Per Matt
Did you happen to catch DC League of Super-Pets or Black Adam in movie theaters this past year? If not, you weren’t alone. Both films underperformed at the post-pandemic box office, hauling in $207 million (on an estimated $90 million budget) and $393 million (on an estimated $195 million budget), respectively. While there were positive gains involved for both, much more was expected for these prospective franchise starters. Another reason for the high expectations: These releases welcomed Dwayne Johnson into the DC Universe. But these were far from being super-human moneymakers.

You see, “The Rock” signed a multi-year contract with Warner Bros. to come in as not only an actor, but also a producer. As a producer, his Seven Bucks Productions shell guaranteed he’d always have some sort of control over any super storyline he was involved with. Whether good or bad, he was ultimately in control of his own fate, even if he was only partially responsible… and maybe that was a big mistake.

Growing up, I primarily read DC Comics, and outside of Batman (my favorite superhero) and Superman (seems out of touch these days) flicks, DC Entertainment always seemed to release great animated films (The Flashpoint Paradox gives me hope for The Flash, despite its reported troubles). I truly enjoyed the Super-Pets but felt like it wasn’t marketed well enough by Warner Bros. or promoted by its voice-over talent. And with all of the constant shuffling of studio execs at DC, it’s a surprise whenever any of its superheroes actually appear on the big screen.

I had such high hopes for Justice League back in the day, but DC chose not to build a franchise audience by introducing individual characters one film at a time and throwing them into a storyline all together, hoping to spin-off each one’s backstory. Once that plan failed miserably, the higher-ups thought having multiple actors playing the studio’s titular characters wouldn’t confuse audiences at all. That was another swing and a miss. After The Batman proved profitable (but not as much as the studio had hoped), James Gunn and Peter Safran were newly anointed DC co-bosses, hoping to steer the studio clear of past mistakes.

Their first major order of business may be deciding whether there’s room within the DC Universe to coexist with both Johnson and Margot Robbie (if the stars can return as only actors, not as producers). Until then, the power duo has already made a few decisions, including rebooting Bruce Wayne, Kal-El and many more characters in favor of younger actors who can be featured for 15-plus years. Moving forward, the characters/actors of Aquaman, Shazam and Wonder Woman will return in one capacity or another. Everyone else is cannon fodder, which brings us back to Teth-Adam.

If The Rock doesn’t return to his dream role of portraying the antihero — which only took eight years to reach the big screen — where does that leave the Shazam franchise, especially now that Henry Cavil’s superhero days are done? Black Adam is Shazam’s primary antagonist, along with Supes. I’ve already heard rumors that Shazam! Fury of the Gods (which premieres on March 17th) is such a big-league mess that Johnson turned down a cameo in it, which means The Flash can’t arrive soon enough (June 16th) to reset the entire universe (Will this attempt be known as DCU2?).

It seems like Gunn and Safran already have the next 10 years mapped out for the studio’s superheroes and they’re not looking to share their newfound producing status with their current stars. Time will tell, but it feels like Johnson’s already out the door (possibly followed by Robbie).

As a lifelong comic-book fan, I truly want to see a few great DC live-action films that don’t feature The Dark Night Detective or The Man of Steel. The third time’s gotta be the charm for the studio, and hopefully it’s one that somehow includes Dwayne Johnson (but it doesn’t seem likely at this point)…