DC fans rejoice! Snyderverse fans despair! The possibility of a full DCEU (now, DCU) reboot is edging ever nearer with news that new head of DC Studios James Gunn will be overseeing a completely new Superman story. Unfortunately for longtime Superman actor Henry Cavill, that means he's unequivocally out.
This follows months of speculation and confusing developments about the actor's return to the role. All of which have culminated in what is an unavoidably embarrassing situation for Cavill and many who championed his ongoing presence in the DCU — one such individual being Dwayne Johnson. Yes, The Rock, who worked pretty damn hard to secure Cavill's Superman cameo in his recent "Black Adam" movie, has since seen things collapse around him like the ruins of Kahndaq.
"There's no one on this planet that can stop me," said Black Adam in what will surely go down as an infamous and relentlessly-memed Cavill cameo at the end of his movie. The moment sees Superman emerge from a smoky haze to inform Black Adam that he and the Man of Steel "should talk." Well, it now seems we won't be getting much in the way of conversation between the two heroes as the one person on this planet who could stop Black Adam appears to be James Gunn (with a little help from fellow DC Studios head Peter Safran and the most empowered villain in the whole multiverse: Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav).
How did things get so muddled? What, if any, lasting damage has this whole debacle done to the DC brand? Let's take a step back and try to get some perspective on the whole mess, shall we?
The Complex History Of Henry Cavill's Superman
The story of Henry Cavill's Superman has been a complicated one, but it wasn't always that way. The actor did a decent job of playing the hero in "Man of Steel," but since "Justice League" debuted in 2017 and somehow managed to make the most iconic heroes in pop culture history both boring and forgettable, things have been frustratingly confusing. We've seen Cavill's Man of Steel — who really never seemed to get the right Superman movie — show up sporadically, appearing in full black-suited glory in "Zack Snyder's Justice League" and giving us a neck-down cameo in 2019's "Shazam!"
There were reports that a sequel to "Man of Steel" had been in the works for some time, but never any official confirmation from Warner Bros. Fans speculated, Warner Bros. debated, and Dwayne Johnson? Well, he decided to take action. The "Black Adam" star decided he needed something to give his movie an edge — something to ensure his first superhero blockbuster outperformed the $60 million opening weekend figure of his biggest movie to date: "Hobbs And Shaw."
He found the answer in yet another Cavill cameo, which he apparently wrangled by going over Walter Hamada's head. The then-president of DC Films had been trying to move on from the Zack Snyder era of DC films and was reportedly against the whole idea. But The Rock had overcome greater foes before, and was insistent. "Black Adam" was his passion project, and he'd been gunning for Supes ever since he entered the DCU. Thus the whole Cavill "Black Adam" cameo came to be, much to the chagrin of Hamada, who ended his DC tenure around the same time Johnson's movie debuted. What followed was some of the most conspicuous Hollywood hardball we've seen play out in public in quite some time.
Black Adam's Opening Weekend Was A Sign Of Things To Come
Let's be honest. "Black Adam" didn't do great at the box office. Let's start with the facts. "Black Adam" had a $67 million opening weekend — only slightly better than the $60 million Johnson made in the opening weekend for his previous record-holder, "Hobbs and Shaw." To be fair, that opening weekend figure made "Black Adam" the number one movie at the box office. But compare that with the $181 million "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" made in its first weekend less than a month later and the issue starts to get a little clearer.
The other important thing to remember is that "Black Adam" was projected to debut with a $70 million opening weekend figure, which was downgraded to $60 million after negative reviews surfaced. All of which meant that while the movie technically beat projections, it actually didn't. It beat the downgraded projection and fell short of the original figure by a few million.
