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Director Jaume Collet-Serra Compares Black Adam To The Classic Cinematic Antihero Dirty Harry

For a man who built his career on acrobatic exploits in the wrestling ring and hard-bodied action flicks, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson sure has a way with words. Consider the old WWE-era adage: Do you smell what the Rock is cooking? Almost three years ago, Johnson took to Instagram to contribute a new catchphrase to the cultural lexicon. "The hierarchy of power is about to change in the #DCUniverse."

Did Johnson's portentous caption come to pass? Well, maybe not. "Black Adam" — Johnson's first starring live-action gig in the DC Universe — has been met with a middling critical response. Johnson stars as the titular antihero, whose character was first teased in the 2019 movie "Shazam!" The athlete-turned-actor set his sights on the project in 2007, and 15 years — and plenty of delays — later, the action-packed "Black Adam" is finally coming to fruition.

"Black Adam" might not be the next Superman, but he's an undersung DC character who's finally getting his spot in the limelight. Here's why director Jaume Collet-Serra has compared the ancient villain to Dirty Harry.

Black Adam and Dirty Harry are antiheroes within a moral gray area

Jaume Collet-Serra, whose previous credits include "Orphan" and "Jungle Cruise," had a clear vision when it came to the overall feel of "Black Adam." "'Black Adam' needed to feel edgy," he told Deadline. "It needs to be in that space where it's commercial but also it feels dangerous," he said. When it came to the villain's specific characterization, he looked to Clint Eastwood's classic police noir thriller "Dirty Harry," noting how each antihero exists within their own moral framework. "Systems were corrupt, so you had criminals taking advantage," the director told Vanity Fair. "You needed a cop that would cut through the bulls***, and basically do what needs to be done. That's very much in line with Black Adam and his way of thinking ... Everybody knows how the world sometimes is not fair, and you need people that break the rules to even out the playing field."

When establishing the tone and look of "Black Adam," Collet-Serra peeled through a veritable Rolodex of influences. "That's my way of communicating because I know films," the director said (via Deadline). "I communicate with comparisons with other movies." He admitted that much of Eastwood's filmography — not just "Dirty Harry" — was influential. "It's almost 'Fistful of Dollars' or like 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,' where you have a mysterious man ... and suddenly he pops up into town and cleans the town from the bad guys, but then the law comes for him." For Collet-Serra, this sort of moral gray area exists in Westerns, neo-noirs, and comics alike. Now, it's a defining element of "Black Adam."