I don’t know about you, but I genuinely like Dwayne Johnson. I think he’s a nice guy. In fact, I know he is, because I interviewed him almost twenty years ago when I was a freelance writer for the then-WWF Magazine. At the time, backstage at a RAW taping in Toronto, Canada, we talked about Canadian wrestlers, potential Wrestlemania opponents, and pop culture. I liked him then, and I like him now. And millions of others do as well, seeing as he’s the bigger box office star going at the moment. But, even with that accolade, it’s possible we’ve got a little too much Rock at the moment.
You can see it with this weekend’s return on his latest action film, Skyscraper, which brought in a less than expected (or desired) $24 million at the box office. For all of his charm, audiences just didn’t turn out for this Die Hard-esque flick. Maybe it was the story, that just seems a little ridiculous from the trailers (even though our Scotty G enjoyed the film well enough). Or maybe it’s because we had another Rock showcase, Rampage, in theaters just three and a half months ago. It seems as though everywhere you turn, Dwayne Johnson’s cooking up something in front of our eyes.
Rampage hits Blu-ray this week, and I had a chance to sit down with it a few days ago. I didn’t see it in theaters, even though I played the video game it was based on obsessively on my SEGA Master System when I was a kid. The movie is fun, the special effects are solid, and Johnson does his usual great job as a leading man. I like big SFX driven movies too, so Rampage is pretty much a home run for a mindless, enjoyable action movie. Had it been The Rock’s one and only entry into the huge summer blockbuster line-up, I think it would have done significantly stronger business in North America. Instead, Rampage maxed out with $99 million gross in North America, a “just ok” number that isn’t really good enough for a superstar of Johnson’s caliber. Rampage wound up making $326 million around the rest of the world for a final tally of just under $426 million. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it could have and should done so much better had the timing just been a little different. Had Rampage been the movie that opened this weekend, I think it could have played much larger. You likely missed it in theaters, so I definitely recommend giving it a watch at home. It’s a lot of fun.
Now, with Skyscraper, Dwayne Johnson is going to be left with a failing movie, at least from a performance perspective. We can all play armchair quarterback about why studios do what they do, and I’m guessing Universal thought there would be no Johnson audience fatigue coming off of Rampage and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which was released last December and, with over $400 million, became Johnson’s biggest domestic film ever. However, it’s clear that Skyscraper is the wrong movie at the wrong time. Had it come out around Christmas time 2018, there would have been some distance between it and Rampage, and a little bit of a break from The Rock’s constant promotion. It’s not that Johnson doesn’t do a great job – far from it. It’s clear he is always invested in his work and wants people to go see his movies and will do his best to bring in an audience. Sometimes, though, audiences just need a break.
Now we’ll get it, as Johnson doesn’t have a film due in theaters until The Fast and The Furious spinoff Hobbs and Shaw, due out August 2019. Which will then be followed by The Jungle Cruise…two months later. Hmmm. That doesn’t seem like such a great idea now, does it?
Ultimately, I do love what The Rock is cooking. I just need time to digest.