From his roles in the Fast & Furious movies, to standalone big-budget fare like San Andreas and Hercules, to any of the 20 movies wherein he plays a dude in a jungle, including the upcoming Rampage (which released its first trailer today), Dwayne Johnson has proved he is the B-movie action hero we need today. It's probably one of the reasons he's considered so likable. He makes big trash movies that are the dumbest things you'll ever see, but he's smart enough to know exactly what he's making -- dumb things that make people smile.
Watch any interview where The Rock has to talk about one of his big dumb movies, and within seconds you'll notice how genuinely enthusiastic he is about something that, when stacked against more serious films, feels like macaroni art in the Louvre. He's like a proud parent who hangs his movies on the fridge and gushes about how good they are. What's amazing is that they still end up being fairly successful. It feels reminiscent of Steven Seagal's first few hits, which made bank despite being objectively bad. The difference is that Johnson has, conservatively, a billion percent more self-awareness than Seagal ever did. He embraces his schlocky movies rather than think they're saving the world. I wouldn't say he's in on the joke, because that implies he or his career is a joke. It isn't. He found his niche, and his niche is bad movies that let him be his wonderful, charismatic self.
He is the evolution of the big brawny action hero. He can try to be stoic like Schwarzenegger and Stallone all he wants, but he'll never be able to hide how much fun he's having. We all see it. Nobody makes this many movies about fighting big CGI gorillas and dinosaurs by accident. Toss him a script where he punches a giant lizard in the face, and he'd get so happy he'd pee a little.
More than the dumb fun movies, more than the charisma, and more than the sense of humor, we identify with one part of Johnson above all: He's a big kid playing hero. His toys are just a little more expensive than ours.
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