As “Black Adam” proves itself to be a successful venture of the DC Extended Universe, aka DCEU, in theatres worldwide, fans unanimously agree that Pierce Doctor Fate was the best and most beloved character in the entire movie. Truth be told, after Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Pierce Brosnan’s casting as Doctor Fate was the most heavyweight actor-character casting done in the DCEU recently, which turned the heads of not only regular fans but also of the general audience. As it turns out, Brosnan’s portrayal of the good old sorcerer was spellbinding, to say the least, and has left the audience craving for more. In the movie, Doctor Fate plays a crucial role in the progression of the titular character’s journey from a murderous vigilante to the champion, the protector of Kahndaq (still murderous, though). We will briefly discuss the character’s supposed origin in the movie’s version, his role in the movie, and how in the future, Fate will influence DCEU’s larger landscape.
Origin Of ‘Doctor Fate’ Explained
Considered to be an archetype sorcerer superhero and DC’s strongest mystic arts defense, Doctor Fate, aka Kent Nelson, made his first appearance during Golden Age in comics in ‘More Fun Comics #55 in 1940. One of Justice Society’s founding members, the character, was created by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman. While the movie does not explicitly showcase how Kent Nelson came to be known as Doctor Fate, we will use expositions provided by characters and prequel comic tie-ins to associate the origin of the comic version with that of the DCEU. As a teenager, Kent Nelson ventured into the ruins of Sumeria with his father and accidentally awakened the mage Nabu. Falling victim to a poisonous gas trap, Kent’s father passed away, and Nabu, feeling responsible, raised Kent up. Later, it is revealed that Nabu is one of the extraterrestrial, mystical, nigh-omnipotent beings named Lords of Order and is as old as the universe itself. He trains Kent in all forms of mystic arts and provides three talismans. The Helm of Fate, which is the source of infinite mystical powers and a vessel to contain the spirit of Nabu; the Amulet of Anubis, granting powers of necromancy and dimension holding; and the Cloak of Destiny, protection from other spells and any physical attacks. A master sorcerer and one of the wisest members of the JSA, Kent Nelson used the power of Fate to battle otherworldly cosmic threats and to maintain the balance between order and chaos.
Role Of ‘Doctor Fate’ In ‘Black Adam’
Much like Hawkman and the rest of the JSA members, Doctor Fate’s past has been mentioned only through interactions between characters. Of the JSA quartet present in the movie, Hawkman and Doctor Fate represent the elderly veteran members with much experience and a sense of responsibility under their buckle. During his childhood, Kent witnessed citizens recruited during wartime to get deployed for battle stations. Even though others cheered their send-off, a pragmatic Kent knew about their grim predicament. This instance highlights that even before being empowered by the Helm of Nabu, Kent had the gift of foresight, which, according to his admission, has kept him alive longer than his peers. After receiving the helm of Nabu, Kent honed his skills in mystical arts in the Tower of Fate, where he learned adept sorcery skills in reality manipulation, psychological warfare, duplication, spell casting, conjuring elementals, projecting constructs, illusion creation, necromancy, precognition, astral projection, teleportation, to name a few.
