The Battle of the Heavyweights (That Didn't Happen)
Whither Black Adam in Shazam! Fury of the Gods
It's now three days with three articles in a row about Shazam! Fury of the Gods (counting the review and spoilers discussion), but we still have one major element of the franchise that we need to discuss. Where was Black Adam when the events of the Shazam! sequel were going down? Shouldn't some mention of his character have been made at some point? Oh, and needless to say, there will be spoilers...
Let's take a look at the basic universe. Black Adam happened last year and in introduced not only another "hero" powered by the magic of ShazamOnce known as "Captain Marvel", this superhero (created by Fawcett Comics before they were bought by DC) has seen many changes to his story over the years. One thing has remained the same: his awesome, god-like powers. (say the word and you become a god-like being) but it also brought us the Justice Society. While that film wasn't great it did have enough world building within it that could have lead to some interesting cross-connections for Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Heck, the Justice Society is even name checked in the later movie.
And when we think about the events of Fury of the Gods its hard to ignore the fact that Black Adam should have been mentioned at some point. The goddesses go to Greece to grab the power staff so they can steal the Shazam power (back, since they say it was stolen from them). If you think about relative distances, Black Adam's home of Kahndaq (in the Middle East) is far closer to Greece than Philadelphia. Even if stealing back that power wasn't their only goal (which, eventually, it isn't) you would still think that popping over to Kahndaq to have a few words with Black Adam should have been point number one on the agenda for these women.
Additionally, where was Shazam during the events of Black Adam? I can buy that movie focusing on Black Adam primarily, but there should have been some reference to Shazam, some appearance of that hero in the post-credits scenes. It seems weird to have two heroes with the same power source (the word "Shazam!") released effectively back to back with neither movie even acknowledging the other exists. But then, apparently, there's a reason for that.
As was reported (so many times on other sites that I didn't even bother discussing it here), Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson expected Black Adam to be a massive hit. It's not a secret in Hollywood that the Rock feels he's a star on the same level of, say, Tom Cruise. And an actor like that tends to put their stamp on their projects. Trick is that a star like Tom Cruise can crank out cross-demographic films that become critical and commercial successes, often bringing in hundreds of millions in profits (if not billions). The Rock, though, has never had a film that successful in his career where he was the main draw. His best films were the Jumanji sequels which both came with a baked in audience already eager for them and were vehicles for multiple stars. Same is true for the The Fast and the FuriousStarted as a film about undercover policing in the illegal street-racing community, this series has grown to encompass a number of different genres and become one of the most bankable franchises in the world. films, and other franchises he's worked in.
When a star has that kind of ego they have to be able to back it up. Their films have to produce. Even Tom Cruise has the occasional failure, such as 2017's The Mummy. Black Adam, as it turned out, was such a failure, with a star demanding a lot and not producing the goods in the end. The Box Office returns were at least $50 Mil short of the film even breaking even, and that scuttled plans for any sequels.
All of this is a roundabout way to get to why Black Adam wasn't in Shazam! Fury of the Gods (and why Shazam wasn't in Black Adam). The Rock was under the impression that Black Adam was going to be a massive hit, such that he could remake the DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe. around his character. He wanted to fight SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s., bringing back Henry Cavil for a cameo, so that Big Black could effectively replace Big Blue. He also stated that he didn't want Shazam showing up in his film, and that none of the Black Adam characters could appear in the Shazam! sequel. That meant any possible crossover content between these two back-to-back films was scuttled.
When you think about it, the studio shouldn't have given in to the Rock's demands; ignoring him and putting Shazam in instead would have made for a more interesting and delightful set of end sequences. The scene at the end of Fury of the Gods, where Shazam is recruited into the Justice Society, that was supposed to show up in Black Adam. That makes sense since the Justice Society played a big part in that movie. That could have the tied into the follow-up scene where Black Adam is told "the big man" is coming, and we expect him to fight Superman... but if Shazam had been in the film he would have shown up instead for the two of them to fight. Perfectly logical then, and the contrast between the two characters sharing a scene would have been fantastic.
And then think about the build up that could have had for a Shazam! sequel. Big Red fighting Big Black at the start of his film before the goddesses show up to ruin all their fun. Or, hell, don't even bother with the goddesses and just make the sequel all about Shazam and Black Adam. A superhero as powerful as Superman going up against his greatest villain would have been a cinematic fight worth watching. Instead, these two characters were shoved into middling films with barely any connection between them for, essentially, no reason. And then both tanked.
With the plan in place now, as designed by James Gunn and Peter Safran, it's doubtful Shazam and Black Adam were gong to have a place in the new DC Universe... but they could have. If their films had done well it's entirely possible they would have been allowed to carry over. Some elements of the DCEU will continue in the DCU (like Amanda Waller and Peacemaker and their cast of characters. In a world where Black Adam and/or Shazam! Fury of the Gods were successful, these characters could have continued onwards. Instead, a bit of ego, and no cross promotion between these obviously linked characters was just another factor in sinking both franchises at once.
I guess we just have to hope the characters of Shazam and Black Adam get another chance on the big screen, sometime, somehow.