But let's put all that to the side for now. You know how you can really tell $67 million wasn't cutting it for Warner Bros.? Because of Henry Cavill. Yes, the actor himself took the opportunity to help out his pal Johnson by jumping on Instagram to not only confirm his appearance in "Black Adam," but to confirm his return to the wider DCU. After years of speculation, an excited Cavill connected with fans directly from what looked like his backyard, saying: "I wanted to wait until the weekend was over before posting this because I wanted to give you all a chance to watch 'Black Adam.' But now that plenty of you have, I wanted to make it official: I am back as Superman."
The Ongoing Struggles Of Black Adam
Why didn't Cavill wait until the weekend was over to announce? Maybe he couldn't wait to celebrate the good news with fans. Maybe he was trying to put pressure on Warner Bros. for an official "Man of Steel" sequel green light. Or maybe, just maybe, "Black Adam" wasn't doing as well as Warner and Johnson had hoped and they needed to bring in the big guns to sell more tickets. Unfortunately, Cavill prove to be less of a big gun and more of a mid-sized shooter — a fairly hefty spud gun, so to speak.
You may have heard "Black Adam" is doing much better than I'm making out, but that may come down to Dwayne Johnson's own public statements. At the time of writing, "Black Adam" has racked up $389 million at the global box office — certainly nothing to sneer at, but not quite enough to justify a sequel. But that didn't stop Dwayne Johnson from trying.
Seemingly intent upon convincing everyone his movie was a resounding success, the actor took to Twitter to announce that "Black Adam" was due to make a profit of between $52 million and $72 million. He linked to a Deadline article that also said as much, which followed a Variety report that claimed the movie was actually on track to make a loss of between $50 million and $100 million and had to hit $600 million in box office sales just to break even. Sources then confirmed to /Film that "Black Adam" actually needed to make $425 million to break even, but either way, Johnson's tweet about the movie's success seemed dubious at best. Confused yet? It gets worse …
Dwayne! Let It Go!
At this point I think it's fair to say the box office returns for "Black Adam" simply don't cut it when Marvel films consistently bring in over $500 million and often approach or exceed the $1 billion mark. It's looking like the movie's overall theatrical gross will be in the $400 million range. Which means with a budget of $195 to $200 million and marketing costs of between $80 to $100 million, Warner Bros. is likely looking at a loss after movie theaters take their cut, or at the very most a small profit.
With that in mind, Johnson's tweet about his movie making a profit starts to seem kind of bizarre. The fact that he ended his update with this non sequitur just made things worse: "We are building our new franchise step by step (first Captain America did $370M) for the DC future."
So far, Gunn has continued to ignore Johnson and his movie, not even acknowledging him on social media. Does that really sound like the new co-head of DC Studios is on board with "building a new franchise" around "Black Adam"? Also, what does "Captain America: The First Avenger" have to do with anything? Not a lot if you really think about it. That movie came out in 2011 when Marvel was still building its overall brand, and it didn't do especially well. In fact, the next time Marvel did a solo Captain America outing it was with completely different directors, with the Russo brothers stepping in for Joe Johnston on "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Why then, would you compare your movie to Cap's first outing? Why, indeed.
More Missteps From Cavill
While Dwayne Johnson's strange antics played out in full public view, Henry Cavill was busy digging his own hole. Even though the age of the movie star is apparently over, the actor evidently saw himself as one. At least, that's the impression he gave when, a few days after his "Black Adam" Instagram stunt, he bid goodbye to "Witcher" fans and the folks at Netflix by bowing out of the popular show ahead of the third season debuting in 2023. The fourth season will see Liam Hemsworth take on the role of Geralt of Rivia, freeing up Cavill to make his triumphant return in "Man of Steel 2" and cementing his legacy as a full-blown movie star.
Unfortunately, that's not how things played out. Cavill ditched the streaming giant in yet another bizarre move that, many have speculated, may have been motivated by his desire to pressure Warner Bros. into greenlighting the "Man of Steel" sequel. If that was the case, it was not only a bit of a slap in the face for Netflix, who had backed the actor on several projects, it was also a massive risk.
