More Details Emerge From Dwayne Johnson’s Failed ‘Black Adam’ Power Grab At DC

If you’ve been following our coverage of the situation at the newly-formed DC Studios, and the massive shake-ups brought about by Warner Bros. Discovery’s hiring of James Gunn and Peter Safran, you know I think there’s one big loser to emerge from it: Dwayne Johnson.  After years of telling us about his plan to “change the hierarchy of power” with his Black Adam flick, Johnson tried to shrug off the mediocre box office and pretend that all of the changes happening wouldn’t affect him. Well…they did. No more Henry Cavill as Superman, mere weeks after his return to set up a future showdown, and no more Black Adam movies at all. Period.

Johnson had made no secret that he was throwing his perceived weight around at WB to get what he wants. The first major thing was lobbying hard for Cavill’s return as Superman, leading to the character’s cameo in Black Adam. But there was more. A lot more, and the details have begun to surface in a new piece by Variety.

The story is largely about Johnson and the power moves he tries to make to take control of the DCEU. Johnson ruffled a few feathers by going around former DC Films chief Walter Hamada and Warner Bros. chief Toby Emmerich, in order to pitch Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav “on a multiyear plan for Black Adam and a Cavill-led Superman in which the two properties would interweave, setting up a Superman-versus-Black Adam showdown.”

So that didn’t earn Johnson any friends at the studio, but he kept pushing for more power, including a producer credit on animated hit DC League of Super-Pets. “His demands increased, and the returns just weren’t there,” reported a source. Black Adam cost $250M but only managed $392M worldwide, definitely a low bar as far as superhero movies go.

It’s no surprise then that Johnson didn’t have much support when Gunn and Safran took over, leading to the sudden end of Black Adam as a franchise.

There are other interesting details, like the fact that Emmerich wanted to kick Cavill to the curb back in 2018, replacing him as Superman with a new actor. Obviously, that never happened, but it’s a glimpse as to why Cavill has been on ice for so long.

And this I find very interesting. Apparently, Gunn and Safran’s three-year-plan for an interconnected DCU does not include Superman or Wonder Woman at all. Now, this is a minor point in the story so perhaps it isn’t rock-solid. But this could explain the decision to shelve Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 3. If we really aren’t going to see either character until 2026 at the earliest, what does that also mean for Batman? Or Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, assuming he stays in that role? Then again, who knows if this is even true. James Gunn has already started to debunk it, but more on that in the next post.

I’m a big fan of Dwayne Johnson, always have been. But it’s starting to look like he can’t play ball well with others. Between Fast & Furious and now the DCEU, Johnson has disrupted franchises just as much as he’s enhanced them. If you had hopes that Johnson would someday join with Marvel Studios, I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen.

Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.