'Black Adam' Shows the Limits of Superhero Movies, Dwayne Johnson

TECHNOLOGY
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  • Dwayne Johnson has said that “Black Adam” is not part of the “first chapter” of DC’s new cinematic universe.
  • The film did not pander to audiences, showing the limits of superhero movies and the power of rock stars.
  • It disappointed at the box office and received harsh reviews from critics.

A sequel to DC’s latest film “Black Adam” seems unlikely – a sign that even big-budget superhero movies and Dwayne Johnson’s star power have limits in today’s theatrical market.

In a rare admission of defeat, Johnson released a statement on his social media on Tuesday saying the character would not be included in the “first chapter of the narrative” of the new DC Studios.

While Johnson said he’s agreed to explore how Black Adam might fit into the future of DC’s new cinematic universe, it appears that puts an end to any immediate plans for his return. The rest of Johnson’s statement reads like an obituary, saying that he “will always look back on the fan reaction to Black Adam with tremendous gratitude.”

Warner Bros. Discovery recently hired filmmaker James Gunn and producer Peter Safran to head up DC Studios and chart a new blueprint for the DC universe in film and TV. Gunn and Safran are obviously looking to start from scratch, even ruling out Henry Cavill’s Superman and a third “Wonder Woman” movie.

“Black Adam’s” box office performance probably didn’t help its chance of survival.

On paper, “Black Adam” combined two ingredients that are normally box office gold: comic book movies and Johnson. The former always draws crowds when compared to films in other genres, and the latter is one of the biggest movie stars in the world.

But the film only grossed $391 million worldwide, including $167 million in the United States, a disappointing number for a film that cost $200 million to make before marketing and other expenses.

Johnson’s damage control instincts kicked in with “Black Adam,” a passion project he’s spent more than a decade trying to pull off.

After Variety reported that the film would lose money, Johnson backed down. a tweet saying it’s “going to cash in” and shared a Deadline story that made its case.

Whether it made money or not, it’s clear that the movie ended up not pleasing consumers.

When Johnson’s previous star vehicles like “Skyscraper” and “Rampage” failed to sell tickets in the United States, they made up for it on the international stage, most notably in China.

“Black Adam”, however, struggled to maintain momentum, and the film was not released in China. (Based on other Hollywood mainstays this year that made it to China, it was never a guarantee it would be a hit there, anyway.)

In a November poll, the pop culture wiki Fandom found that the majority of DC fans, 57%, are fans of specific characters rather than the entire universe, and are more likely to rally around a movie if him starring his favorite character. Black Adam is not a well-known character, so he would always face an uphill battle.

It also received harsh reviews, with a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes, which may have been hard to bounce back from – especially at a time when audiences seem to be more selective about which movies they spend their money on in theaters.

While Black Adam isn’t part of Gunn and Safran’s DC vision right now, they have announced some of their plans. Notably, Gunn is writing a Superman movie focused on a younger version of the character.

Overall, “Black Adam” is the latest in a string of hit-or-miss movies for DC, a franchise that lacks the consistent success of Marvel. But it’s also one of the greatest testaments that a popular actor playing a superhero doesn’t automatically make a movie a hit.