EW has an early look at Dwayne Johnson in character as DC Comics' notorious antihero.

Black Adam

Dwayne Johnson has wanted to play Black Adam for a while now. The Rock has long had a fascination with DC Comics' morally ambiguous, 5,000-year-old antihero, and he's talked about tackling the role for more than a decade. Now, after years of rumors and cryptic teases, Johnson's wish is becoming a reality, with Black Adam finally hitting theaters Oct. 21.

"It's always a cliché to say that someone was born to play a role, but in this case, it's true," says director Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously teamed with Johnson on Jungle Cruise. "The movie happened because of him. He's the energy and the push that got this movie made."

Black Adam
Dwayne Johnson in 'Black Adam'
| Credit: Frank Masi/Warner Bros.

In some ways, it's surprising that Johnson, one of Hollywood's most bankable stars, hasn't already played a superhero. He's certainly got the physique for it. As Collet-Serra points out with a laugh, the costume department never needed to pad Johnson's super-suit with fake muscles.

But Black Adam also marks a departure for the actor, known for playing charming leads who can win over audiences with a raised eyebrow. The furious Adam, torn by power and loss, is someone far more complicated: The character debuted in the original comics as a formidable supervillain in the 1940s, facing off against Shazam. Over the years, he's evolved from nefarious baddie to complex exacter of a particular brand of brutal vengeance.

His righteous fury puts him at odds with the more upstanding Justice Society of America, which includes Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Fate, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher, Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone, and Aldis Hodge as Hawkman. "In a lot of movies, you have a good guy and a bad guy, and those lines are clearly defined," Collet-Serra says, suggestively. "Here, they're not so clear. You like both sides, and you understand both sides, but it really puts it up to the audience to choose which side they agree with." 

Black Adam
Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam faces off against Aldis Hodges' Hawkman in 'Black Adam'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Collet-Serra adds that he was particularly thrilled to see Johnson show off his dramatic chops — a far cry from the suave, wisecracking hero he played in Jungle Cruise. "It's almost like getting to see a completely new DJ," the director says. The name may be Black Adam, but sometimes, heroes come in shades of gray.

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