Which is your favourite role of The Rock?
After more than a decade since his switch from the ring to screen, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has not only survived ,but thrived with an outstanding acting career that few, if any, wrestlers could match.
The Mythic Hero
From his Hollywood debut in "The Mummy Returns", Dwayne Johnson has demonstrated that he was also suited for the screen with a complete package of a demanding physique, natural charisma, a little comedic talent, and savvy career choices that has made him one of the few actors working today who could carry an entire movie by his name.
A large part of Johnson's career trajectory is that he has never allowed himself to be typecast as most wrestlers end up being when they enter into the acting business. Johnson has deviated from where his predecessors have fallen short of, by knowing when and where to subvert expectations and capitalising his wrestling background to expand on his persona and repertoire.
With him taking on new challenges as an amputee in "Skyscraper" and dipping his toes into the superhero genre in the upcoming "Shazam", we look back at the roles that The Rock has tackled and delivered the smackdown.
Brought in as the villain for "The Mummy Returns" as the legendary scorpion king, Dwayne Johnson debut was not the most impressive of starts (especially with that CG-face), but his on-screen presence was immediately felt that producers warranted he deserved his own spin-off. As Mathayus, it was to be the most expensive debut lead role that put Dwayne Johnson into the Guinness World Record for "The Scorpion King" in 2002. Since his career took off, he hasn't put on any sandals and performed any sword fighting in the sand until 12 years later for "Hercules" where he portrayed as the titular Greek demigod.
The Tough Cop
One of the earliest roles that is a natural extension of his action roles is the tough cop in the 2004 remake of "Walking Tall", which is loosely based on a real sheriff. However, Johnson was still able to wear the skin of a bad cop while letting his comedic shine through his short-lived character from "The Other Guys". However, the traction of his tough cop persona finally stuck and became his one of his most iconic role when he joined the "Fast & Furious" franchise as Luke Hobbs in "Fast 5". Much like he did in "The Mummy Returns", the character has become such a mainstay in the series that it has already been given his own spin-off, even at the expense of a sequel.
The Super Soldier
When it comes to action movies, you can't go more typical than any role that has you carrying a big gun. These are the roles that allows Johnson to capitalise on his powerful build while ramping up the camp by chewing on the one-liners. For the case of Johnson, his natural charisma also made him the solo action star that can stand on his own from the video-game adaptation of "Doom" to the cartoon adaptation of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation". While his choices of late has him staying away from the all-brawn, no brain violence that his wrestling contemporaries are still trapped in, having an action vehicle with The Rock is not a failure in execution, but in conception.
The Secret Agent
A natural evolution of the gun-toting action hero is the one that employs a little subtlety and cunning that is the secret agent. While Dwayne Johnson is probably far in the list of someone who would take over the duties of James Bond or any American spy hero, but Johnson has taken the opportunity that these roles provided to deliver even more of his comedic chops. Playing as the all perfect physical spy who needed more support in his intelligence in "Get Smart", and the bully-hating agent in "Central Intelligence", Johnson's spies always has room for a worthy partner that shows why teamwork is important in espionage
An unexpected step towards the non-violent action type but still requires an admirable physicality is the one that saves lives instead of taking them. The prospect of having someone like The Rock whisking your away from danger in his arms may be an attractive idea to some than most, but it is a clever way for The Rock to still be an action hero without the violence. In "San Andreas" he plays as a rescue helicopter pilot trying to save his family from a devastating earthquake. He also played as a lifeguard in his self-produced reboot of "Baywatch", and it is possibly a role that he would like to explore more of.
For an actor who heavily relies on his physical presence, Johnson has never shied from roles where his form doesn't do any of the heavy lifting, but it is these roles that demonstrated his larger than life persona even without being seen on screen. We may not have heard much about his first voice work in 2009's animated movie "Planet 51" as an astronaut, but it certainly prepared him to take on a far more iconic role for Disney's "Moana". Given a virtual avatar that carries most of his physical traits and sure cockiness that blends with his Samoan heritage, Johnson really had to do the work to make the character his, even if he has to do a song number.
The Jungle Survivor
With so many roles that portrays him as nigh invincible to any harm that comes his way, this latest trend of roles for Johnson can be seen as a clever subversion that has him trying to survive the odds. Since 2012's "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island", Johnson has got himself trapped in a jungle environment again in the recent "Jumanji". While most of his troubles in the tropics are played mostly to comedic effect, it might be high time to see Johnson in a truly gritty survival drama after surviving a crash landing from a helicopter in the jungle or something along those lines.
The Sensitive One
Contrary to common belief, Johnson's career was not all action-packed from the start. Just like most action-oriented actors who come from little to no acting experience, Johnson did go through a small phase of finding out what he can do in roles that require him to get in touch with what's inside his tough and bulky shell. While things took a strange turn in "Southland Tales" where he plays as an amnesiac actor who tries to study for a role as a psychic cop (yea, it goes bonkers), he gets better at becoming an actor in the otherwise dismissible "Be Cool" where he plays as a gay bodyguard trying to be an actor. That doesn't mean he has stopped engaging with the actor in him as his most endearing and likable character work he has done so far is in, of all directors, Michael Bay's "Pain and Gain" where you can see Johnson as a conflicted Jesus freak and bodybuilder who tries to reform himself.
The Father Figure
Part of Johnson's formula to success as an actor is that, despite coming from a world of entertainment overdosed with testosterone, Johnson was never above becoming someone that could be admired by children and being family friendly. While in "Snitch" he was more of a father driving inside an action vehicle, but his role as the unwilling parent in "The Game Plan" and "Tooth Fairy" has him practicing his charms to be a likable father figure, while his coach character in "Gridiron Gang" is a father figure who gives tough love to the inmates.
Cinema Online, 16 July 2018