DC Films: Dayne Johnson (Black Adam) and the Future of the Universe

With the release of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam this Friday, and DC Films head Hamada ending his tenure, DC is charting into unknown territory.

Without permanent leader to guide the stable of some of the best-known figures in pop culture, DC is seeing a secret but dramatic land grab amongst some of the biggest players in Hollywood.

Johnson is touting his vision for Black Adam vs. Superman movie, with his words stoking fan desires to see Henry Cavill return as the red-caped hero.

Matt Reeves is plotting an expansion of his The Batman universe, while J.J. Abrams remains in the mix as well with his own plans.

Gunn and producer Peter Safran are in talks with Warners for mystery movie. Safran is already in the DC business, being  producer on Shazam! and its upcoming sequel, as well as Aquaman and that movie’s sequel.

A carving of the comic company’s intellectual assets is happening. How much play may depend on your perspective from inside or outside the studio.

It isn’t clear what hero Gunn is targeting, and the writer-director would focus on a second season of Peacemaker first, but the studio’s eyes are on Superman.

Under Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Warner heads Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, Warners has intense desire to reprise the Cavill iteration of the hero.

The project, Man of Steel 2, is being produced by Charles Roven and is in a search for writers. One is Christopher McQuarrie, the guide behind the Mission: Impossible movies. McQuarrie worked with Cavill on the 2018 installment, Fallout, but no official outreach has been made, as the director is working on the next back-to-back Impossible installments.

Superman, as well as Cavill, were not in the initial plans for Black Adam. The idea was hatched during reshoots for the movie earlier this year, but the cameo was nixed by Hamada, the executive who had tried hard to move DC beyond the era where one filmmaker–Zack Snyder–had inordinate influence and could command entire slate for years.

A series spinoff focusing on Colin Farrell’s Penguin is on its way to filming next year. But Reeves is meeting with writers and directors to build out movies focused on Batman rogue’s gallery, both established and obscure, ranging from the Scarecrow to Clayface to Professor Pyg.

It is unclear where the Superman moves leave Abrams, who is still on track to produce Coates’ movie centered on the last son of Krypton. That feature would exist outside any larger DC movie continuity, much like Todd Phillips Joker movies.

Hamada, who did not attend the Adam premiere in New York, is exiting this week. The exec is not even taking producing deal with the studio, a move that is traditional amongst execs who are being let go but given soft landing and courteous “thank you for your service.” To many, that action speaks volumes about how rough is the transition from the AT&T era to Discovery under Zaslav, which included cancelling the Batgirl in August.

After months of searching, Zaslav almost hired executive-turned-producer Dan Lin for the role of DC chief, but talks fell through.  Zaslav’s intent for Lin was to act as overseer of all things DC, films and series, and he would have acted as traffic cop amongst the IP.

De Luca, who is known for his fanboy roots and displays a deep knowledge of esoteric comic lore, remains firmly in charge of DC. He greenlit Joker 2, has been making decisions on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and The Flash, and has been meeting filmmakers. His role could evolve into one with more permanent and even exclusive oversight of DC.

As for Johnson, last week he publicly expressed interest in helping guide the search for a DC boss.

“The best position I could be for DC is one of advisor, where I can help. I love DC. It’s in my blood,” Johnson said on the Adam red carpet. “In the spirit of growing up with the DC Universe. I’m here to help in any way I can, including looking for and finding that right leader or leaders.”

That search marches on even as IP continues to be taken off the board by power players

Johnson is keen on moving beyond DC’s A-list. As he told  the New York Times for a profile: “It’s the safer bet to continue to invest in the I.P. that the world knows. The Justice League — Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman. I understand that. But it took convincing to get the studio to look past the Justice League into the DC universe, and there’s some cool characters there. You’ve just got to give it a shot and trust the investment.”