Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Is An Unstoppable Box Office Force
With 'Skyscraper', Johnson continues to release films that just seem to work perfectly in his huge, hulking hands.
30 years ago Die Hard opened in cinemas and audiences flocked to watch a family man battle a tower full of subtly-accented terrorists, and save his wife and two kids. This week, Skyscraper opens in cinemas, following the exact same plot and answering the question we didn't know we'd asked: what if Die Hard was on bath salts?
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a giant, both in his Herculean stature -- he's muscle stacked on top of muscle like a meaty Jenga tower -- and as an unstoppable force at the box office.
Johnson's latest epic Skyscraper is both alarmingly dumb and a good time for viewers -- think Die Hard with a lot more duct tape and you're on track for what you're in for -- but there's something about Johnson's particular brand of action hi-jinks that keeps drawing audiences in.
Johnson has been a constant in films for almost two decades, debuting on the big screen in The Mummy Returns and the terrible Scorpion King spin-offs. Slowly but surely he began picking up films; role after role in action, sci-fi and action-comedies, rarely straying from the formula and reliance on his WWE background.
As he began leaning more into the comedy of his action films, and getting more comfortable with his acting chops, he was soon releasing films every few months. Johnson's IMDb lists 115 acting credits, and while that includes his various WWE projects, it's also a testament to the voracity of his relatively short time in Hollywood.
Since December last year, he's released Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Rampage and Skyscraper.
Even when the odds are stacked against him, Johnson has found a way to come out on top. While navigating a box-office fizzle in Baywatch, Johnson dismissed critics with a simple emoji, tweeting that "fans LOVE the movie".
When Welcome to the Jungle suffered from early controversy after an official cast photo depicted Karen Gillan -- the lone woman in the crew -- in a crop-top and hot pants, Johnson assured fans that "her jungle wardrobe [would] make sense when [they knew] the plot."
"Trust me," he added. The backlash soon subsided, and Welcome to the Jungle went on to not only perform well at the box office, but quietly dominate.
Welcome to the Jungle set a record for Sony as the highest-grossing film of all time for the studio, the first film to knock Sam Raimi's Spider-Man out of its 16-year run at the top.
Even Rampage -- which, despite being one of the best (and only) films where a giant albino gorilla fights a giant flying fox and an even more giant alligator, wasn't a critics darling -- managed to succeed at the box office.
Box office analyst Jeff Bock told Variety it was down to Johnson's ability to entice a global crowd, saying, "If it’s anybody else in this film, it would tank... It gives you an idea of his power at the box office".
Many of Johnson's films share common threads: decency, respect for the armed services and a hearty dollop of family -- be it his daughter in the Fast & Furious franchise or George the albino gorilla in Rampage. Johnson's films may be thrilling, explosive and ridiculous, but it's his heart that ties them together.
His moral code is constant throughout his recent filmography, which is key to his success. Audiences don't need to be convinced to root for whichever avatar he inhabits within his various films -- at their core they're still the same good guy Johnson is. There's no internal conflict for a moviegoer to enjoy an unproblematic, genuinely nice guy.
Despite joking about running for President in 2020, the actor recently said in an interview that he would need more time to go out and learn more, to get more experience. Like in all his recent films, Johnson doesn't want to let us down.
The expectations of the entire world rest on shoulders, enormously meaty as they may be.
Bock is right, if anyone else starred in these formulaic action romps they just wouldn't work, but Johnson appeals to audiences, and he does so on a global scale.
Skyscraper is ridiculous. In the absolute best way possible.
Johnson plays a former special-ops agent who, after giving a man the benefit of the doubt, is in an accident that results in him losing a leg. Years later, he's forced back into action when his wife and two kids are trapped in a burning superstructure.
Where other films may focus on the physical struggles of an amputee action hero, Johnson's character's biggest flaw is that he trusts too much.
He stars alongside Neve Campbell who herself is a revelation of casting, and whose ability to navigate the absurd set pieces of the film makes her a perfect partner for her on-screen husband.
The film opens this week, and reviews on the whole have actually been pretty positive for a film that quietly lifts most of its plot points from Die Hard, but it wouldn't matter anyway. Audiences love The Rock.
Throughout Skyscraper, Johnson routinely asks his kids, "Daddy loves who?" but the real question is who loves daddy? And the answer is: Every single one of us.
Skyscraper is in cinemas now.
Featured image: Getty images.