Last year was a disastrous year for the DC Extended Universe, to say the least. The year saw the DCEU literally come to an end with an impending massive shakeup of the superhero roster.
Just to recap the events of last year, Ezra Miller was arrested casting doubts that The Flash movie would premiere. DC Films also became involved in the much-publicized legal battle between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. The upcoming Batgirl movie got canceled and it was used as a tax write-off for the studio.
Walter Hamada stepped down as head of DC Films with James Gunn and Peter Safran took over as co-CEOs of the newly formed DC Studios. Henry Cavill then returned as Superman only to lose the role a few months later. Shazam!: Fury of the Gods and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom were pushed back to 2023 while Wonder Woman 3 got canceled.
It was a very turbulent year for DC Films and Warner Bros. Discovery and a new report by Variety says that one group tried to wrestle control of DC.
Dwayne Johnson reportedly pitched Warner Bros. CEO, David Zaslav, on a roadmap for the future of the DCEU that involved Black Adam and Henry Cavill’s Superman. According to the sources, the plan was to set up an eventual clash between the Man in Black and the Man of Steel. Black Adam producers Hiram Garcia and Beau Flynn were part of the group that wanted to chart a new path for DC.
The play on DC was made during a turbulent time when DC Films’ Walter Hamada and Warner Bros. Toby Emmerich were preparing to exit the company. Sources revealed that the move by Johnson’s group reportedly upset some people within the organization. "Dwayne went around everyone, which didn’t sit well," one source said.
Warner Bros. Pictures co-head Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy approved Cavill’s cameo in Black Adam. This is even though former boss Toby Emmerich decided way back in 2018 to cast another actor as Superman.
Johnson’s Black Adam unfortunately was a dud at the box office. The film only took home $391 million globally against a reported budget of $195 million and an additional $40 million for reshoots after the movie tested poorly. The mediocre showing at the box office ultimately sealed the fate of Black Adam and prematurely ended the return of Cavill as Superman.
Sources also shared that Johnson’s relationship with Warner Bros. was souring after a series of demands. Johnson reportedly pushed to be added to the producing credits for the DC League of Super-Pets. The sources suggest that the actor did little to promote the movie.
Johnson also reportedly insisted on the addition of a tequila bar at the premiere of Black Adam in New York. The tequila bar carried Johnson’s Teramana brand even as the film was rated PG-13.
One insider notes, "his demands increased and the returns just weren’t there."
Box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian defends the budget for Black Adam. "You can’t have a more modest budget when this level of talent is involved," Dergarabedian said. "Budgets are commensurate with the talent involved. Something with a lower budget like ‘Shazam!’ is dubbed a hit, because ‘hits’ are based more on profitability."
Case in point, Shazam! earned $366 million worldwide against a meager budget of $100 million. Dergarabedian notes that Black Adam made the US domestic box office top 10. However, the film is not part of the global top ten list.
Johnson adamantly defended Black Adam and insisted it will turn a profit. The actor may have overestimated his box office appeal with the anti-hero film. The movie has now been moved to HBO Max.
This is all water under the bridge as it's now up to Peter Safran and James Gunn to turn things around at DC Studios. Gunn announced that Cavill and Johnson will not be part of the DC Universe moving forward. The move spawned rumors of a universe-wide recasting which Gunn has denied. The director may also have indirectly alluded to Johnson's play for control when he said that the new DC Studios will have less studio interference.
We will be seeing the effects of Gunn and Safran’s takeover once the new slate of movies and TV shows comes out. Gunn has promised audiences that the studio is focused on the biggest story ever told.
As for Johnson, his next movie project is Red One which is now in post-production. The Amazon Studios film is set to debut on Amazon Prime Video during the holiday season of 2023.