The Dwayne Johnson and ‘Black Adam’ drama drags down ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’

A new report details how The Rock and his ego tanked another DCEU film. PLUS: Damon Lindelof isn’t writing a ‘Star Wars’ movie, and ‘The Mandalorian’ reveals a big secret.

The Dwayne Johnson and ‘Black Adam’ drama drags down ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’
Zachary Levi as Shazam and Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam. / Warner Bros. Pictures

When I relaunched Popculturology last winter, I never would’ve imagined that Dwayne Johnson and Black Adam would become one of the topics that I find myself repeatedly writing about, but here we are again in March 2023 and I’m writing about Dwayne Johnson and Black Adam.

The saga around Johnson, his overhyping of Black Adam and how he managed to suck Henry Cavill into an ill-fated power play to control the DC superhero movies seemed to have wrapped up a few months ago, but in the wake of Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ disappointing box office and critical performance, TheWrap dropped a new report on how Johnson managed to sabotage that franchise too.

Johnson did plenty of work in public to undermine Shazam, chiefly by promoting a face-off between Black Adam and Superman instead of the more canonical link between the hero Zachary Levi played and the former pro wrestler’s own character. Privately, he vetoed a planned post-credits scene in Black Adam, which would have seen Shazam recruited by Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman, and other costumed heroes, into the Justice Society of America, TheWrap can report exclusively, thanks to disclosures by two high-level Hollywood insiders.

I’m continuously astounded at the level of control that Johnson gained over a share of what was supposed to be a connected cinematic universe. Instead of getting a credits scene featuring Justice Society characters who appeared in Black Adam, we got a credits scene in Shazam! Fury of the Gods that used characters from Peacemaker.

Look, I can see Johnson saying, “nope, not going to appear in that credit scene” and not showing up to shoot one. But Warner Bros. Pictures not being able to use a separate character played by a different actor?

Who the heck gave Johnson that veto power?

Could you imagine any Marvel Cinematic Universe actor — I’m not even going to hypothetically name one, since the scenario is so absurd — telling Kevin Feige that, nope, you can’t use a character from my movie in another MCU film’s credits scene?

It would never happen. Never.

And while we’re not going to see Johnson’s Black Adam fight Zachary Levi’s Shazam in the movies, we may be moving that direction in real life. After TheWrap’s piece published, Levi reposted on his Instagram story a screenshot of someone else breaking down the story with the caption: “The truth shall set you free. 🙃🙃 🙌”

If the DCEU wasn’t already coming to an end, Johnson’s quest to control it was the final nail in its coffin.

Happy Thursday, and thanks for reading Popculturology. I love writing about pop culture, and I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter.

Are you a subscriber yet? It’s the easiest way to make sure you get every edition of Popculturology.

Share your thoughts on Shazam!, Black Adam, credits scenes and everything else pop culture below.

And please tap the ♥️ button at the bottom of each post if you enjoyed the newsletter. Now let’s get to the news.

The News

So much for Damon Lindelof writing a Star Wars movie

Once again: Don’t believe a Star Wars project until there’s a title, a release date, a cast and, to be safe, a trailer. The post-Skywalker Saga era is littered with countless dead-end Star Wars TV shows and movies.

The scrip that Damon Lindelof was writing with Justin Britt-Gibson was added to that pile this week. Above the Line reported on Monday that the Watchmen creator (the TV show, people, obviously not the graphic novel) was no longer writing the movie that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is allegedly going to direct.

Deadline followed up that report on Tuesday, confirming that Obaid-Chinoy is still directing and is likely to be the next Star Wars film to hit theaters.

I asked earlier this month if we even still need Star Wars movies. The franchise has found success on Disney+ through TV shows and limited series, both live action and animated. Why is it so hard for anyone to get a Star Wars movie off the ground after Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?

We’ll hopefully get more info about this film at Star Wars Celebration next month.

Everything Everywhere All at Once directors Skeleton Crew directed a Star Wars: Skeleton Crew episode

Some Star Wars projects do appear to be real, though. Star Wars: Skeleton Crew is one of them. The Jon Watts-led Disney+ series is not only real but managed to snag a directorial duo who is sure to be in high demand these days. THR reported earlier this week that Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert — the Oscar-winning Daniels behind Everything Everywhere All at Once — were working on Skeleton Crew.

Kwan later posted on Instagram how he and Scheinert were involved with the upcoming Star Wars series.

“We aren’t working on a whole series, we guest directed one episode,” Kwan wrote. “Jon Watts approached us to do an episode awhile ago (before EEAAO even came out). We love Jon, love Star Wars, love learning new tech, we lovee meeting new cast and crew, and we needed the days to keep our healthcare (!!!) so it was an easy yes.”

Yes, the American health care system is forcing people to participate in Star Wars projects.

Skeleton Crew doesn’t have a release date yet, but is expected to hit Disney+ this year.

Victoria Alonso leaves Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios lost one of the top three executives responsible for guiding its success the past decade and half. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news on Monday that Victoria Alonso, the studio’s head of production, left the company.

Alongside Kevin Feige and Louis D'Esposito, Alonso turned Marvel Studios into one of the most successful movie studios in history.

According to THR when the story broke, the “reasons for the exit are unclear.” Variety reported on Wednesday night, though, that Alonso was fired, with their sources telling them “the decision was made by a consortium including human resources, Disney’s legal department and multiple executives including Disney Entertainment co-chairman Alan Bergman (to whom all of Marvel Studios reports),” and “Feige felt mired in an impossible situation and, ultimately, did not intervene.”

As some other reports this past week did, Variety seems to allude to the fractured relationship between Marvel Studios and the overworked special effects houses it relies on possibly being part of the reason for Alonso’s dismissal.

