In true villain fashion, Black Adam played a major role in Shazam 2’s failure when he should have been an ally to their joint cause.
Shazam and Black Adam are finally going at it, however, this classic superhero showdown is not taking place in cinemas, but rather in social media as reports of Dwayne Johnson’s prolonged efforts to build his own DCEU recently surfaced. It’s worth wondering then if Johnson’s name would have been enough to save Shazam! Fury of the Gods from becoming the box office bust it’s playing out to be.
It’s not as if Shazam is the only DC hero property to flounder at the box office though, as Johnson’s Black Adam also turned out to be terrible business for Warner Bros. Discovery, yet could it all have been avoided? While it’s clear James Gunn’s direction for the DC Universe is quite different, movies like Black Adam and Shazam 2 were already set and done, hence why it’s probably fair to say that this management shift had little to do with both films’ failure.
Dwayne Johnson’s Superman Mistake
By now it’s become quite clear that Johnson placed all his bets on his ability to convince Henry Cavill to return as the DCEU’s Superman. Black Adam did not hedge his chances, and that’s even more apparent now that several sources claim Johnson went out of his way to prevent Shazam’s Zachary Levi from ever showing up in his solo movie.
Nevertheless, Warner executives did not share that level of faith in Johnson and Cavill’s combined star power to be able to rescue the DCEU, as evidenced by the crucial post-credits scene being leaked before Black Adam’s premiere, on top of Gunn and Peter Safran’s new roles being announced shortly after. Massive corporations do not make these types of decisions on a whim, meaning what was left in DC’s roadmap by then was probably deemed unsalvageable from the start.
If Johnson indeed declined the chance to have Black Adam be introduced next to Shazam, the actor must be held accountable for turning down the very thing that made Marvel successful, a genuinely connected universe. By today’s standards, Black Adam is an action-packed run-of-the-mill superhero blockbuster that seems to belong to another era, and in 2022 audiences simply don’t find that acceptable.
A highly-desired Superman tease was not enough to get people interested in Black Adam, because for years all odds suggested that Cavill was heading out the door anyhow. As a film, Black Adam behaves like it has more clout in the superhero genre than he really does, and it’s likely that had Johnson agreed to take part in the Shazam! saga, and viceversa, both movies would be stronger.
All of this makes Black Adam’s Cavill cameo surprising nonetheless, but for all the wrong reasons. Johnson chose to fly solo so that he could craft his own Superman storyline when that was in all likeliness not what the DCEU, Black Adam, Shazam, or even himself needed.
Black Adam Is A Shazam Villain
Ironically, one could argue the resulting scenario was the worst possible outcome for both Shazam 2 and Black Adam. As per Marvel’s own tradition, it’s perfectly fine (though not ideal) for new superheroes to face off against unremarkable villains — Think Thor, Ant-Man or even Shazam, of course.
Shazam! incurs in many of the sins typically found in freshmen superhero movies, although the film makes up for its flaws thanks to the lighthearted humor and wholesome family vibes Billy Batson brings to the table. Dr. Sivana was OK, but the next logical step would have been for Shazam to fight Black Adam as his natural enemy.
That plot would have been perfect for a Black Adam movie, and considering the character’s might, Johnson could have come out on top so that he’d keep the need for Superman to step in and save the world from himself. What is key to understand here is that a Shazam and Black Adam crossover would have never canceled out the latter’s solo film nor a sequel like Fury of the Gods.
The MCU grew stronger thanks to the sum of its parts, instead of relying on individual films in most cases. With both Shazam and Black Adam, two lesser-known properties, it’s obvious the two could have benefited greatly from combining their powers as opposed to what DC fans ultimately got.
Even then, Black Adam at least got a better chance to prove himself only to come up short; in Shazam’s case the sequel is left to pick up the pieces of what’s left of the DCEU, and in that context, it’s really missing the architect of its undoing, Black Adam.
Except for The Flash, every other DC film seems a bit pointless right now because they lack the proper interconnectivity needed to sell a cinematic universe. What Black Adam’s failed gamble shows is that there was no chance of fans’ ever getting that, so if Gunn does away with absolutely everything, there won’t be a lot much to miss.
The entire situation does not bode well for Dwayne Johnson, whose role in the Fast and Furious franchise ended abruptly due to constant clashing with Vin Diesel. On the other hand, Zachary Levi has apparently taken the high road, only posting on Instagram after stories of Johnson’s sabotage emerged.
The signs were there for everyone to see when Warner spoiled Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ “surprise” cameo ahead of its release, the results fans are seeing now is yet another DC blockbuster that will go straight to VOD just a month away from its premiere. Though in defense of the Shazam family, this movie had a genuine comic book villain trying to bring it down in the background.