What makes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson so attractive to the public?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson poses with his fans at the premiere of Black Adam in Madrid (Getty Images)

Dwayne Johnson it wasn’t always a rock. It was shortly after beginning his career as a WWE wrestler (then WWF) when the actor adopted his famous nickname, since he was originally called “Rocky Maivia”, a combination of his father’s and grandfather’s wrestling names. But The Rock has always seemed like a suitable aptonym. It’s hard, yes. Sculpted, yes. The Rock might even evoke some sense of natural majesty, like the face of a great cliff, perhaps. But when have rocks been fun?

The man whom many point to as a legitimate candidate for the presidency of the United States -in the mold of pop culture Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump- now stars in what could be his role film most prominent to date. In the adaptation of DC Comics, Black Adam, Johnson plays a fearsome anti-hero, a more ruthless and happy-to-kill Superman. The reviews of the film are not entirely favorable –Clarisse Loughrey of The Independentcalled it “bewildering” and “stubbornly monotonous”– but the strength of Johnson’s personal brand means there’s a good chance the film will be a hit. However, it’s hard not to look at The Rock and feel slightly taken aback by the magnitude of his success. How could this man with no real ability to sound convincing when he says a line of dialogue, a few pounds short of looking like a circus strongman, become one of the biggest movie stars on the planet?

It wasn’t always like this. Having grown up in the sweat and noise of professional wrestling, The Rock was somewhat awkwardly introduced to the world of Hollywood, making his debut in Brendan Fraser’s action flick The Mummy Returns in 2001. Though he found steady work for the next decade, Johnson strove to turn his over-the-top wrestler persona into something more suited to the idiosyncrasies of film. There were the movies with terrible CGI like The Scorpion King Y doom. The lazy action movies (walking tall). Sleazy family comedies (The Game Plan). In WWE, The Rock had been white marble. In Hollywood, his career was a sediment.

And yet, at some point, the story changed. Johnson may not have been a great actor, but little by little he became a true movie star. From his role in fast Five, began to be seen as a major box office draw. Through movies like Central Intelligence, San Andreas Y Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – releases that were widely viewed, but did not leave a lasting cultural imprint – he became one of the most bankable stars in the world.

In each of the five years leading up to the pandemic, Johnson was either the highest-paid or second-highest-paid actor in the world, earning an estimated $430.4 million. But while he won the hearts of the public, the critical community still did not accept him, not even to the extent that other ex-WWE members like Dave Bautista or John Cena have (in movies like blade runner 2049 either blockers). recent movies like Jungle Cruise Y Red Notice from Netflix showed the worst of the 50-year-old actor’s weaknesses; They’re high-budget garbage, through and through.

So what’s behind Johnson’s appeal? Although few outside the WWE realm would describe The Rock as funny – if wrestling jokes and “jabroni” slurs are your thing, I’m guessing it’s basically Oscar Wilde – he’s also done well to take on projects that allow you to laugh at yourself. Since voicing him in the hit Disney animated musical, Moanaeven a cameo in Stephen Merchant’s film Fighting With My Familyhas taken advantage of the weaknesses of his action character.

“Obviously, he’s kind of superhuman in terms of height and looks and charisma and all that stuff, but he has an innate ability to always laugh at himself,” he explained to Vanity Fair his co-star in Red NoticeRyan Reynolds. “And that, in and of itself, is a superpower, you know? That’s always been what I think really allows people to accept it.” Self-parody will only go so far, mind you. Reports of contract clauses preventing him from losing on-screen fights suggest he’s not quite ready to ditch his brand — or his ego — altogether.

Dwayne Johnson in Black Adam (Warner Bros.)

Dwayne Johnson in Black Adam (Warner Bros.)

On the other hand, and quite unusually, Johnson has remained apolitical, eschewing both standard Hollywood liberalism, which would have perhaps alienated much of his wrestling fan base, and reactionary republicanism that can push hitherto successful actors at parity de facto. Earlier this year, he waded into political controversy by supporting the controversial podcaster Joe Rogan, to retract shortly afterward and describe the event as a “teachable moment.”

Of course, the biggest thing Johnson has going for him — the thing he’s always had going for him — is his body. Being a human tank has its drawbacks, of course. In terms of acting, it very much limits the kind of roles you can play. He has an appearance that no normal person has. But for action movies, this can often be an advantage.

However, more than this, his muscular body is actually the key to his entire character. Johnson has cultivated, however cynically, a reputation as a hard worker, disciplined professional. Of course, this facade has some loopholes, like his public feud with Vin Diesel. (Diesel is another tough actor who, on paper, could be more or less The Rock’s double, but lacking Johnson’s shrewd charm, he hasn’t managed to escape the confines of the rock circuit. fast and furious). Yet the proof of Johnson’s fundamental discipline is there for all to see. His fighting attitude manifests itself in every bulge of the biceps, in every flex of the pectoral. In this way, he dispenses with the usual artifice that surrounds the actors. He can’t hide who he is, at least without a very, very baggy shirt.

Of course, this kind of reasoning can only go so far. For some, the phenomenon of The Rock has no explanation. I guess it speaks to the fundamental subjectivity of art: while some see him as a clumsy, unfunny actor, others see an action star with generational charisma. No one is right or wrong, but as they say, money talks. When it comes to Dwayne Johnson, the money doesn’t shut up.

‘Black Adam’ is now in theaters

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What makes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson so attractive to the public?

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