world myself. Silver Surfer was a favorite of mine, along with Batman. But it was the text, the story, the content of it all, that worked on many levels of intrigue – political, social – and it had huge entertainment value."
Like his character, Brosnan seemingly has the ability to look into the future. I ask about how he has noticed blockbusters change through the years, and Brosnan gets serious and deep very quickly.
"They all become tentpole movies," he says. "As the Earth gets more ravaged by man, the air gets more polluted, you will have mass entertainment like this. Diminishment of smaller films and the studios will go for bigger, grander productions." That all sounds quite negative. "At this point, there's a lot of positivity within it," he continues. "Yes, of course, the negativity that is bred by mankind is appalling. The sheer stupidity of our leaders in the world is just shocking. This generation will have to really stand up. Use the voice, use the heart, the consciousness of who they are, to make for a better world. But Black Adam is definitely a huge feast of a beast of a movie."
Swindell – best known for their role in Netflix's Trinkets – is a member of the next generation hoping for a better world. For Black Adam, though, the role of Cyclone led to a whole lot of humor on set. Cyclone's abilities see Swindell turning around and around, spinning in slow motion. It's an extremely effective look on screen, and one that was tricky to pull off.
"I was doing wire work, and then we came back for reshoots to add some more scenes, and I was on like a lollipop rig," they say. "That is a type of rig where you're attached at the hip. And then you can move any which way in any direction. And they just keep on spinning this wheel. I had to keep a focal point and stare at that while moving and turning and not bending my body or my core, because then it would mess up my back and the movement wouldn't look as beautiful. We were doing that all day.
They ended up getting "a little" nauseous while filming. "It wasn't that bad," they say. "But there was another point when I was hoisted up, I don't even know how high, but two guys with ropes were on either side. And they just pulled at one point and I was dropped. And so I would spin like a top. That was very nauseating. Out of everything I prepared, that was the one thing I didn't think I would have to do: spin."
Not everyone in Black Adam has superpowers, though. Sarah Shahi plays Adrianna Tomaz, a university professor who's leading a resistance against a group of British colonists in Kahndaq, a fictional city that houses Black Adam's prison before he's awoken. Shahi wanted her character to have layers. "To play a character who's described as 'tough' or – it's such an overused word – 'badass', is boring," she says. "I read this interview with Francis Ford Coppola one time, and he said, 'When you have an actor that's doing a death scene, you don't play the death, you play the struggle to live.' I always tried to keep that in mind in terms of you don't do what's on the page, you do the other thing that helps get you to where you need to go." That mentality helped in some of the more emotional scenes, she says, that she shared with Bodhi Sabongui, who plays her son, Amon Tomaz.
Justice Society assemble
It should be no surprise that DC has plans for the Justice Society of America going forward. When they will crop up again remains to be seen, but the actors have ideas on who they would like to see join their ranks. "There's one of the Earths in the comics where [Watchman's] Rorschach and Cyclone are together," Centineo says. "That would be crazy. Who would play Rorschach? Maybe Childish Gambino."
Hodge likes the suggestion but has a different one. "Mister Terrific is dope," he says. "I'm going to be biased, I'd love to see my brother Edmund Hodge play him. He voices Mister Terrific in the animated Injustice movie. He's done the research. He loves the character. He's the one who educated me on Mister Terrific. Him paired with Hawkman on some detective stuff, bruh!"
"I'm just going to say straight up, it would be so interesting to see Red Tornado," Swindell says, referring to their character's grandmother, also a superhero. "I would love to see it. With this team, anything can happen and we can really make it something interesting. I would love to see Laverne Cox in the role. Laverne's not that old, but we can make it work, baby! I know that she wants to be a superhero. I'm like. 'Come on baby, let's put it out there.'"
Whoever joins their team, it's clear Dwayne Johnson has big plans for the DC universe's future. "DJ, he's a big fan of the JSA," says Hodge, "he's a big fan of DC history and he knows there's so much gold left on the table with the JSA members. I don't know what's in this brother's mind, but he understands the real value there and really wants to bring that out for the fans. We might be touching on everybody." In other words, this really is just the beginning for the Justice Society of America.
Black Adam is in cinemas from October 21. For more, check out our guide to all the upcoming superhero movies heading your way soon.