Sorry, A Shazam Cameo In The Rock's Black Adam Wouldn't Have Saved Either DC Franchise

Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam.
(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

For a brief period of time, DC Films appeared to operate like a ship without its rudder. Projects like Wonder Woman 3 were being put on ice. The Batgirl movie starring Leslie Grace in the title role was straight-up cancelled while heading into post-production. And a handful of the upcoming DC movies didn’t fit into any sort of unfurling narrative, so fans couldn’t figure out if Black Adam fit with Shazam: Fury of the Gods, or if The Flash was going to somehow reset the universe. Eventually, James Gunn and Peter Safran were named co-chairmen of DC Studios, and their initial slate of films were revealed. But now reports are coming out that, when The Rock was pushing for his Black Adam to be the center of the DC Universe, he stonewalled a Shazam cameo in favor of the Henry Cavill Superman scene.    

But honestly, that scene wouldn’t have rescued either franchise, as numbers prove audiences are ready to move on from this iteration of the DC Universe. 

Shazam: Fury of the Gods opened this past weekend to $30.5 million domestically, which was lower than the projected $35M. This number also was off a whopping 43 percent from the original Shazam, which opened to $53.5 million in 2019, as documented by Deadline. You can blame the critics, if you want. We called the sequel light and fun in our 3.5 star review of the movie, but the film rests at 53% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes… which isn’t a fresh grade. (Worth noting, the audience score is 87 perfect Fresh, which personally, I think is more in line with what the movie deserves.)

Zachary Levi as Shazam in Fury of the Gods

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Things aren’t much better when you look at Black Adam. The Rock’s superhero project opened to a healthier $67 million domestically late last year, but immediately dropped 59% in its second weekend or release, and continued to plummet. By its fourth weekend, it was only pulling in $8 million. It ended its global run with a disappointing $392 million in tickets sold… which is Rock’s 12th highest grosser of all time, according to The Numbers

Nevermind the critics. Audiences do not appear to be there for the characters found in either Black Adam or Shazam. The Rock’s Black Adam movie introduced The Justice Society of America, which leaned on less-than-familiar heroes such as Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell). The marketing campaign manifested such little interest amongst fans on social media that the rallying cry from The Rock in the days leading up to it centered on the Henry Cavill cameo, and how if enough people came to see Black Adam, then that face-off movie might actually happen. 

Well, it’s not. 

The story making the rounds today, courtesy of The Wrap, reports that The Rock vetoed a Shazam cameo in Black Adam that would have had Billy Batson being recruited by Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman and other costumed heroes to join the JSA. Rock wanted the Superman cameo instead, and got it. Ironically, the JSA recruitment scene made it into Shazam: Fury of the Gods. And as director David Sandberg confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter, he expected to have JSA heroes on his set… until he didn’t. 

There were supposed to be characters from [Black Adam’s] Justice Society, but that fell apart three days before we were going to roll cameras. So, Peter Safran, who produced this movie and Peacemaker, made some calls, and thankfully, Jen Holland and Steve Agee were able to come by on very short notice.

Man, that’s crazy. It shows how disorganized the planning on these movies often can be. Sandberg’s comments justify James Gunn’s argument on social media that he had no influence whatsoever in Holland and Agee appearing in Shazam: Fury of the Gods. And the scene that should have been in Black Adam showed up, eventually, in the Shazam sequel… and made no real impact on box-office results. This, in addition to the poorly-kept secret that Wonder Woman has a key scene at the end of the movie. Part of me, in the immediate aftermath of the movie, thought that Shazam sharing a scene with Wonder Woman was a vote of confidence in the characters, and their future in DC Films. 

And now, I think the exact opposite.

Shazam’s soft opening, coupled with Black Adam’s disappointing critical and commercial reaction, have doomed their future in the DC Universe. The poor ticket sales for Fury of the Gods gives Gunn and Safran a clear path to recast Shazam, recast the JSA, ignore Black Adam, and continue to do what THEY want to do, without being beholden to any characters from the existing regime.

This makes me feel really bad for Blue Beetle and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, both of which also appear stuck in this void. But I think The Flash is going to work. Mainly because Tom Cruise thinks it’s incredible. In Tom, I trust.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.