'Black Adam' sets up big test of fan loyalty after Warner stumbles

‘Black Adam’ sets up big test of fan loyalty after Warner stumbles

There were few “Black Adam”-themed costumes on display at this weekend’s New York Comic Con, an always colorful parade of nerd heaven.

Why is this important: The consequences of the Warner Bros. merger. Discovery — and a series of errors involving DC Comics intellectual property — have alienated die-hard comic book fans, a critical constituency the studio needs to generate excitement for its remaining film and TV projects.

  • Amid mixed enthusiasm for the film’s October 21 opening, there were many doubts about the future viability of Warner Brothers’ superhero movies after a turbulent year.
  • This year has become something of an annus horribilis, with the corporate shakeup of the Warner-Discovery merger leading to mass cancellations of a slew of DC Universe shows and the ignominious shelving of the HBO Max movie, “Batgirl”.
  • The cancellations have left DC fans blindsided and discouraged.
  • For its part, Warner had a strong presence at the NYCC this year, promoting several of its other initiatives.

Driving the news: Warner’s conundrum thickens two weeks before the release of “Black Adam,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The title character is tied to “Shazam,” which debuted in 2019 to strong box office and critical acclaim.

The plot: The release of “Black Adam” will be a major test of Warner’s ability to convince skeptical fans to give their projects the benefit of the doubt, after more than a year of missteps, recriminations and a delayed list of DC tentpoles.

At the NYCC, Fans informally asked by Axios about the impending release of “Black Adam” expressed quiet excitement, but tempered by doubts about the film’s future and commercial success.

  • Warner is still hurting compared to the juggernaut known as Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
  • Surprisingly, some NYCC attendees told Axios they don’t think Warner needs to replicate the MCU’s “oversaturated” crop of interlocking shows and movies. They approved of the studio’s vision of self-contained, character-driven stories, rather than a large, connected universe.

What they say : Brooklyn fan Michael Rueda was one of the few with “high expectations” for “Black Adam”, especially considering the talent (i.e. The Rock) involved. He wasn’t worried about the main character being explicitly tied to another DC character.

  • “The best DC movies are the ones that aren’t connected to anything,” he said, acknowledging that Marvel has “better storylines” even though DC has stronger characters.
  • A shared DC Universe “isn’t necessary, but needs to be done right,” Rueda added.

Dressed as Black Adam with his wife, son and friend all decked out in all the regalia of the ‘Shazam family’, James Boney joked that Warner’s superhero aspirations ‘can only go up’, though he confessed to Axios that it made “no sense”. [Warner-Discovery executives] have a strategy.

  • However, Johnson and Zachary Levi’s involvement as Shazam gave the Port Washington resident some hope that Warner could finally “right that ship.”

The bottom line: Only time will tell if Warner-Discovery can recapture some of the magic that pushed “Joker” and “Aquaman” to over $1 billion at the box office, and helped 2017’s “Wonder Woman” and ” The Batman” from 2022 to surpass early expectations.

  • But Rueda summed it up nicely: “If you make a movie that’s timeless, it’ll make money for the rest of the time.”

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