There could have been other reasons for his exit from "The Witcher," but it's possible Cavill was trying to get aggressive with his career and force Gunn and Safran's hand. Either that or he was giving himself some motivation to chase movie roles more seriously than he had been. Whatever the reason, the move seemed baffling then, and it looks even weirder now.
The End Of Cavill's Superman
Why does it all look so silly from here? Because not only was "Black Adam" far from the hugely successful Superman homecoming that Cavill and Johnson thought it would, but we now know for sure that none of the "Man of Steel" sequel stuff is going to happen.
In December, Cavill slinked back to IG, where he had once so proudly announced his official return, to reveal that he wouldn't in fact be coming back as Superman. And the weirdness continued, with the actor claiming he was "told by the studio" to announce his Superman return back in October but that he would now not be returning following a meeting with Gunn and Safran. This is just speculation, but that certainly sounds like an obvious capitulation from the new co-head of DC Studios — allowing Cavill to blame the whole mix-up on Warner Bros, as he officially bows out. And there may be some truth to that if it was actually true that Warners drafted in Cavill to help "Black Adam" and its struggling first weekend numbers. Again, it's all very confusing and strange.
The final nail in the coffin came when Gunn tweeted and confirmed the whole thing by announcing a whole new Superman film:
"In the initial stages, our story will be focusing on an earlier part of Superman's life, so the character will not be played by Henry Cavill. But we just had a great meeting with Henry and we're big fans and we talked about a number of exciting possibilities to work together in the future."
So there you have it. A tale stranger than even the most outlandish superhero story. And where are our heroes now? Well, Dwayne Johnson seems a bit desperate, having tried everything to convince people that "Black Adam" was a success when it wasn't. And I get it. The movie was his passion project. He fit the role well and played it impressively. But when the facts are so obviously pointing in one direction, Johnson would do much better to gracefully accept the state of things rather than continuing to try to paint an alternate narrative.
And Henry Cavill? Well that might be the saddest part of the whole story. Look, Cavill is going to be fine. He's a talented actor with a significant profile and I'm sure he has a lot of fascinating projects in the works. But that isn't how it looks. It looks like he dropped the one major hit he had going with "The Witcher," possibly burned a bridge with Netflix, confused loyal fans of both "The Witcher" and Superman, and ended up with no hit Netflix show and no new Superman movie to look forward to.
… or, it was all a part of Cavill's plan? With the news that Cavill has signed on to executive produce and star in a series adaptation of "Warhammer 40,000" for Amazon, questions over why he'd jump the "Witcher" train without a "Superman" net to fall in may be answered. Amazon is in the final stages of talks for rights over the popular sci-fi miniatures wargame, but even the news gives context to some of Cavill's decisions that seemed less than advisable only days ago.
What Were They All Thinking?
You still have to ask: why? What motivated all this misplaced activism and stubborn refusal to engage with reality? I genuinely don't know the answer, but if this whole saga proves anything it's that Gunn and Safran are right to move on from what has, frankly, been a bit of a curse for DC's on-film enterprise. The Snyderverse's time has finally come and the full-scale DCU reboot is almost at hand. And while it's been debunked that Matt Reeves' Batman universe could merge with the larger DCU (and rightfully so, it's a terrible idea) at least Gunn and Safran have a clear plan. Not only are many DC fans frustrated, the wider public have to be completely bemused and baffled by the whole thing. Imagine not keeping up with these numerous developments and trying to make sense of what the hell is going on over at Waner Bros.
Ultimately, DC deserves better than all this. This is the home of some of the most recognizable and beloved characters in pop culture history. And it's all being sullied by these industry games being played out in public and the ongoing confusion that's come from it all. You gave it a good go, boys. But these are clearly two versions of some beloved DC heroes that need entombing for the foreseeable future. Now just leave Matt Reeves' Batman in his own universe and we might be onto something here.
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The post A Timeline Of Dwayne Johnson And Henry Cavill's Bizarre Attempts to Stay In The DCU appeared first on /Film.