The “Black Adam” disaster shows the limits of superhero movies and the star power of Dwayne Johnson

  • Dwayne Johnson has said that “Black Adam” is not part of “Act One” in the new DC movie universe.
  • The movie didn’t pander to audiences, showing the limits of superhero movies and rock star power.
  • It was a disappointment at the box office, and received harsh reviews from critics.

A sequel to DC’s latest “Black Adam” movie seems unlikely – a sign that big-budget superhero films and Dwayne Johnson’s star power have their limits in the current theatrical market.

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

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

Warner Bros. has appointed Discovery recently appointed director James Gunn and producer Peter Safran to head DC Studios and chart a new plan for the DC universe across film and television. Clearly looking forward to a fresh start, Jean and Safran have even dumped Henry Cavill’s “Superman” movie and a third “Wonder Woman” movie.

It’s possible that the box office performance of “Black Adam” didn’t help its chance at survival.

On paper, “Black Adam” combines two elements of typically box office gold: comic book movies and Johnson’s. The former consistently draws crowds when compared to other genre films, and the latter is one of the biggest movie stars in the world.

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

Johnson’s damage-control instincts took off in a big way with Black Adam, a passion project he spent more than a decade trying to make.

After Variety reported that the film would lose money, Johnson bounced back Tweet Saying it “will win” and sharing Deadline’s story that it made its case.

Whether or not the movie was making money, it’s clear that the movie ultimately didn’t work out with consumers.

Where previous Johnson vehicles like “Skyscraper” and “Rampage” were lacking in US ticket sales, they made up for it on the international stage, especially in China.

However, “Black Adam” struggled to keep up the momentum, and the movie never got a Chinese release. (Based on the other Hollywood tentpoles this year arriving in China, that wasn’t at all a guarantee they’d be a hit there, anyway.)

In a November survey, pop culture website 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 it stars their favorite character. Black Adam isn’t a well-known character, so he’s always had an uphill battle.

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

While Black Adam isn’t part of Gunn and Safran’s DC vision at the moment, they have announced some of their plans. Notably, Gunn is writing a movie about Superman that will focus on a younger version of the character.

Overall, “Black Adam” is the latest in a series of hit-or-miss films for DC, a franchise lacking in Marvel’s continued success. But it’s also one of the biggest testaments to date that a famous actor playing a superhero doesn’t automatically find success in a movie.

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