So, Does Dwayne Johnson Actually Change The Hierarchy Of The DC Universe In Black Adam?

Major spoilers ahead for "Black Adam."

You've heard Dwayne Johnson say it over and over again over the last few years: "The hierarchy of power in the DC universe is about to change" or some version of that. "Black Adam" has been in development for over a decade. In fact, it's now been 15 years since the announcement that he would play the role of the DC comics anti-hero, believe it or not. The film has finally arrived in theaters. So, did Black Adam shift the balance of power in the DCEU?

In the film, Teth-Adam (Johnson) begins his journey thousands of years ago in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Kahndaq. He's given powers by the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), then locked away. When he is set free in the modern day, he's out for revenge. Unlike the heroes of the Justice Society of America (JSA); Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), he wants to fight his own way without all those messy morales*. 

Fight he does, against the team in the beginning and with the team at the end, but he's not going to be bound by any rules. Black Adam is incredibly strong, he can fly, and it takes the whole group of JSA members to subdue him. He is not going to be an easy man to keep calm, and he's impossible to control. That's fine if he's on your side, but what about when he disagrees with the JSA or the Justice League's methods? 

*He has morals. They're just not the same as the heroes we're used to.

Black Adam versus everyone else

First off, we should address the elephant in the room, which is "Shazam!" played by Zachary Levi. The tone of that film (and the trailer for the sequel) is very sweet and kid-friendly, while "Black Adam" had to go through four tries to get a PG-13 rating from the MPA. In the comics, they often go up against each other, but the feel of these films is so different that I both understand why this needed to be a separate story and can't imagine seeing them together on the big screen. 

Which will bend to the other if, in fact, they have to? I love "Shazam!" with all my heart. I also loved "Black Adam" and found myself cheering at the high body count. (Don't judge me. I had a very bad morning that day.) I think it's far more likely that a film featuring the two of them would have some of the charms of "Shazam!" but a much darker tone. In that way, "Black Adam" has shifted the power a bit. I know that's not what you're waiting to hear, but it's important to address it. 

Johnson has said that the entire point of "Black Adam" is to set up a battle between his character and Superman (Henry Cavill), who shows up in the mid-credits scene, and that, my super friends, is what we're really talking about here. 

Supes versus Black Adam

Obviously having Dwayne Johnson take on the role of Black Adam always meant that we were going to see a very, very powerful character. He didn't need padding for the superhero suit. I have interviewed this man, and his arms are the size of my head. I am not exaggerating. Black Adam and Supes fighting against each other is something I need in my life. With a film like this, with its high body count and intense fights, that is absolutely set up. There is no question that it needs to happen. It wouldn't be hard to buy these two in a battle or predict the outcome. 

As to the hierarchy though ... well, that's a bit murkier. Though Warner Bros./DC have some catching up with Marvel to do in terms of a connected universe, it's something I want very much. Heck, I'd take some connected films and some standalone films. I'm just happy to see the characters I read about as a little girl come to life on the big and small screens, regardless if they're DC or Marvel. I love Batman as much as I love Captain America or Wonder Woman as much as Black Widow. 

Things are complicated over at Warner Bros. these days, between major film stars with legal issues and films being canceled. Everything is in flux. All we can do as audience members is hope that "Black Adam" does well (if you have as much fun with it as I did) so we can see the guy in the cape versus the non-padded black suit. The hierarchy could only change if we continue to see them both in future films.

Recognition versus the new kid on the block

The big issue with a hierarchy change is name recognition. Johnson's enthusiasm for the role of Black Adam has been infectious. Though I was familiar with him from the comics, he was never on the top of my list of most recognizable characters. After all the years of Johnson talking about it though, he is. That said, he's still not Superman. I've known about him since I had conscious thoughts. I remember begging my mom to buy me the Underoos. (They didn't make Superman ones for girls back then, though.) 

Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are just names that have been around forever. They're ubiquitous in our society. Black Adam could be the most perfect film in the DCEU, but he's still never going to top those three. I don't think audiences are going to buy a universe in which Black Adam beats any of them at the end of a film. 

Of course, he could beat them temporarily. He could also affect how they think about specific situations that are morally sticky. Black Adam isn't working with the same code as Superman, Wonder Woman, or Batman. Despite the things Black Adam was willing to compromise on at the end of his film, he just thinks differently than the comic trinity. He might make them question their own decisions though, at least for a while. 

So, will he change the actual hierarchy of power? I don't think so. However, he will certainly make an impact on it. Whatever ends up happening, I hope we get more of Black Adam in the near future. 

"Black Adam" is currently in theaters.