Rings of Power adds Ciarán Hinds, Rory Kinnear and Tanya Moodie to its Season 2 cast

With Amazon Studios and Warner Bros. having competing Lord of the Rings universes, it’s only a matter of time before every actor finds themselves in Middle-earth. Amazon Studios announced three additions to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’s cast this past week.

Ciarán Hinds, Rory Kinnear and Tanya Moodie will join the series for its second season.

Jordan Peele’s next movie gets a Christmas release date

If Oscar consideration won’t come to Jordan Peele movies, Jordan Peele will bring his movies to Oscar consideration. Watching Nope — which released in July — get snubbed across the board at the recent Oscars must’ve realized that the Academy often “forgets” about movies that don’t release during the awards season sweet spot of November/December.

News broke this week that Peele’s next film, which is still a mystery, will release on Dec. 25, 2024. Oscar voters love it when a movie releases that close to the end of the year.

💬 💬 💬 Wanna share your comments, questions or recommendations? Leave a comment at the bottom of the newsletter.

Trailer Watch


This one continues to look wild. Nicolas Cage as Dracula is such a brilliant, no-brainer bit of casting. Nicholas Hoult seems to be enjoying himself too.

Renfield opens on April 14.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always

I’m surprised it’s taken the Power Rangers franchise this long to pull together a proper reunion special. The franchise has long sprinkled in returning castmembers to the various shows (Jason David Frank’s Tommy even returning as a Ranger in one series), but this one is different.

It’s still unclear how Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always deals with Frank’s death (if it even does), but there’s a Green Ranger in this trailer. Did they cut around him? Was Tommy never a pivotal character in the special?

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always premieres on April 19.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

The story trailer for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has me pretty excited to see what secrets this game has in store for us. There appears to be a Jedi in High Republic era robes? What’s he been up to all these years? He’s gonna be so angry when he finds out how easily two Sith Lords wiped out the Jedi Order …

I probably should buy a PS5 soon, huh? Are they still hard to find? Should I go for one without a disc drive?

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor releases on April 28.

Spread the news! Share a free Popculturology subscription with your friends.

Ahmed Best in The Mandalorian episode “The Foundling.” / Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian

“The Foundling”

One of the biggest mysteries surrounding Grogu was answered during this week’s episode of The Mandalorian. Who saved Grogu from the Jedi Temple siege?

After years of speculation, we now know that it was Kelleran Beq.

If you’re not familiar with this Jedi Master, here’s what you need to know: The character was created for Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge, the children’s game show. Kelleran Beq hosts the show and is played by Ahmed Best — the man who brought Jar Jar Binks to life in the Star Wars prequels.

Best’s post-Jar Jar time was rough. The actor revealed a few years ago that he considered suicide in the wake of the cruel backlash to Jar Jar. In light of this revelation, Star Wars fans rightfully embraced Best, beginning to make amends for how he was treated while the prequel trilogy was being released. Best being cast as a Jedi Master in Jedi Temple Challenge appeared to be his big post-Jar Jar moment.

Kelleran Beq being the one to save Grogu from Order 66 was a brilliant and beautiful surprise.

I’m thinking there might be another surprise in store for Jar Jar Binks too.

The book Aftermath: Empire’s End revealed that Jar Jar was shunned by his people and wound up as a pitiful street clown. But if we follow the breadcrumbs dropped by “The Foundling,” there might be more to Jar Jar’s story than that.

Kelleran Beq and Grogu were saved by Naboo royal guards and escaped Coruscant on a Naboo starship. Is it possible that one of those friends Kelleran told Grogu would rescue them was a certain Gungan waiting on Naboo?

The rest of the episode focused on the Mandalorian covert’s attempt to rescue Paz Vizsla’s son from yet another monster. We got confirmation that the foundling, Ragnar, is Paz Vizsla’s son.

We also got to see Grogu continue his Mandalorian training, besting Ragnar in a paint-dart duel thanks to some Jedi flips.

Bo-Katan continued her immersion into the covert. She learned the rules of how eating works when you can’t take off your helmet. She got a fancy new mythosaur pauldron. And she revealed to the Armorer that she saw a live mythosaur.

Variety’s Adam B. Vary suggested on Twitter that this season of The Mandalorian is on track for a duel between Bo-Katan and Din Djarin for control of the Darksaber and Mandalore itself. I’ll take that one step further. Once Bo-Katan defeats Din, Grogu will step in to defend his dad. And Grogu with the Darksaber? He’ll be the ruler of Mandalore.

The Mandalorian.

The Bad Batch

“Tipping Point”

I’m finally caught up with The Bad Batch and watched this week’s episode on Wednesday morning after The Mandalorian. I’m happy I did, since it was a great episode.

I’m a big fan of the Mount Tantiss storyline along with Dr. Hemlock. (Brilliantly voiced by Jimmi Simpson of Westworld and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame.)

This season is building toward a reunion between the Batch and Crosshair, with the team and their estranged brother both being on Tantiss.

Hannah Waddingham, Maximilian Osinski and Anthony Head in the Ted Lasso episode “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.” / Apple TV+

Ted Lasso

“(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”

Love that Zava decided to play for AFC Richmond based on a men’s room sour yell. No contract negotiations. No record-breaking offer to justify a talent like his signing with a team expected to finish last in the standings.

Anyways, I should check out that The Office premake they made over in the United Kingdom.

The Links

That’s the end of this issue of Popculturology. Thanks for reading. If you don’t already subscribe, please hit the “Subscribe now” button. Tapping the ♥️ at the bottom of each post also helps the newsletter.