Both Marvel and DC superhero movie franchises are of immense cultural and commercial importance in this day and age. They have a profound cultural impact, growing passionate fan communities over the years. These franchises extend beyond movies, encompassing TV shows, comics, video games, and merchandise, creating a multi-platform experience for fans.
Credit: Marvel Studios, DC Studios, Inside the Magic
The rivalry between Marvel Studios and DC Studios additionally fosters a sort of healthy genre competition. Ultimately, superhero movies serve as a source of inspiration, offering escapism and entertainment while embodying heroic ideals and values for audiences worldwide.
Credit: Marvel Studios
Following the Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) merger last year, the company underwent substantial changes that led to Walter Hamada, the former head of DC, stepping down from his position. Consequently, James Gunn, a renowned director known for his successful work on Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), joined WBD. As a result of this transition, Gunn was appointed as the new head of DC Studios, where he currently shares leadership responsibilities with Peter Safran.
Credit: DC Studios/Warner bros.
Currently, James Gunn is preparing for a substantial overhaul of the previous DCEU as part of the DC Universe’s (DCU) fresh “Chapter One – Gods and Monsters.” The objective is to essentially begin anew, especially following the events of the Ezra Miller-led The Flash (2023). The most up-to-date information centers around the inaugural film of the new DCU, titled Superman: Legacy, a project that Gunn had already written before the ongoing Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, which is currently affecting Hollywood.
Dwayne Johnson is no doubt a star of both the wrestling and movie worlds — but there is one wrestler-turned-actor who frequently challenges him at his game.
Enter one of The Rock’s major rivals of both the ring and the screen, John Cena. Both wrestlers have made it big in Hollywood at this point, having both starred in roles for The Walt Disney Company and in major superhero franchises like the DC Universe.
Credit: HBO Max
Dwayne Johnson starred as the demigod Maui in Disney’s animated film Moana (2016), as well as the lead role in the Disney theme park-inspired movie Jungle Cruise (2021). In the realm of superheroes, Johnson took on the role of Black Adam/Teth-Adam in DC Studios’ DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film Black Adam (2022).
Meanwhile, Cena has played the titular lead role of Ferdinand in Disney and Blue Sky Studios/20th Century Studios’ 2017 animated movie Ferdinand. He also notably stars as the superhero Peacemaker in the DC Universe, beginning with director James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad (2021), a film set originally in the earlier DCEU, as well as in the HBO Max series Peacemaker (2022), also led by Gunn. Now, Cena is finally opening up about his experience with superhero casting — telling fans about his experience with Marvel Studios casting, and indicating that he could have nearly gone head-to-head with The Rock on the silver screen in Black Adam.
Credit: Warner Bros.
In a recent interview with Josh Horowitz of the Happy Sad Confused Podcast, John Cena touched on his experiences with wanting (pretty desperately) to be in a superhero — and getting rejected early on:
Cena: I can’t tell you how many superhero roles I’ve been rejected for. Shazam has certainly one but uh, there was um, a brief try at the Deadpool Universe — rejection.
Horowitz: For Cable, I assume?
Cena: Yeah. There were a few in the, in the Marvel Universe — rejected. But you know, I kept trying.
Then, Horowitz delves a little deeper — asking Cena if there was a superhero project “really in your heart of hearts” that was something “you really wanted that felt right for you at the time”. Cena admits that he had fallen in love with the script to Shazam! (2018) that eventually saw Zachary Levi playing the titular character.:
I think because of the fact that I — here I am saying this in a waistcoat and a half-Windsor — I think like a child, so uh, Shazam was super interesting to me and when I read the script. A lot of times, like this is the thing, I don’t just “chase”, “I want to do this” — I always have to read it.
Perhaps in another world, we’d have had an epic showdown between Cena and Johnson in Black Adam — seeing as the DC Comics Black Adam is canonically Shazam’s nemesis. But this is not that world, unfortunately!
Cena also shares just how his continued presence as a superhero in the DC Universe is more or less cemented — should James Gunn want him, that is. Apparently, Gunn gets a “free pass” in the whole “script reading” department:
James Gunn is the only person that gets a free pass. If he says, “I’m doing this thing do you want it?” — and the only reason he gets a free pass is his reputation as a storyteller — he just does not let up, he’s “claws in every piece”, and I know he… I know it’s going to be good, because he starts from a blank page, and that’s it.
Credit: Inside the Magic
At the end of the day, Cena got his happy ending — being a superhero in a major comic book franchise! Unfortunately, he won’t be turning up any time soon in the MCU, but with his great (and somewhat fortuitous) working relationship with now-DC Studios President Gunn, it seems he won’t be fading from the big screen any time soon. Dwayne Johnson’s bridge with the DCU has more or less burned however, with the lackluster performance of Black Adam and the discontinued storyline after the events of Ezra Miller-starring The Flash (2023) reset the DC movie stage.
Perhaps Cena won the superhero battle this time around.
What do you think of John Cena continuing in DC while Dwayne Johnson departs the franchise? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
While there is a scarcity from Warner Bros Discovery of details regarding the storyline of Superman: Legacy, what has been unveiled is that it will depict a younger Clark Kent as he grapples with his identity as Superman. Speculation regarding the casting of the lead role for Superman/Clark Kent and his counterpart Lois Lane had been widespread for some time, until recently, when it was announced that David Corenswet (known for Hollywood) and Rachel Brosnahan (famous for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) would be stepping into these roles, respectively. The DC universe’s next major icon, Batman, is poised for a significant reimagining in The Brave and The Bold.
Previously, the DCEU was more or less helmed by Zack Snyder, whose popular “Snyderverse” Justice League (2017) had its fair slice of the DC fan pie. Finished by Marvel alum Joss Whedon, which consists of Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), Gotham City Dark Knight Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher).
Based on the DC Comic world, the new reboot of the DC Universe under Gunn is set about to begin, with anything from the comic books — everything from Superman (and upcoming Superman Legacy), to Lex Luthor, and even the Green Lantern Hal Jordan, or Black Adam — about to be reshaped for the new DCU.
Alongside, DC also houses the Matt Reeves’-run The Batman franchise starring Robert Pattinson, and the Joker franchise starring Joaquin Phoenix’s titular Joker.
The Rock’s most prominent rival has something to say about superhero movie casting – and more or less beating the actor at his own game. Read More