So I went to see Spiderman: Homecoming in theatres a while back, but rather than talk about how it was a really good movie that broke the mold for Spiderman films and fit right into the mold for Marvel films, I’m going to talk about a trailer that I saw in the theatre before that movie. Because I don’t give a shit about what my audience wants.
Anyways, I saw a trailer for the Jumanji remake. Given that it’s based on the movie Jumanji, where the events of a board game spill over into the real world, I expected the 4 characters introduced at the beginning to play the board game, and have it spill over into the real world. Instead the kids are sucked into the board game’s world, and take control of their avatars in the board game, which is the exact opposite of the original Jumanji. This annoys me. I fucking loved Jumanji as a kid, but this isn’t Jumanji. It’s some strange perversion of the original beloved work. It’s the movie version of a metal cover for Mary Had a Little Lamb (which exists). You can’t slap the name of a thing that people liked onto a new thing and expect them to pay for it like it’s the old thing.
Unless you get Dwayne The Rock Johnson on board with it.
See, the trailer initially hides the fact that the purpose of the movie is to watch The Rock and Kevin Hart do the exact same thing they do in every movie they make. So at the beginning of the trailer, I, and indeed most people in the theatre, were kind of like, “ugh, they’re remaking Jumanji even though Robin Williams is dead”, and then The Rock is revealed, and the mood shifted to something along the lines of “Ohhhhhh haha ok”. Just the presence of The Rock was enough to completely shift opinion on the film. And the funny thing is, this is the second trailer for the movie, and I’ve seen the first, which features The Rock heavily. But I completely forgot that the first trailer existed. All I remembered was that The Rock was making another movie, which is the same as remembering that cows can have best friends. It’s always going to be true, and for some reason it makes me happy.
The thing with The Rock (and I am truly sorry if this ruins The Rock for you) is that putting him in normal situations is hilarious, because he’s not a normal human being. He’s this colossal, racially ambiguous former WWE wrestler with a remarkably egg-shaped head, so whenever he is present on screen, it fucks with our suspension of disbelief. We’re already struggling to understand how a person who looks, sounds, and acts like The Rock exists, so it becomes easier to believe anything else that happens.
And The Rock is merely the most prominent in a series of beings that seem to exists solely for the entertainment of average people. Arnold Schwarzenegger used the same principle to make movies like Twins, Junior, and Kindergarten Cop. Kindergarten Cop is an excellent example, because the entire reason the movie is funny is because it’s hard to think of Arnold as a real person that might really interact with children. The Rock has a movie like that too, called The Tooth Fairy, and Vin Diesel has The Pacifier. The same effect applies to Vin Diesel, which helps to explain why the Fast and Furious franchise has gotten away with the sheer amount of stupid that it has added to the world.
And you bet your ass that The Rock and all of the people who pay him to be in their movies know this. You cannot make a normal movie with The Rock in it. It has to, at some level, be ridiculous, because The Rock himself is ridiculous. Which is why I still want to see Baywatch even though I know it’s probably going to be terrible, and why I kind of want to devote my life to making a movie where The Rock stars across from Nicolas Cage. Movies starring The Rock are not driven by characters or intense drama, but by sheer surrealism. If you tried to make a movie like Forrest Gump with The Rock, it would probably still be popular, but for an entirely different reason.
So on the one hand, I enjoy movies with the Rock, but because I’ve thought waaaay too much about why I enjoy them, I’ve started to ask the question “how many times is this going to work?”. Well, if we go back to Arnold Schwarzenegger, we didn’t stop enjoying the surreal experience of seeing him do things because we got tired of it. We stopped enjoying it because he stopped making movies to start a career in politics, which unless you are a California resident, was also enjoyable to watch. Remember those commercials that seemed to think people needed a commercial to convince them to visit California? The ones where he actually said “You’ll be back”? That was fucking hilarious. So Arnold Schwarzenegger has been doing the same thing The Rock is doing now since the 80s, and we’re still ok with him doing it.
And that’s really where I start to question my sanity. Because I know that putting The Rock in a movie is manipulating my suspension of disbelief in order to extract money and SCENE points from me. But that doesn’t matter, because I still enjoy the movies, and I am still ok with The Rock making more of them. But then I get into another level of existential dread, where I start to think “am I really that easily manipulated? Do I really have so little control over how I feel about things? What other parts of my life are a result of subconscious manipulation at the hands of The Rock?” So on the one hand, I really feel like it needs to stop because of a growing feeling that I am actually being mind controlled, but on the other hand, I am still enjoying the effects. Wait… am I addicted to The Rock? We’ve been wondering all these years what he’s cooking, but I think we figured it out.
Which brings me to another question: is it really a bad thing? I literally just made a reference to addiction, but we’re talking about movies here. What are movies for, if not to entertain us? And if The Rock is a consistent form of entertainment, then who am I to shit all over his entire career by bring up bad memories like the Scorpion King? The fact is that The Rock is responsible for a lot of rather entertaining movies. It’s fun to watch them if you know what you’re going to get.
Sometimes you want to think when you watch a movie, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes when choosing a movie, you’re looking for the kind of movie where you can just shut your brain off and enjoy it. We need people to make movies that fit that bill. The The Rocks and Arnold Schwarzeneggers and Sylvester Stallones are a necessary part of the entertainment ecosystem. So as long as The Rock is still making entertaining movies, I am fine to keep giving him money. And if and when he retires, another will emerge, like a Sith Apprentice who has just slain his Master.