The Mother Brain Files: The Former Great One
By Mother Brain
My trilogy of rants on African-American superstars will be capped by examining the career of ex-WWE superstar turned movie star, Dwayne â€˜The Rockâ€™ Johnson. There were not many heros I looked up to in the 90â€™s or the 2000â€™s but he was one of the few exceptions in my book. I was 13 when my dad took me to Survivor Series at Madison Square Garden when one Rocky Maivia made his in-ring debut. I witnessed history that night as being one of thousands of fans who chanted â€œRocky! Rocky!â€. I followed his WWE career every step of the way: The heel turn with the Nation of Domination, the birth of the Peopleâ€™s Eyebrow, Rock â€˜nâ€™ Sock connection, his various championship title runs, the feuds with Austin and Hogan, etc. This man knew how to entertain a crowd with his memorable catchphrases and in-ring charisma.
Benefiting from the WWEâ€™s successful Attitude era, it was only inevitable that the Rock would soon focus his attention on movies. Never mind his small presence in The Mummy Returns. While The Scorpion King was not a cinematic masterpiece, I always saw the film as a 90 audition piece for the Rockâ€™s movie career much like Steven Segalâ€™s first movie, Above the Law. Then The Rundown was released a year later and I finally found my on-screen alter-ego. He not only had charisma on the silver screen but he also played a 3-dimensional character with a lot of mysterious subtext: The refusal to use guns, his desire to quit bounty hunting to become a chef, his troubled past hinted by his tribal tattoos. He worked well with Seann William Scott as a duo and also benefited from working with Peter Berg who I considered a better director than an actor (until he did the horrendous Hancock and coming soon Battleship). Yet, it was the subtle momentÂ in the film of the Rockâ€™s character walking past Arnold Schwartzenegger in a nightclub where the torch appeared to be passed on.
The Rock continued to cash-in on his action hero persona with the guilty pleasure, Walking Tall. But it got to the point where he could not commit to movies and wrestling all at once. A lesson learned by Hulk Hogan and many others who failed to make the transition because of Hollywoodâ€™s anti-wrestling perspective. Now the Rock had to take chances in order to become a legitimate actor whether it was playing a gay Samoan in Be Cool or a villainous space marine in Doom. While critics praised his performances, the movies were flops. Even his dramatic turn in Gridiron Gang went unnoticed.
Like many action stars before him, the Rock knew his movie career was turning into a fluke. So he turned to family comedies. Disneyâ€™s The Game Plan appeared to have flop written over it at first; however, the film not only succeeded but it also made more money than The Scorpion King. The WWE fans who supported him stayed home while parents brought their kids out in droves. Now the Rock had become the new Eddie Murphy by associating himself with Disney-related projects such as Race to Witch Mountain and taking supporting parts in comedies like Get Smart and The Other Guys. Never mind the question of Rocky turning his back to wrestling, Why is this guy suddenly taking the comedy route and picking bad material at the same time? Simple answer: The Peopleâ€™s Dollars!
Other than the disappointing Southland Tales which went straight-to-dvd, the Rock hasnâ€™t done a serious action film in 5 years. That would explain why Sylvester Stallone didnâ€™t cast him in The Expendables. Whatâ€™s more disappointing is the fact that the projects which could have given him Will Smith status never came to be. One of those big projects was the film adaptation of the arcade classic Spy Hunter which was set to star the Rock and to be directed by the legendary John Woo of Face/Off and Mission: Impossible 2. From the script review I read, it had all the promise in being faithful to the game while also having the potential to be as fun as the James Bond and Indiana Jones films. Budget concerns, script rewrites, Midway Games going into bankruptcy, and the Rockâ€™s spotty box office track record unfortunately led to the projectâ€™s demise.
There does seem to be a little bit of hope. After the failure of his previous comedy, The Tooth Fairy, the Rock chose to return to action films with Faster in which he plays an ex-con avenging his brotherâ€™s murder. The trailer looks relatively promising; however, he also just signed on to replace Brendan Fraser in a sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth which just sounds not only embarrassing but also an indicator that heâ€™s sticking with the family movie genre for a while.
My point in this rant is that the Rock has been away from the wrestling ring for a long time. He goes by his real name now in movie billings and heâ€™s done enough films to where he no longer uses his eyebrow or finishing move to nod to his wrestling fans. I respect that heâ€™s not taking part in the bullshit PG era of WWE programming. As a long time fan and supporter, all I ask is please at least stay in the action/drama genres where you are most entertaining and give us another Rundown-style movie. Letâ€™s face it, the more I see John Cena fail at following in his footsteps, the more that I want the Rock to succeed.
…and can we get that Rock vs. Cena dream match before Wrestlemania 30 please?