Following James Gunn's DC Studios takeover, Dwayne Johnson confirmed, just two months after Black Adam hit theaters, his character would "not be in [the] first chapter" of the new DCU, bringing his franchise tenure to an end, for now.
Over the last year, Johnson has been fairly openly critical of Warner Bros., particularly in its handling of Henry Cavill's Superman who he stated had been "on the sidelines for too long" before his Black Adam return.
The actor reportedly had tension with Warner Bros. as he pitched a DC future built around his Black Adam and Cavill's Man of Steel.
Dwayne Johnson Explains Why He's Not Returning as Black Adam
Speaking on the Hart to Heart Peacock talk show, Kevin Hart asked Dwayne Johnson why he wouldn't be returning as Black Adam in the DCU.
The Rock noted how his DC character got caught "in a vortex of new leadership" as Warner Bros. underwent "so many changes in leadership" across Black Adam's development process and release
"I think that Black Adam got caught in a vortex of new leadership. And at that time as we were creating 'Black Adam,' developing it, shooting 'Black Adam,' we got knocked down a little bit because of COVID and the shutdowns, got back up, there were so many changes in leadership."
Johnson went on to criticize the choices that Warner Bros. executives made after the film's release which ultimately led to him being forced out of the franchise:
"And as you know, anytime you have a company, but especially that size and magnitude... and you have all those changes in leadership, you have people coming in who, creatively, fiscally, are going to make decisions that you may not agree with, philosophically."
The actor called the decision to not move forward with more Black Adam projects "one of the biggest mysteries" for both him and the team and the whole business:
"So I think 'Black Adam' was one of those movies that got caught in that web of new leadership, and that will always be one of the biggest mysteries, not only for me and us on our end, but also throughout our business."
He went on to state Black Adam's successful opening weekend - which, at $67 million (domestic), is the seventh-highest out of 13 DCEU movies so far - and how the movie had a goal to "establish a new superhero" and "grow out the franchise:"
"That was a question out of Wall Street, that was a question out of Hollywood, that was a question like 'Wait a second, you had the biggest opening of your career, sure no China, that could have been a maybe $100, maybe $200 million more. You're establishing a new superhero, you want to grow out the franchise, you bring back Superman and Henry Cavill - the world went crazy. And also too, you were texting me this on opening weekend, we created a diverse superhero portfolio where you had men and women of color, in 'Black Adam 2' as well."
He stated how both he and Hart have an "audience first" mentality, and how he felt his situation "wasn't looked at through that lens:"
"And I think as business-minded people, you and I are always thinking 'audience first.' Yes, we look at and respect the bottom line economically, but also when you think about opportunity, creating opportunity, creating things that are fresh, and delivering things 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 you and me where you're like, 'You sure you wanna do this?'"
Johnson likened the experience to "new ownership" taking over a football team and saying, "Not my head coach and not my quarterback:"
"But at the end of the day, it's like new ownership coming in, buying an NFL team and going like 'not my head coach and not my quarterback.' Doesn't matter how many times you won the Super Bowl, doesn't matter how many wins we got, I'm going with somebody else."
Will Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam Ever Come Back?
Warner Bros. had clearly been searching for the right people to develop the future of DC for a while before it found James Gunn and Peter Safran. At one point it appeared Dwayne Johnson once would have played a major part in that as the franchise built toward a face-off between Superman and Black Adam.
But instead of trying to scrape together the pieces of a struggling DCEU, the decision was eventually made to instead move for a whole new reboot under the vision of Gunn and Safran. Although some characters will stick around from the old universe, it currently doesn't seem Johnson's Black Adam will be one of them.
Granted, The Rock's original announcement was clear in the wording of how Black Adam would be absent from "[the] first chapter," so there's a chance he will be back in future stories to come. Gunn even stated his desire to "collaborate soon," with the actor, perhaps suggesting he may be involved down the line.
As unfortunate as it may be, Johnson, along with Cavill, were victims of an evolving regime that was still looking for the right leadership. To some extent, it almost appears as if the plan to focus on Superman and Black Adam in a big way was more of an intermediary idea until a more long-term arrangement was made.
Black Adam is streaming now on Max.