What If Dwayne Johnson Played Shazam Instead Of Black Adam?

This post contains spoilers for "Black Adam."

"Black Adam" has finally hit theaters after a 15-year journey. It's been a long road for Dwayne Johnson, who was, at one point, considered to take on the role of Shazam, the superhero to Black Adam's super-antihero. After all the years of Johnson talking about taking on this character (and changing the hierarchy of the DC Universe and so on), it's hard to imagine him as Billy Batson's alter ego, the child in a super-powered man's body. Once upon a time, though, that was on the table.  

In November of 2007, it was revealed that Johnson would play Black Adam and not Shazam (who was then sometimes going by his original comic book name, Captain Marvel):

" And not Shazam but Black Adam, that's now very clear. He's a character that I can't wait to play. When they first approached me about playing Captain Marvel, they said there is also this interesting character too called Black Adam. This was about a year ago on the set of 'Get Smart.' I said 'Oh, Okay, Great.'"

Can you imagine "Shazam!" with Johnson instead of Zachary Levi in the role? What would it have been like? Let's examine what might have been, and why it's probably better the way it is now.

Wearing your inner child on your sleeve

With Black Adam, we have an angry man, heartbroken over the death of his son, granted superpowers by the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou). It's a little more complex than that, but you get the idea. He's angry, he's willing to kill, and he doesn't care about collateral damage. He's strong enough to take on the Justice Society of America and — maybe in the future — the big three of DC; Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. He also doesn't have the same pesky moral code that they do.

Shazam, on the other hand, is the superhero that the young Billy Batson turns into ... physically at least. His brain is still the same as the child he is. He loves his powers as a kid would. He still likes the same things he did before. He's still got the same issues and the same reactions that any kid would. Really, the story of Shazam isn't that different from the 1988 Tom Hanks film "Big." You know, the one where the kid wishes to be older, and for a while, he is, but his mind is still young. Even if you've never seen it, you've likely viewed a clip of Hanks in the old New York toy store FAO Schwartz offices, dancing on a giant floor piano. 

Think about it. Who would you cast in a "Big" remake: Dwayne Johnson or Zachary Levi?

The Rock versus Chuck

I don't mean to say that Johnson gives off antihero vibes. He's got a huge smile and is one of the nicest celebrities I've ever interviewed. He's known for reaching out to fans over social media and has spoken over and over about how important their feelings and wishes are. One of the things his castmates from "Black Adam" spoke about in an event /Film attended is how he wanted to see his co-stars shine. There's a reason he's popular. The thing about Johnson, though — and this has been true since his wrestling days — is that he has a menacing stare. He's very physically imposing. He can even make that smile look terrifying if he wants to. 

On the other hand, Levi has one of those faces that just exude childlike wonder. Even when he was playing the lovable geek in "Chuck," he seemed much younger than he was. If someone did decide to remake "Big" (I'm begging you not to), he'd be first on my list. Like, if you ran into Levi in an elevator and asked him what was in his pockets, no one would be surprised to find out it was a 20-sided die for Dungeons & Dragons, a bubble gum wrapper, and an action figure from a video game. He just screams kid at heart. 

Who do you put up against The Rock as Shazam?

This is not to say that Johnson couldn't have pulled it off. He oozes charm and it would have been fine. It's just that Levi was born to play Shazam. Plus, who do you put up as Black Adam against a Johnson version of Shazam when that inevitably happens? Jason Momoa is already playing Aquaman, or I'd vote for him. Maybe Alexander Skarsgård if he was in "The Northman" form with baguettes for shoulder muscles, I guess? Who else is there? 

Well, Helen Mirren is fighting against Shazam in the sequel film, so maybe her? 

I think it would shift the balance in the DC universe, and not in the way Johnson so frequently suggests. Everyone else would have to bulk up more to match him. Shazam isn't really supposed to be a character that scares everyone, and Johnson is the kind of guy who doesn't even need padding in his supersuit. He's terrifying by default. Everyone ended up exactly where they should be, I think and I will continue to watch both of them do their super thing as long as they keep making films.

"Black Adam" is currently in theaters. "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" will premiere on March 17, 2023.