12 months ago
When it comes to a sure thing at the box office, no one is a solid as the Rock.
Dwayne Johnson proved that once again with the success of his newest movie, the video game adaptation Rampage, which debuted in the top spot at the box office this weekend with $34.5 million. The film also earned $114 million internationally this weekend, good for first place across the globe, and proving the 45-year-old action star’s pecs don’t get lost in translation.
But what makes the performance that much more impressive is that the film based on an ’80s video game whose entire premise was stopping giant monsters from destroying a city. It stomped all over mediocre reviews and a 50 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the type of film that may have gone straight to DVD if another actor had been cast in the lead.
“Dwayne Johnson’s movie star status elevates any project to being a contender on the box office charts, even a movie like Rampage,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior box office analyst for ComScore, told RealClearLife. “This is a time when star power is seemingly dead and it’s all about the concept of the movie, but this proved the reverse: Johnson is the draw, he’s the high concept.
“There’s nobody in the same class with the Rock right now in the industry.”
Part of the magic formula is keeping the A-lister in the type of movies that fit his A-game: A strong-jawed hero with self-deprecating humor and a soft heart under all those hard muscles. That works whether he’s behind the wheel of another Fast & Furious sequel or rolling the dice on a Jumanji sequel.
And that draw is unique. There is no other actor that can bank on being bankable no matter the project like Johnson. Moviegoers tend to spend their ticket money on concepts rather than stars. Put Tom Cruise in a Mission: Impossible movie, for example, and he’ll shine. But the actor needed extra bandages for his bruised ego after the horrifying returns on The Mummy.
If the former WWE champion tried to flex his acting muscles too much in the wrong direction, it’s not clear that his audience would follow him. So don’t expect him to play a serial killer anytime soon. Last year, Johnson suffered a rare box office disappointment with his R-rated comedy, Baywatch, that, quality issues aside, shut out his younger fans.
But the other major factor in Johnson’s success in recent years is his ability to carry a film’s promotion on his broad shoulders. He’s a rare celebrity who seems to relish doing interviews and media junkets, and is savvy spreading the message on social media.
“It’s not just about what he does in front of the camera, but its also the marketing acumen he brings to the table,” said Dergarabedian.
Even with all the star power fueling Rampage, however, it barely squeaked by the second place finisher, Paramount’s horror flick, A Quiet Place, which earned $32.6 million in its second week. That brings the domestic total of director/co-writer/star John Krasinski’s surprise hit to a $99.6 million in just ten days, a scarily strong number for a film that was made for $17 million.
“The irony is that the draw of A Quiet Place is the exact opposite of Rampage,” said Dergarabedian. “A film where the high concept is the star.”