The gifts of Fate make Kent the strongest sorcerer on the planet and also the strongest member of the JSA, yet every time he puts on the helm, the connection between him and the millennia-old being, Nabu, takes its toll and creates a deep sense of anguish. The spirit of Nabu tries to gain control, which at times rids Kent of his humanity, and thus he remains in a conflicted state; as Cyclone mentions in the movie, it seems like he gets possessed while wearing the helm. Actor Pierce Brosnan captured the pathos, the sense of longing perfectly on screen right from his first scene, and the duality between Kent and Fate was vividly perceivable. He stated in the script that Kent’s troubled marriage with Inza Nelson was mentioned, which was a result of Fate’s wresting control over his psyche. The sense of loneliness that engulfed Kent after his wife passed away and JSA disbanded pushed the character into a void of despair, and all these became visible when Brosnan played the character. A few scenes were cut, and the movie didn’t exactly provide enough room to explore the past lives of JSA members, yet Brosnan handled the nuances of the responsibility-burdened, noble-aged-sorcerer extremely well. He was so invested in the role that he wore his personal belongings, like his wedding ring and a watch given to him by his wife, in order to relate to the character’s mythology on a personal note. He also shared the fact that the watch and silver amulet given to him by his wife had engravings etched, “Time flies on love’s wings,” a profound line which he could equate with the character of Kent Nelson’s personal struggle. Lastly, Pierce found the character’s predicament very poignant, as Nabu’s helm had blessed him with hundreds of years’ worth of longevity, but it also meant he had to witness the passing away of near and dear ones, much like how a 70-year-old stalwart actor also had to bear the deaths of his peers. He also had a role in designing the practical, wearable version of the helm of Fate. No wonder Pierce didn’t forget to mention that he was proud of his role in the movie and how his artistry has already made people consider his portrayal of Fate as one of the best comic-book movie castings ever.
Kent Nelson’s friendship with Carter Hall, aka Hawkman, was one of the major highlights of the movie. As the elder-most member of the JSA, Kent exudes a wise, meditative aura while retaining the qualities of a charming mentor. As opposed to Carter’s brutish personality and simplistic approach toward justice and morality, Kent’s years of experience have made him a more understanding, sympathetic individual. He acts as an advisory, protective guardian to the younger JSA. It is through his precognition powers that he senses the dark past Teth Adam never got to escape from, but it is through his heart that he believes the same individual can become a savior too. However, decades of languishing due to Fate’s command have not dried his wits, as from time to time, he engages in lighthearted banter to shake down Carter’s overly serious demeanor or to relieve other characters. There is a real sense of respect, love, and admiration between these two characters, and it has been implied that, as team members, they have been part of numerous adventures through their many incarnations. As a second in command of JSA, Kent’s sense of responsibility overpowers his personal considerations. To save his old friend from imminent death, he sacrifices his life in the battle against demonic champion Sabbac and dies a hero’s death, though not before freeing Teth Adam from imprisonment in a glorious spellcasting sequence using his powers of astral projection (which reminds us of Fate’s signature move in Injustice 2) and motivating him enough to save the day. His self-introduction to Sabbac will be remembered for quite a long time, even by modern pop culture standards. The battle-worn, weary sorcerer passes the mantle to the younger generation; in the end, he even removes the helm of Nabu to assert individuality over the controlling force for a final time, thereby rejecting any form of protection and making peace with his Fate to find solace in self-sacrifice.
Doctor Fate’s Sacrifice And It’s Impact On The Future Of DC Universe
After Kent’s death at the hands of Sabbac, Hawkman uses the helm of Nabu to defeat him with the help of Teth Adam. When the job is done, the helm crumbles into particles, just like what happened after Kent’s demise. In comparison, fans have speculated that this might not be Kent’s death since, in comics, he has managed to come back to life using his skills of sorcery multiple times. However, making his return can also downplay his Sacrifice, so as the director suggested, we might see Kent Nelson appear in his spirit form to provide guidance to others. Aside from Kent Nelson, characters like Eric Strauss, Khalid Nassour, and even Hawkman’s son Hector Hall have become Doctor Fate in comics. So passing the mantle is another possibility. Just a couple of days ago, Rock mentioned on Twitter that we would get to see Doctor Fate in future projects, although he didn’t specify in which capacity. A safe assumption would be in a solo movie or series acting as a prequel or exploring his origin.
Doctor Fate was Earth’s strongest magic user and a defender against forces of darkness and chaos. With him gone, villainous cosmic and other supernatural entities might emerge to wrest control on Earth. This might lead to the creation of Justice League Dark, a version of the Justice League that is more adept at tackling more sinister, dark, and occult threats. A Justice League Dark project has long since been in development, and this might present the perfect premise to launch JLD.