With Black Adam, Dwayne Johnson is testing the reputation of his Viagra franchise – The Hollywood Reporter

0

In 2015, the cast of Saturday Night Live crooned about Dwayne Johnson being “Viagra franchise” during the actor’s opening monologue. Seven years later, the worldwide debut of $142.9 million for black adam suggests that, in a time of transition for DC, Johnson is indeed the boost whose Warner Bros.-owned comic book brand. Discovery needs.

Even though black adam won’t reach $1 billion at the box office Aquaman, and even if it falls short of the artistic triumphs of James Gunn and Matt Reeves’ DC projects, Johnson gives DC the opportunity to expand its reach beyond its core fans. Not everyone knows Black Adam or the Justice Society, but they all know the Rock.

Always a salesman, the wrestler turned actor, producer and entrepreneur has always excelled in selling one thing above all else: himself. While his presence hasn’t always resulted in the billion-dollar blockbusters that Hollywood studios are constantly striving for, Johnson’s addition has led to a string of solid hits and a few misses due to his global appeal.

Most of the franchises he joined were lifted by his face on the poster, including The Mummy, The fast and the furious and Jumanji. Same GI Joe: Retaliation, something missed, grossed $375.7 million worldwide, more than the first installment. It is the same for Voyage 2: The Mysterious Island, which surpassed its Brendan Fraser-led predecessor. And when it comes to solo projects, San Andreas (2015) and Carnage (2018) both crossed $400 million worldwide. Additionally, his team with Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot in red notice (2021) has become the most-streamed movie on Netflix, according to the service.

Pierce Brosnan and Dwayne Johnson in black adam

Everett

There’s also a sympathy factor at play with Johnson. He’s a positive face for a DC franchise currently beset by stars with legal drama and an unwillingness – see: Henry Cavill, until very recently – to commit to this universe long term. Johnson’s Recent Comments not wanting to chase Marvel, but pushing DC to do its own thing, was the perfect capsule of optimism for fans, even if WBD costumes surely have a jealous eye in the way of Marvel Studios.

According to sources with access to the poll, 43% of moviegoers told analytics firm PostTrack that Johnson was the main reason they went to see black adamwhile 40% went because of gender.

Thus, beyond a black adam sequel, what might Johnson’s presence add to the DC Extended Universe? A Black Adam vs. Superman the film seems too simplistic to be entertained, and even Johnson questioned the idea coming anytime soon (after inflating it in the press). It’s possible that Black Adam will join the Justice League, as he did in a recent comic helmed by writer Brian Michael Bendis. But with the introduction of the Justice Society and being one of the film’s strongest elements, it seems more likely that we’ll see Black Adam continue to toy with their growing roster, even if he’s hesitant to officially join them.

If a third Shazam! movie arrives, maybe audiences will get the long-awaited and much-delayed showdown between Adam and Shazam! which originally formed the basis of the first film before it was rewritten.

But Johnson seems focused on Black Adam’s A-list and not just an antagonist of the Shazam! family. Johnson certainly has plenty of A-list friends and is attracting Hollywood (who else could convince Emily Blunt to star in Jungle Cruise?) And Warners’ new leadership seems specifically focused on star power that justifies a theatrical-only distribution.

So what does a Rock-sized selection of A-listers look like in the DCEU? Perhaps a Justice League/Justice Society movie that sees the two super-teams at odds, then later united against a common threat. Perhaps that threat could even be Darkseid, if Warners isn’t willing to let go of what he’s already built up over the years.

For audiences, there’s a heartwarming consistency that comes with seeing a Johnson film. East black adam the most original superhero movie? No. Is it inspired by stories we’ve seen before? Yes. black adam isn’t risky, but maybe at this point that’s exactly what the DCEU needs.

There’s a reason a movie like Avatar, which no one claims to be a very original story, is the greatest film of all time: because it successfully marries spectacle with familiarity and themes that, though familiar, transcend borders. In principle, black adam manages to do the same, and while most critics weren’t very enthusiastic about the film, there’s something to be said for its international numbers. These numbers are especially telling in places like Latin America and Southeast Asia, where audiences and critics don’t seem to have as many issues with originality as we do in the United States.

None of this means that black adam excels in all areas. There are some awkward exposition and pacing issues, but it’s fun and entertaining, and yes, if we think back to the history of blockbuster movies, sometimes that’s enough. Despite all the critical complaints about its lack of risk-taking and generic world-building, I would say that black adam takes a position we’ve seen very few superhero movies take: it portrays superpowered individuals who come to dish out their brand of justice in foreign lands as invaders.

As black adam says Hawkman in a scene where the latter tries to save a kidnapped boy in his own way, “This is not your son, and this is not your country.” Johnson manages to successfully shake off any attempt to tether Adam to the ground as a generic hero, and instead comes across as someone who, despite not being quite true to the strip’s portrayal drawn, feels cut from the fabric of the pulp heroes who inspired superheroes, along with so many of Johnson’s on-screen roles.

One of the biggest surprises of black adam that’s how pro-uprising it is. It challenges the line between good and evil by asking the viewer to take a look at who is drawing that line. And not only that, the film blames the Justice Society for being an absent presence in Khandaq during the team’s 75-year existence and the country’s continued oppression. Amid former comic scribe Alan Moore’s recent comments on superhero movies that were precursors to fascism, I couldn’t help but notice how anti-fascism black adam is.

And now Dwayne Johnson, the People’s Champion, as he was known in the wrestling world, has naturally become Kahndaq’s Champion, and maybe just maybe the DCEU’s Champion, as Black Adam.

As Johnson reconfigures Black Adam from a Shazam! adversary of a Superman antagonist, while using Black Adam to bring together the various DCEU sons of The Suicide Squad to Zack Snyder’s Justice Leaguewhile introducing the Justice Society, one can’t help but wonder if the second biggest tool in the Warners utility belt after Batman is Dwayne Johnson.

—Pamela McClintock contributed reporting.

Share.

Comments are closed.