Ending Explained is a recurring column in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we consider the ending and, more importantly, the end credits scene of Black Adam. Yes, prepare for spoilers.
Fifteen years is a long time to wait for a movie. Now that Black Adam has finally arrived in theaters, we’re already more interested in what comes next than what we already have. Dwayne Johnson spent much of the buildup to the film teasing a possible clash between his violent anti-hero and the Man of Steel, never tipping his hand, hoping we’d be on our feet when the end credits scene revealed itself. Now it has, and we have confirmation that Henry Cavill is still up for more Kryptonian knuckledusters. But how would such a rumble serve an audience?
Most of Black Adam revolves around the Justice Society of America (JSA) antagonizing Teth-Adam (Johnson), the slave-turned-demigod. The spandex goon squad acting on orders from the Suicide Squad’s Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), desperately attempts to slap handcuffs on Adam, but the walking wall of muscle repeatedly puts them under his boot. Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan) look spiffy in their costumes, but Adam only kneels to their authority when he grows weary with self-doubt and depression over his child’s murder several hundred years earlier.
Of course, the moment Adam succumbs to Waller’s chains, a greater threat rises from a demonic dimension, the Rock of Finality, a vicious mirror image of Shazam‘s Rock of Eternity. Its dark gods imbue the traitorous Ishmael (Marwan Kenzari) with their twisted champion Sabbac. Doctor Fate eventually sacrifices himself so he can aid in Adam’s prison escape while also providing some extra time for the Man of Black to return to the Kahndaq battleground.
Teth-Adam is a beast, as he proves over and over again during the film’s runtime. The final confrontation is not too different from every confrontation in the movie. There’s a little stress for the title character, but he inevitably finds some resolve within and pummels Sabbac into defeat. The JSA agree to leave Teth-Adam alone in Kahndaq, where the populace has embraced him as their protector.
Some in the audience are undoubtedly drumming their fingers, waiting for the end credits scene. Watching Johnson dominate time after time is tiresome. The movie hits rewind on Teth-Adam’s philosophy during numerous exchanges. Someone tells him he shouldn’t kill, but Adam does it anyway. On two occasions, Hawkman swoops in to rescue two plummeting baddies, dropped from the sky by Adam. In both cases, the expression on Hodge’s face is a cartoonish, “Why you – I outta!”
Teth-Adam’s ultra-serious sincerity regarding his own hardness is all set up for what comes within the film’s final moments. He’s about to meet his opposite, the original comic book superhero, Superman. Oof. Except, Kal-El shouldn’t be the do-gooder in conflict with Black Adam. Instead, the murderous vigilante should be smashing fists with his comic book rival, the big red cheese, Captain Marvel, or the rebranded Shazam (Zachary Levi).
The issue is Dwayne Johnson doesn’t care one iota about Shazam. For him, Black Adam has always been his gateway to fulfilling a childhood fantasy of sharing the screen with Superman. Circumventing Shazam is the quickest way to achieve this personal goal, and he’s not worried whether Shazam‘s tiny comic book audience cares.
As he told Cinemablend a couple of weeks ago, “that’s the whole point” of Black Adam. He wants his ten rounds with the Kryptonian. He wants to do to Kal-El what Teth-Adam did to Hawkman and Sabbac, to make him tremble from his might.
When this particular quote hit the internet, Johnson began to back-peddle a bit. In an interview with ComicBook.com, Johnson questioned whether a conflict between the titans is inevitable. “I don’t know,” he said, “I think the question is, ‘Should it be a showdown?’ And I don’t know if that’s the way to go.”
So, maybe it’s not about putting Superman in his place after all. It’s more about occupying the same space as Superman. Let’s examine the Black Adam end credits scene and see what intention we can suss from it.
Amanda Waller sends a drone into Kahndaq, projecting her stern face toward Teth-Adam’s equally stony expression. She introduces herself to him. She offers congratulations on gaining her attention, but she assures him that he better not step outside Kahndaq. He should consider the country his prison, or she’ll send some even tougher enforcers his way.
Considering he’s easily bested the dopes she’s already unleashed upon him, Teth-Adam scoffs at her threats. “There’s no one on this planet that can stop me,” he says.
Her response? Oh, she can call on some brawn from other planets too. Teth-Adam is still unimpressed, and he tells Waller to send whatever she’s got. That’s when the boy scout steps from the shadows.
Superman locks eyes with Adam. “It’s been a while since anyone has made the world this nervous,” he says just as John Williams‘ iconic Superman: The Movie score – not Hans Zimmer’s Man of Steel score – rumbles. “Black Adam, we should talk.”
And if Johnson’s most recent statement is to be believed, talk is all they might do. Lol. No way, right? If Black Adam taught us anything, it’s that the title character only talks after an exchange of fisticuffs. Whenever and wherever we get to see Superman and Black Adam on screen again, there will be a dust-up before there’s ever a team-up. But it’ll be a Freddy vs. Jason situation. Both will get the upper hand at various moments, but neither party will be declared the victor. The IP can’t withstand such honesty.
The biggest takeaway from the Black Adam ending is that Henry Cavill is back as the Man of Steel. The addition of John Williams’ score, the spit-curl, and the brighter, bluer costume suggests the new iteration will depart from Zack Snyder’s neck-snapping crusader. The Superman in Black Adam is a Superman whose first gear is stuck in a smile. In the other corner, Adam leads with a resting scowl face.
They represent hope vs. practicality. Let them fight. Or talk. Or buddy-cop their way through their next adventure. Superman’s Murtaugh to Black Adam’s Riggs. Is it odd that we’re skipping Shazam, the character whose world begat Black Adam? Sure. Does it really matter? To some, definitely. To the Rock, absolutely not.
Black Adam is now playing in theaters everywhere.