From villain to hero … or maybe anti-hero. The story of Black Adam isn’t exactly a straightforward superhero movie; it subverts the “chosen one” narrative trope.
The legend of Black Adam begins in bondage. His people were severely mistreated, and they needed someone to set them free, not unlike the story of the Egyptians and the Israelites. In Exodus, we find the Israelites crying out to God as Moses rises as a leader among them. In Khandaq, the setting of Black Adam, a boy named Hurut (Jalon Christian) stands up to the oppressors of his people. He boldly and valiantly chooses to inspire his people rather than preserve his own life. In the moment when he is to be executed in front of his people, he vanishes because he has been chosen by a group of Egyptian gods (Shu, Horus, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen) who lend him their power. When he returns, he fights to set his people free.
This might sound “by the numbers” as far as superhero stories go, but the major difference comes in the twist reveal. I won’t give anything away here, but we do find out who Black Adam is, of course, and his connection to other characters.
Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) isn’t a “superhero” in the traditional sense. He is ruthless and intense, yet also more relatable than the likes of Superman, whose entire schtick is to be morally incorruptible. On one hand, Superman is what we strive to be like, but on the other hand, it’s an impossible goal; we can never quite become like him. This film sprinkles Superman references throughout as Easter eggs and setups for a potential clash, not only in power, but in ideologies.
Black Adam is flawed, and his idea of justice at first is synonymous with revenge. His desire to protect his people manifests as violence. His actions also lack direction, so much so that his people aren’t sure whether to revere or fear him. This flips the script of the “chosen one” archetype that is so hard for us to live up and relate to. Our titular character does not exude “good guy” qualities nor does he show that he has rightfully earned the amazing power that he wields. He is like us: flawed.
However, Adam tries to carry on the chosen one’s legacy, the one who sacrificed his life for him and gave him his power. He begins to find a new direction. Where he once sought violent revenge, he now simply commits to using his power to defend the oppressed people of Khandaq. Adam says it best, “Khandaq has always had heroes. And it still does. What it needs now is a protector.” (Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu)