We’re dreaming of a Black Christmas for 2021. Dwayne Johnson announced on Instagram today that his long-in-the-works Black Adam feature will fly into multiplexes on Dec. 22 of that year. That’s mere months after the Rock’s WWE cohort, John Cena, makes his DC Extended Universe debut in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, which is scheduled for an Aug. 6, 2021 debut. That film is a sequel/reboot of David Ayer’s 2016 commercially successful (but critically derided) villain’s ball, while Black Adam — which will be directed by Johnson’s Jungle Cruise collaborator, Jaume Collet-Serra — is a companion piece to this year’s widely loved Shazam!, starring Zachary Levi as DC’s mightiest mortal not named Superman. “Like most kids growing up, I dreamed about being a superhero,” Johnson wrote on Instagram. “As a kid, Superman was the hero I always wanted to be. But, a few years into my fantasy, I realized that Superman was the hero, I could never be. ... I’m honored to join the iconic #DCUniverse and it’s a true pleasure to become, Black Adam.”
Black Adam’s place in the larger DC mythos was teased in David F. Sandberg’s film via an early scene where the all-powerful wizard Shazam speaks of a disgraced champion who previously wielded the six abilities of the Greek gods. At one point, rumors flew that Johnson would be making a cameo in the Shazam, but the actor — who has been attached to play Black Adam since 2008 — wound up remaining off-screen. In 2018, Johnson explained the delicate balancing act behind the character’s introduction into the DCEU to Yahoo Entertainment. “[It’s] this phenomenal opportunity for us to nail the tone, make sure he’s bad-ass and make sure we’re serving the mythology properly,” he said, noting the character’s anti-hero tendencies. “But also making sure we can have intrinsic DNA tied to a lot of other properties in DC. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I think we’re going to nail it.”
The record-breaking success of Todd Phillips’s R-rated Joker — not to mention the popularity of Amazon Prime’s The Boys — has certainly made the concept of a morally fluid hero an easier sell. In the comics, Black Adam was handpicked to fight evil, but his powers only made him convinced of his own superiority. His benefactor opted to exile him to another realm, but he made his way back to our world and very quickly established himself as a frequent thorn in Shazam’s side. “He’s a rebellious, one of a kind superhero, who’ll always do what’s right for the people — but he does it his way,” Johnson wrote on Instagram, suggesting that his version won’t be an out-and-out villain. “This role is unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career and I’m grateful to the bone we’ll all go on this journey together.
Based on the Twitter reaction, DC fans are ready to ride shotgun on Johnson’s journey to superhero-dom.