Dwayne Johnson is starring in two movies coming out over the next four months, and I can only describe them both as Extremely Dwayne Johnson Movies. First, out on Friday, is Rampage, a live-action adaptation of the arcade game of the same name, in which Johnson is a swole zookeeper trying to save his albino silverback gorilla friend George from getting too swole after being exposed to … alien steroids, or something.
Then in July comes Skyscraper, in which an unnecessarily large building is caught between the Rock and a hard place (collapsing to the ground, killing thousands of people). And because we all know Johnson could easily deadlift a skyscraper on his own, the movie adds this twist: His character has a prosthetic leg.
If you’re a longtime fan of Johnson’s movies, you’re probably nodding along thinking, “Yes, this all sounds right.” Because swap out the skyscraper for a massive earthquake, or the giant gorilla for an old Russian submarine carrying nuclear missiles and you’ll see: all Dwayne Johnson movies are more or less the same. For moviegoers who somehow haven’t been exposed to the oeuvre (if you can call it that) of one of Hollywood’s highest-paid stars, here are the five things you need to make a great Dwayne Johnson movie—no exceptions, you candy ass.
Johnson Needs to Be the Hero
As Johnson has reached Hollywood stardom, he’s adopted Will Smith’s approach to movies: always play the lovable good guy. There are a few exceptions from the start of his career: When Johnson cameoed as the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, with the aid of cinema’s worst CGI, he was the Final Boss in a Cheap-Ass Video Game kind of bad guy; and when he appeared in Steve Carell’s Get Smart remake, the big twist was that Johnson’s suave secret agent was actually double-crossing the spy agency.
But Get Smart—a great comedy—is a decade old, and since then Hollywood has clearly issued a mandate to major studios that Johnson’s innate charisma must be milked for all it’s worth. (And that he isn’t allowed to lose a fight.) Even when The Scorpion King became a campy spinoff movie, it turned Johnson’s CGI disaster monster from The Mummy Returns into a charming Egyptian hero from another era. And now, whether Johnson’s rescuing folks from the horrors of the jungle (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), an alien robot (Race to Witch Mountain), or crumbling buildings (San Andreas, and definitely Skyscraper) you know exactly who you’re rooting for.
Johnson Needs to Be Law Enforcement or Part of the Armed Forces
Here is a completely real list of Dwayne Johnson roles:
- Hobbs, a vaguely defined special agent in four Fast and Furious movies
- Roadblock, a G.I. Joe, in G.I. Joe: Retaliation
- Chris Vaughn, an ex-U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant in Walking Tall
- “Sarge,” a member of a group of Marines from the future trapped in a bad video game adaptation in Doom
- James Ransome, a detective in Empire State
- Christopher Danson, a detective in The Other Guys
- Bob Stone, a CIA agent in Central Intelligence
- Agent 23, a double-crossing secret agent in Get Smart
- Elliot Wilhelm, a Samoan bodyguard in Be Cool
- Sean Porter, a juvenile detention counselor in Gridiron Gang
- Ray Gaines, a helicopter rescue pilot in San Andreas
- Mitch Buchannon, a lifeguard who apparently has the same jurisdiction and authority as a county sheriff in Baywatch
Portraying someone who works in or has a background in law enforcement makes sense: It’s an extension of the first rule, which dictates Johnson must be the good guy. This second rule guarantees there will be no question of his righteousness. He gets to play the man with a moral compass that’s pointing north, and he has the necessary skills to take out bad guys. With Johnson’s massive frame, it’s kind of implied that he’d beat the crap out of people, but by giving him some kind of police or military background, the narrative justifies the ass-kicking theatrics.
And because Johnson really looks the part, movies can have fun with the idea, too. Johnson has an incredible bit role alongside Samuel L. Jackson in The Other Guys, the Adam McKay comedy that sees two unwitting NYPD detectives (Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) step up to the plate after Jackson and Johnson’s stereotypically badass cop heroes fall to their deaths after assuming they could survive a big jump.
