DC Comics superheroes Black Adam, Superman, and Shazam were always meant to clash, but not quite like this. It turns out that Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, put pressure on DC Studios for creative decisions when he made his long-awaited debut in the dominant comic book and movie genre, TheWrap reported on Tuesday.
First, some comic book history: Zachary Levi played Shazam, the quirky but powerful superhero in the film of the same name, which was a modest hit in 2019. But Shazam is the traditional rival of Johnson’s Black Adam character, whose own film bombed in 2022 .which curiously does not include Levy at all. Now Levy’s second run at the hero, c Shazam! Wrath of the Godsdebuted last week and underperformed at the box office, with disastrous reviews — and no sign of the original Black Adam.
Johnson’s plan to become the pinnacle of the DC universe backfired for a few months when both he and last decade’s Superman, Henry Cavill, were unceremoniously fired last December from DC Studios. Now, the latest offering from DC has bombed so badly that some critics feel it hasn’t made a mark. The film only made about $30.5 million in its opening weekend — well below the $53.5 million the first installment in the series earned in its first week. The Rock seems to have a bit to do with it too.
Johnson reportedly rejected the idea of sharing screen space with Levi in a post-credits scene, usually a brief but important segment at the end of most superhero movies that teases an upcoming film in the franchise. When encouraged Black Adam, Johnson promoted his run-in with Cavill’s Superman, undermining Shazam in the public eye. And Levi appeared to confirm the bad blood on social media, reposting a story on his Instagram about TheWrap’s reported on Johnson’s refusal to work with him.
“Dwayne is trying to sell himself as bigger than the movie,” said a Hollywood executive TheWrap under anonymity. “Instead of making a movie, he wants to expand his brand and make a brand centered around himself.”
Even when DC first started working on the Shazam origin story movie, Black Adam was supposed to be in it. But Johnson wanted his own movie about the evil superhero, and eventually it happened. Part of the reason this is troubling is that the characters of Shazam and Black Adam have clashed repeatedly in DC comics. Both are associated with their superpowers, which come from Greek and Egyptian gods respectively. Black Adam and Superman also have a history. So it was naturally expected that when Black Adam finally debuted in 2022, he would be facing off against Shazam and Superman at some point in the future.
But now the fate of two of these three characters is still undecided (or at least not announced to the public).
And despite The Rock’s best efforts to become the DC Universe’s new titan who can take on the Man of Steel, Black Adam failed to meet expectations.
There have certainly been a few changes to the DC superhero universe that weren’t related to Johnson, but rather part of the studio’s larger quest to find people. Since James Gunn and Peter Safran took over the reins of DC’s film, television and animation divisions last October (just days after the release of Black Adam), they’ve changed the lineup of films they have planned for the coming years.
The reorganization affected a number of scheduled films. wonder woman 3, starring Gal Gadot, was canceled, leaving many loose ends for her character in the franchise. Safran also called the long-awaited Batgirl a film that was scrapped before the new heads took over, “unpublishable,” supporting the previous management’s decision to shelve it. Continuations of Lightning and Aquaman are slated for release later this year, albeit new Superman and Batman the movies will be released in 2025.
Representatives for DC Studios did not immediately return calls Wealthrequest for comment.
It’s a difficult time for Hollywood, which is witnessing a widespread shake-up in power dynamics. The writers have threatened to strike if they don’t get better pay, but the companies refuse to budge. A potential strike could cause massive disruption to the volume of new movies and TV shows, which has increased in recent years as streaming platforms have grown.