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The hierarchy of power did change at DC, just not in the way Dwayne Johnson intended it.
Black Adam, the DC superhero movie that Johnson starred in and produced, was to have launched a new franchise, but Johnson announced Tuesday that plans for a sequel were halted and will not be un-halted any time soon.
The move comes as new DC Studios bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran, installed just weeks after the Black Adam’s October release, reshape the entire DC slate, with projects such as Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel sequel and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 3 falling by the wayside.
“James Gunn and I connected, and Black Adam will not be in their first chapter of storytelling,” Johnson wrote in a statement Tuesday. “However, DC and Seven Bucks have agreed to continue exploring the most valuable ways Black Adam can be utilized in future DC multiverse chapters.”
Gunn shared his own statement, writing, “Love @TheRock & I’m always excited to see what he & Seven Bucks do next. Can’t wait to collaborate soon.”
Adam, released Oct. 21, was a passion project for Johnson, who was attached to play the character for a good 15 years before it hit theaters. During that time, Johnson became one of the biggest actors in the world and in 2017 used his clout to convince Warner Bros. and New Line to develop a solo Black Adam film, rather than have the character introduced in Shazam!. (In the comics, Black Adam is a villain in Shazam’s rogues’ gallery.)
Ahead of the film’s release, Johnson touted plans to develop his own corner of the DC Universe centered on Black Adam characters such as the Justice Society of America, as well as a future Black Adam vs. Superman movie, a showdown teased in a post-credits scene that temporarily brought Henry Cavill back as Superman for the first time since Justice League (2017). In many promotional appearances, Johnson even used a phrase that became the movie’s unofficial tagline as he sought to raise his corner of the DC slate to prominence: “The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.”
However, Adam disappointed at the box office with $391 million globally and earned poor reviews. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem to launch a sequel if not for several factors. One, the movie was inordinately expensive. Greenlit at $190 million, the movie’s costs ballooned to the $260 million mark, according to sources, especially after a costly 20-day round of reshoots undertaken after a poor test screening. (That does not include marketing costs.)
The movie will not be profitable theatrically, as noted in a Dec. 5 Variety story, which then unleashed a tit-for-tat in the press over a more detailed accounting of the movie’s money-making, with rival Deadline singing a different tune two days later. Johnson weighed in himself on the movie’s profitability in a Twitter post, a very unusual step for an actor or producer to take. It also put the actor in a defensive crouch and still talking about a potential franchise regarding a movie whose future even then was very much in doubt.
In recent days, rumors swirled about a feud between Johnson and the studio. Reports surfaced that Johnson unfollowed Warner Bros. Discovery and Black Adam channels only to have Johnson come out and say he never followed them in the first place. Also, and conspicuously, Johnson had not publicly commented on the hiring of Gunn and Safran, with many observers pointing to underlying tension between the two camps.
However, in his Tuesday announcement, Johnson said there was no bad blood between them.
“James and I have known each other for years and have always rooted for each other to succeed,” Johnson wrote. “It’s no different now, and I will always root for DC (and Marvel) to win and WIN BIG.”
It all looked very different two months ago, when Johnson was feeling wistful at Black Adam’s New York premiere, where he told reporters about his first day in costume. Said the actor: “I just took a look in the mirror — it was a very humbling moment because I fought so hard for this movie, to get this movie made, and keep it on track. Fifteen long years, and here we are.”
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