As you may have heard, Skyscaper — the latest star vehicle for the generally unstoppable mega-dose of franchise viagra known as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — didn’t fare too well at the box office on its opening weekend. In fact, the film landed below the low expectations analysts had already set, and $25 million on opening weekend is not something that one ordinarily expects from The Rock. He’s risen from rags and wrestling to dazzle audiences with his charisma, muscles, and sparkling smile. He could charm the skin off of a snake, and not in a snake-oil salesman kind of way. He could kick your ass by flexing a muscle across the room, and you’d thank him for the privilege. Still, some folks look forward to tearing an icon down, a move that is, at the very least, premature here.
Presently, a smattering of think pieces (more than) suggest that The Rock is (gasp) overexposed and in danger of wearing out his welcome. Yet one must also consider that the sheer number of The Rock’s financially successful projects vastly outweighs the impact of an occasional misstep — one that isn’t down to one single factor, such as scheduling considerations and the fact that Skyscraper could have been much more fun and simply wasn’t executed well. Was this film as great as The Rundown? Helllllll, no. Would The Rock be able to singlehandedly save the romcom genre? Probably not.
Yet, The Rock’s going nowhere. Multiple visits to Tentpole City remain on his agenda, and he’s still knocking down endorsements that don’t place him in proximity of a permanent revisit to the WWE. So, let’s try and gain some perspective here. The Rock’s career has been through far worse over the years, and he always comes out ahead. Let’s take a trip down memory lane…
Southland Tales (2006)
Over a decade ago, The Rock had already starred in a handful of successful action movies. Then perhaps in a management-guided effort to tweak his image into that of a serious actor, he began appearing professionally in films as Dwayne Johnson. The first such outing under his legal name was an ambitious one, with Donnie Darko director Richard E. Kelly striking out in this follow-up, Southland Tales, which didn’t deliver any substance behind its weirdness, making it a much less beloved yet equally bizarre product as its predecessor.
Although Johnson’s performance as a right-wing movie star, who is swept up in a conspiracy, is wonderfully offbeat and arguably the greatest one of the flick (Justin Timberlake also appears, not making much of an impression while attempting to shed his boy-band image), and The Rock enjoyed top billing, the film didn’t put butts in theater seats, which not only disappointed from a financial standpoint but also because Johnson was clearly attempting to level-up past his action-only image. Alas, there were more rough times to come.