For as long as the Shazam! movie has been kicking around Hollywood, his most recognizable enemy, Black Adam, has always been involved. You can trace the project back well over a decade now, and not only were there multiple scripts that included both Dr. Sivana and Black Adam, Dwayne Johnson had long been associated with the role, making it officially official about five years ago.
But now that Shazam! is in theaters, Black Adam is nowhere to be found, other than in a magical bit of exposition delivered by the Wizard as he explains some ancient DCEU history as a cautionary tale to young Billy Batson. Fans may have been expecting Dwayne Johnson to make his DCEU debut in the Shazam! post credits scenes, but they took a different route there, introducing a very different villain to set up the potential sequel. Instead, we’ll meet Johnson as Black Adam in a solo movie at some point in the future, and presumably after that we’ll get the Shazam/Black Adam crossover everyone has been waiting for.
But as for why they kept him out of this film…
“They felt like it was just too much for one movie, and they wanted to focus on just giving Shazam the space for his origin,” Shazam! director David F. Sandberg says. “What happened was me, Henry Gayden, Geoff Johns, and the studio would get together once a week and talk about what to do with the movie. Like ‘if we don’t use Black Adam how can we give Sivana more space, and what would the story be?’ And then Henry would go off and write, and we’d meet again and just have discussions like that.”
It’s a sign of just how much faith Warner Bros. had in the project, and in Sandberg’s vision for the character.
“David was really integral in developing the script and giving it that tone that it ultimately has, but also the storyline it had,” producer Peter Safran says. “That great family through line was all based on Geoff Johns’ New 52 but very much through the filter of Sandberg.”
Despite all this, Sandberg says there was never any intention of getting Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam to actually appear in the film, even in a cameo, because “we wanted to make sure we gave Billy and Shazam the time they needed.”
In fact, depending on how schedules all work out, it doesn’t even sound like putting Black Adam in the sequel is much of a priority. “The idea was that the Shazam story merits its own origin story, that the Shazam film should be his origin story,” Safran says. “Perhaps one day down the road after the stand-alone Black Adam movie, hopefully one day these guys meet up in the same film. But they really wanted to give us the freedom to just tell Shazam’s story.”
Including a villain as powerful as Black Adam, with a star as recognizable as Dwayne Johnson, might also have made it more difficult to keep the film’s distinctive tone in place.
“It’s always been a personal story, and sometimes I think that’s more effective,” Sandberg says. “Because sometimes movies can get almost too big. There’s a whole world to save and there’s a lot of people in jeopardy that you haven’t gotten to know and you don’t really care about. It’s always more effective when it affects the people that you’ve just gotten to know.”
“And this film is really about the search for family,” Safran says. “It’s about finding a family, and it’s a very personal, very relatable concept. I think everybody that watches the movie probably picks out one of the kids as a version of themselves when they were younger. And to be able to tell Billy’s story of being a kid who thinks all he needs in life is to find his birth mother, to then discover that family is not just about blood, it is about bond, that personal story is a very impactful and effective one.”
The Black Adam movie doesn’t have a release date set, and Shazam 2 hasn’t officially been announced. Hopefully Warner Bros. will rectify both of these soon.