Black Adam: Dwayne Johnson Gets Candid About Why He Thinks The Movie Fizzled

When it comes to superhero disappointments, it's difficult to forget the misfire that was Dwayne Johnson's "Black Adam" flick.

The production of "Black Adam" is one for the history books. By all accounts, the film should have been a bonafide success. It boasted Johnson in the titular role, a competent director in Jaume Collet-Serra, and significant brand recognition. Despite all the goodwill the film should have generated, the DC film fizzled, failing to gross over $400 million at the global box office in 2022. 

Critically, the film was a misfire — Looper critic Dominic Griffin gave the film a 6/10 rating, criticizing it for operating as vanity project for the lead actor. "If "Black Adam" means building out the rest of the universe in the Rock's image, it'll only become as self-serving, as short-sighted, and as carefully curated as his own personal brand," Griffin wrote, labeling the film as nothing more than a two-hour romp to pass the time. 

Prior to the film's release, a considerable hoopla was made about how "Black Adam" was going to change the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe. It sort of did... because James Gunn is now on track to reboot the entire franchise, essentially nuking away Johnson's labor of love. How did "Black Adam" become such a disappointment? Johnson says the issue lies with the changing brass over at Warner Bros. "I think that 'Black Adam' got caught in a vortex of new leadership," the star told Kevin Hart on his program "Hart to Heart" (via Twitter). "There were so many changes in leadership ... you have people coming in who, creatively, fiscally, are gonna make decisions that you may not agree with, philosophically," Johnson admitted. 

Dwayne Johnson blames new leadership

Dwayne Johnson isn't wrong to point out how Warner Bros.' constantly evolving leadership may have led to a less-than-stellar product. Note that the wrestler-turned-blockbuster actor had been attached to the DC role since 2007, per /Film. It wasn't until 2014 that Johnson and Warner Bros. were ready to move forward with the project. During 2014, the film would have been a part of the so-called "SnyderVerse," which is when director Zack Snyder was (mostly) at the helm of the DC's live-action projects. Following the release of 2017's "Justice League," Snyder was no longer holding a major creative position within the franchise. It was around this time that Warner Bros. became a subsidiary of AT&T, which led to a regime change. 

After a revolving door of creatives attached to the project, "Black Adam" landed on Jaume Collet-Serra as its director. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed filming back to 2021. While speaking with Hart, Johnson discussed how the COVID-19 shutdowns impacted the film's production. Nevertheless, the film moved forward when restrictions were lifted. However, Warner Bros. leadership shifted again in 2022, when the company became Warner Bros. Discovery, with CEO David Zaslav at the helm. 

With so many leadership changes, DC's theatrical slate constantly suffered an identity crisis. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC films lacked cohesion and consistency, thanks in part to new leaders and creatives making drastic changes. "I think 'Black Adam' was one of those movies that got caught in that web of new leadership," Johnson told Hart. In the lead-up to "Black Adam," marketing would have you believe that the film would pave the way for a new DC Extended Universe. That, of course, did not happen. 

Dwayne Johnson points out the positives of Black Adam

Following the release of "Black Adam," it became clear that the film wasn't the extreme success that Warner Bros. and Dwayne Johnson were looking for. Johnson then confirmed that the character of Black Adam would not be part of the franchise's future. "These decisions made by James and DC leadership represent their vision of DCU through their creative lens," Johnson wrote on Twitter in late 2022. 

For Johnson, leaving the DC franchise is a sort of mystery, one he candidly discussed with Kevin Hart. "Wait a second, you had the biggest opening of your career," Johnson said about the $400 million grossing film. "Sure, no China — that could have been maybe $100, maybe $200 more million," the actor continued. "You're establishing a new superhero, you want to grow out the franchise. You bring back Superman and Henry Cavill — the world went crazy," Johnson added. 

Johnson isn't wrong. By all accounts, "Black Adam" did succeed... when compared to other DC films. It is a bit ridiculous to assume that a non-established superhero could break the $500+ million mark in a crowded landscape. And seeing as the film didn't receive a theatrical release in China, the $400 million gross does make sense, especially when one considers that the audience perception of the DC brand is lower than ever. As the years have gone by, DC's box office returns have slowly diminished, resulting in misfires after misfires. Note that 2023's "The Flash," which features the nostalgic return of Michael Keaton as Batman, just barely grossed over $100 million stateside. Compared to the $168 million domestic gross of "Black Adam," it's easy to see that Johnson's film made what it did based purely on his star power and not the brand power of the DC IP. 

Dwayne Johnson says he respects the financial bottom line

In hindsight, "Black Adam" isn't as much of a failure as many pundits chalked it up to be. It would have helped if the film was a box office juggernaut, but it's difficult to know if DC would have continued on with the franchise. After all, Warner Bros. is set to reboot everything now. Regardless of what happened, Johnson is grateful that he got to bring "Black Adam" to the big screen. "Yes, we look at and respect the bottom line economically," Johnson said about the film's box office returns. Variety says the film needed to make $600 million at the box office to be considered a success. It failed to deliver by over $200 million. 

For Johnson, however, it's not all about money. He thinks that Black Adam's future should have been based on the fan reception. "But also, when you think about ... creating opportunity and creating things that are fresh and delivering for the audience, which is our number one boss. When that wasn't looked at through that lens, it makes things a little more challenging for guys like [me]," Johnson continued. Critics may have been mixed on the flick but fans adored it, awarding it an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes

Wrapping up the "Black Adam" chat with Hart, Johnson doubled down on how the leadership changes impacted Black Adam's future. "At the end of the day, you know what it is, it's like new ownership coming in, buying an NFL team, and going, 'Alright, not my head coach, not my quarter back. It doesn't matter how many times you won the Super Bowl, doesn't matter how many rings we got, I'm going with someone else,”" Johnson said.