That, my friends, is good cinema.
Johnson Needs Baby Oil (Like, Tons of It)
Photos from the movies are worth more than anything I could ever say about Johnson’s relationship with baby oil, so please take a look at these photos. And no, your screen isn’t greasy—that’s just Dwayne Johnson’s skin.
Johnson’s body appears to be 60 percent water, 15 percent bones, and at least 25 percent baby oil. In fact, his apparent chemical dependence on baby oil is so ingrained in pop culture that Tyrese Gibson even made a quip about it in Fast & Furious 6.
(Side note: Give credit to Johnson for the brutal, apparently improvised burn about Gibson’s, quote, “big ass forehead,” that caused Ludacris to spit out his beer.)
This guy uses so much baby oil that they literally named a brand of the stuff after him:
Don’t fact-check that, by the way.
Johnson Needs a Witty Sidekick That’s Probably Kevin Hart
Johnson’s comedic chops are best shared with a certain sidekick, someone who’s not trying to be a mirror image of the actor—like the unnecessarily jacked Zac Efron was constantly trying to one-up him in Baywatch—but rather, his total opposite. It’s why Kevin Hart—a short guy with self-deprecating humor who never actually stops talking—has quickly transformed into the perfect, quintessential Johnson sidekick.
With Central Intelligence and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the duo have realized their combined stardom can make buttloads of mon—err, their excellent chemistry can totally steal a movie. The banter is great, and if all else fails, it looks really funny when Johnson carries the smaller Hart over his shoulder like a glorified backpack.
In a scene for #Jumanji where I have to carry @kevinhart4real on my back while running thru the jungle, we are - unfortunately - harnessed together for hours while the entire crew looks up and enjoys our pain. In the movie this scene will be crazy funny. In real life this is bullshit, but we commit to the comedy. #OnLocation #Jumanji #Hawaii #KevinsMooseKnuckle #DJsNightmare
Credit where it’s due, Hart isn’t the original Johnson sidekick that fits the mold: The Scorpion King gave us Arpid (Grant Heslov), a sassy horse thief who reluctantly helps Johnson’s Mathayus take the throne. But Hart is pound for pound (what … 120 at most?) the most promising sidekick he’s had yet. I can’t wait for the Jumanji sequel.
Johnson Needs … Undisclosed Superpowers?
Somehow, Johnson hasn’t technically made the leap to becoming an on-screen superhero just yet—fingers crossed on that Doc Savage movie—though he all but plays one in most of his films. It is beyond me how a helicopter pilot survived an apocalyptic earthquake in San Andreas, or how a cab driver broke into Area 51 to help alien children in Race to Witch Mountain.
But the best example of Johnson’s apparent superhuman abilities is in—what else?—the Fast & Furious franchise. In Furious 7, Johnson’s special agent Hobbs:
- Sees a fire raging across the city of Los Angeles
- Assumes that fire must be related to him
- Tells his theretofore nonexistent daughter that, “Daddy’s gotta go to work”
- And flexes out of a full-arm cast
If Johnson ever gets an honorary Oscar, this scene will serve as the apex of his cinematic achievements.
The eighth and most recent Fast film, The Fate of the Furious, doubled down on Hobbs’s seemingly superhuman strengths by showing him rip a concrete desk out of a wall and start doing curls with it (??), and by showcasing how his pectoral muscles can deflect rubber bullets as if they were cotton balls.
I’m not saying I don’t believe Johnson can do these things in real life, just that it’s hilarious that all of his movies expect the audience to be on the same page: Why, yes, of course Hobbs would be able to run into three fully-armed prison guards and send them careening across the room.
As you have likely deduced, the Dwayne Johnson filmography doesn’t feature Oscar bait or charming little indies—he primarily makes popcorn flicks that are campy as hell and all but wink at the audience. It’s wildly entertaining stuff, and if Rampage, Skyscraper, and all other future Dwayne Johnson movies follow the above steps—or really, just lather on the baby oil—they will also be perfect movies.