Movies Reviews

How Black Adam was the Synderverse's Swan Song

After 15 years in development following a fan casting of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson all the way back in 2007, Black Adam was released with mixed to positive reviews from audiences and critics alike. Marketed as a game-changing film for the DCEU, the Rock took to Instagram ahead of the movie’s release to promote Black Adam’s place in this superhero franchise, and what it would mean for the universe moving forward, writing:

“[With Black Adam] the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change. [Here comes] a new era.”

As the lead actor and also serving as a producer on the movie, Johnson’s comments held a lot of weight. The film was also produced under the actor’s production company, Seven Bucks Productions, alongside Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. As a self-proclaimed passion project for The Rock, the star had a lot of reasons to raise expectations and stir excitement. If people showed up at the box office, Black Adam would have a higher chance of receiving future films or appearances.


With Johnson being very vocal about the protector of Kandahq facing off against Superman and Henry Cavill expressing interest in seeing both characters interact with each other, if DC Studios would have any incentive to move forward with more productions (especially in light of Warner Bros. Discovery’s financial problems) the movie simply would have to do well.

Better Than No Plan At All

Warner Bros.

At the time of Black Adam‘s release, a single protagonist-centered superhero film hadn’t been released to positive reception in the DCEU since 2019’s Shazam, which (conveniently) was also produced by Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions. Wonder Woman 1984, the last solo outing in the DCEU on the big screen released during the height of pandemic lockdowns in 2020, hadn’t gained much traction. The film about Diana Prince taking on the 80s flew under the radar of other properties after a few months.

Though this wasn’t the best time to release a film, arguably the worst since the inception of wide theatrical releases, there was a sentiment that the fans of DC were growing bored with several solo, one-off stories that never seemed to build to a more connected universe. The stakes never seemed to carry over from film to film. The reason for this was DC Studios—called DC Films at the time—having a knee-jerk reaction to the bad reception of the universe’s previous film, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The studio wanted to course correct on director Zack Snyder’s next film Justice League to avoid the same criticisms.

Related: 10 Essential Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Moments in Movies, Ranked

However, the DCEU was building to a specific direction that Snyder began the groundwork for back in 2013’s Man of Steel, overhauling the tone of the universe and how characters act, especially with the firing of a central director and replacing him with the director of Marvel’s The Avengers, came through as an out of touch decision very late in the game. These grand changes during a seminal moment in the franchise muddled the direction of the DCEU and stopped all the momentum the Snyderverse was building towards. Snyder’s interpretation of these comic book characters wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea—but at least that cup was existent, and full of something.

A Promising StartBlack Adam holding lightning in his hands, from the Black Adam movie.

It seemed the DCEU gave up and moved towards films that only affected the universe in its own bubble, with even Snyder’s Justice League being regulated to its own pocket reality. This made the events of Black Adam very exciting. For the first time, in this franchise, we were seeing Black Adam, the Justice Society of America, characters from The Suicide Squad, and Cavill’s Superman all in conversation with one another. The scope of the film displayed how big of a universe the DCEU has amassed in its last ten years, and with more characters like Black Adam being at the center of these varying sections of DC, the momentum toward something bigger can finally begin again.

At the start of Black Adam’s theatrical release, it seemed a lot was going in the Rock’s direction. The opening weekend earned $67 million, which was about the same pull as Aquaman in its first week, and above Shazam’s $58 million a few years before. However, not soon after it was released in theaters, the film’s box office numbers dropped off to such a point that it was put on HBO Max to be streamed not even three months later.

Putting reports of drama between the studio and Johnson aside; a significant production cost, little conversation about the longevity of concepts introduced into the movie, and a change in leadership in DC Studios, led to the once front-running movie of the DCEU becoming an unlikely component in a rebooted universe not even a month after.

One Chapter Closes, Another One Opens?

Black Adam walking in front of a wall of explosions, from the movie Black Adam.
Warner Bros Discovery

During such a large corporate change that affects the entire tone and direction of a cinematic universe, when Black Adam was currently attempting to define the said universe, news of James Gunn and Peter Safran being appointed as heads of DC Studios when the film was so early in its box office run surely hurt the potential of this long developed passion project of a movie. With a framework that’s already outdated, after news broke, Johnson solo super not-so-hero film, was a lot like its titular character, before its time.

Although Black Adam underperformed at the box office and relations with Johnson and Warner Bros. are not at an all-time high, meetings between Gunn and Johnson have taken place. Even though Black Adam doesn’t have a spot in the DCU’s first chapter of its rebooted slate, titled Gods and Monsters, both parties aren’t ruling out the possibility of a sequel down the line in the universe’s second chapter.

Even though the Rock reportedly turned down both a cameo in The Flash and Shazam: Fury of the Gods, Johnson still might be able to fight Superman in James Gunn’s DCU; it just won’t be Henry Cavill. Even if DC’s audience has to wait several more years to see the Rock’s super-powered protector, the fact the universe will be more established will only lead to Black Adam himself having a stronger identity. This will make the Rock’s character easier to follow, and give their presence much more weight; as we see how different he is from other characters in the universe. But even with all that considered, it’s hard not to want to see where Black Adam would’ve gone with all of its ambitious plans if given the chance.

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