Black Adam Changed Nothing About the DCEU, Instead Leaning Further Into the Snyderverse

The promise of Black Adam changing the DCEU forever falls short.

Black Adam Changes Nothing in the DCEU
Image Source: Black Adam ~ Warner Bros.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has not pulled any punches during his Black Adam press appearances dating back to DC’s Fandome event in 2021 on how impactful the film will be to the DCEU. During the event, he was even bold enough to state that “In addition to the hierarchy of power that I’ve been talking about, this pendulum swing [will] usher in a new era of the DC Universe. A new antihero era; a new era of tone, and a new era of story.”

While his confidence is admirable, it’s a rather daring promise to deliver, especially considering how often the DCEU has floundered in regards to its movies as of late. Unfortunately, while not an atrocious attempt, the promise of changing everything in the DCEU may have fallen short.

A story centered around the long-time nemesis of Shazam set in the Middle East-esqe fictional country of Kahndaq, Black Adam officially hit theaters last weekend, and the reviews and reactions are pouring in. The Rotten Tomatoes score isn’t very promising, with critics giving it a rotten 44 percent, though the audience score is early trending at 88 percent. It is too early to tell if that will remain or drop, but there could be reasons for that score, and it also could explain why it hasn’t changed anything, starting with the tone.

The Zack Snyder era in the DCEU was extremely polarizing, culminating with the release of the “Snydercut” or Zack Snyder’s Justice League on HBO Max, completing the director’s vision for the film as opposed to the original theatrical release finished and edited by Joss Whedon. One of the most significant points of contention between fans on either side of this was the tone.

The Snyder films undoubtedly had a darker tone, exemplified by a Superman origin showing the Man of Steel struggling to find his way as a hero. Similarly, it displayed an aging Batman who had lost his way and became much more violent and jaded, to the point where he even uses guns and kills people, which has always been two things the Caped Crusader swears off of in most of his canon storylines.

Black Adam Changes Nothing in the DCEU
Image Source: Black Adam ~ Warner Bros.

Black Adam didn’t veer off this course when it comes to this approach to a darker tone, instead pushing deeper into it. Now, this shouldn’t be too surprising, as Johnson has said it is an anti-hero story, but it certainly doesn’t live up to Johnson’s “new era of tone, and a new era of story” quote. I mean, sure, the editing did not employ any of Snyder’s oft-used blue filters to make it literally dark, but it did employ many of his editing elements and storytelling.

There were a lot of slow-motion shots, something we all know Snyder loves, with one scene that was highly reminiscent of the Justice League confronting a resurrected Superman in Justice League in its usage of slow motion. While a cool-looking shot, it didn’t add to the story or scene and went on for a long time, mostly for the sake of trying to show Black Adam in a more brutal light than the universe’s “heroes,” but it was more of a stutter step rather than blazing a new trail.

Storytelling-wise, the whole “I am not a hero” thing was also a bit redundant, as the fact he is an anti-hero means he is sometimes a hero, and no one believed he would not be heroic come to the end of the film. While his methods are indeed much more brutal, the reluctance falls in line with the path of pretty much most of the heroes in the DCEU, namely Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman, meaning he fits the previous mold of DC characters instead of breaking it.

Superman was reluctant due to the memory of his father telling him not to reveal himself, Wonder Woman hid from the world she originally wanted to protect due to the trauma of Steve Trevor’s death, and Aquaman just wanted to be left alone and not have anything to do with the outside world. While his reasons were different, Black Adam fell right in line with these arcs as well, though he definitely had no qualms about dropping people from hundreds of feet in the air to their deaths.

The existence and continuation of the DCEU roster of heroes are solidified by the character of Amon, the young son of archeologist Adrianna Tomaz. Amon idolizes the heroes established in the DCEU, with the only difference being they have ignored Kahndaq, and in the same fashion as Shazam’s Freddy Freeman, there are posters and toys of the existing Snyder characters in Black Adam. While Snyder is not at the helm or associated with the universe anymore, his imprint on the universe is still firmly there.

It is still unknown how well this continuation will hit with fans; we will have to wait and see. Followers of Zack Snyder may indeed enjoy this film for many reasons and they are a relatively large group, but how general audiences receive the film may determine its success. Either way, Johnson’s promise of changing the DCEU forever fell far short of its intent, and it is business as usual, just a little more brutal.

About the author

GA Lungaro

A fan of all things movies and television. Loves debating Star Wars, Marvel, or DC content, while also digging deep into the lore to cultivate theories or point out lesser-known details fans might have missed.