This week’s question comes from A.V. Club Assistant TV Editor Danette Chavez:
“He’s fought earthquakes, giant mutant animals, and now, with Skyscraper, buildings. What should Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fight next in a movie?”
I’m tempted to suggest something more abstract, like irrelevance, for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s next cinematic foe. But a) I don’t think that bout is ever going to happen, because despite his massive size, Johnson’s been able to fit into any role and genre, and b) I’ve already dreamed about him wrestling a tornado. Whether it’s in a Twister sequel or just another installment in the uber-charismatic actor’s ongoing battle with natural disasters, watching The Rock play immovable object to a tornado’s irresistible force would just be so badass. There are obviously many ways that fight can go, including Johnson devising some kind of weather machine that maintains temperate conditions, but that’s way too staid for a guy who’s flung himself at buildings, helicopters, and Jason Statham. Besides, I can’t think of anything more gratifying than the former wrestler grabbing the tail-end of a tornado and wrapping it around his wrist until it’s all out of steam (er, air). Now that I think about it, this might be more of an animated movie pitch, but I still have a great tagline for the project: “Storms chase him.”
At the risk of offering a similar answer to every Q&A, I’d like to see Dwayne Johnson fight some kind of big robot. Here’s my pitch: Following an accident with radioactive movie chemicals, actor Dwayne Johnson grows 100 feet tall. While everyone loves the big Rock at first, the military doesn’t trust him and begins developing a machine that is just as big and strong as he is but has lasers and missile launchers. Of course, there’s one general who is really keen to convince the president to approve an increase to the defense budget, so he frames Johnson for some kind of accident and unleashes the robot in hopes of killing both him and—just spitballing here—a plucky reporter who knows that the general is corrupt and wants to tell the world that the robot is actually bad. Johnson has to push himself harder than ever before to fight the robot, but he wins in the end because he has the love of humanity on his side.
Some Hollywood exec out there has to be trying to cook this up—and lord knows, Vince McMahon would give up his left grapefruit to have it happen in a WWE ring—but I think it’d be fun to see The Rock paired off against fellow wrestler-turned-action-star Dave Bautista. (Sorry, Cena.) There’s definitely a novelty factor to pitting them against one another (they never met in a one-on-one wrestling match), but I also think they’d be play off each other well. Between his roles as Drax in Guardians Of The Galaxy and Sapper Morton in Blade Runner 2049, Bautista’s already shown an aptitude for playing the kind of stoic menace that could be a nice foil for Johnson’s winking charisma. And thanks to The Rock’s badass fight with Vin Diesel in Fast Five, we’ve already gotten a preview of how physical and fun it could be to have him collide with another hunk of grunting meat. Hell, you could just cast Bautista as a villain in one of those next Fast And Furious movies and call it a day.
I would like to see him fight City Hall. They say you can’t fight city hall—and in fact, that would be the opening of the trailer: “They say you can’t fight... City Hall,” over a shot of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson striding confidently up some courthouse steps, manila folder clutched manfully in his hands. “But one man... is about to prove them wrong.” And then we smash to a montage of Dwayne Johnson, throat-punching various council members and civil servants, all set to some sick EDM drops. I’m not really sure where this movie goes from here. Does Johnson stay there inside City Hall, maiming his way upstairs until he finally kicks the mayor’s ass? That seems kind of thin—not to mention preposterous. I mean, what would that even accomplish? I guess maybe you address some of this in flashbacks during all the ass-kicking, so we slowly piece together what could possibly drive him to physically kicking the ass of every single government worker inside a municipal building, and what could be so dire that this would be his only recourse. Maybe we learn that it’s some kind of life-or-death... zoning issue? But then, it’s just a movie about Johnson way overreacting? I don’t know, I haven’t figured it all out yet. But I’m also pretty sure it doesn’t matter.
Well, obviously, the only truly worthy adversary for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is himself. I don’t mean that in an existential, dark night of the soul sort of way either: Dwayne Johnson should literally kick his own ass in a movie. You could do a more meta, Being John Malkovich-meets-Looper sort of take where the different incarnations of Dwayne Johnson through the ages are all running around on Earth at the same time (fanny pack Dwayne, pro-wrestler Dwayne, and Ballers Dwayne can all fight at the end). Or how about a Nutty Professor-esque plot where an eccentric scientist played by Dwayne Johnson accidentally clones himself and the clone comes out evil? You could even do a riff on Johnson’s own Rampage, where a comet or whatever blows Dwayne Johnson up to gigantic, kaiju-esque size, and scientists are forced to create another giant Dwayne Johnson to take him down, because only a Dwayne can defeat another Dwayne. Johnson’s cousin, who actually looks a lot like him, is already working as his stunt double, so it wouldn’t be as difficult as you might think. Call me, Hollywood.
One of my favorite Nordic folk tales is about Thor, Loki, and some shifting coterie of fellow gods or servants visiting the evil giant-king Utgard-Loki. He has them perform a set of seemingly simple tasks, such as lifting a cat, drinking all the contents of a cup, and wrestling an old woman, which they fail because the giant is a lying jerk who used his jerk illusions to disguise that they were actually attempting to lift the serpent wrapped around the universe, drink the ocean, and wrestle time, respectively. I love the concept of beefy heroic figures going against abstract ideas disguised as something innocuous and it makes me want to see The Rock fight an old woman who’s secretly a timeless concept. It could be zany slapstick—The Rock getting body slammed by Nanna, or a creepy weird horror drama where he’s being stalked, It Follows-style, by an old woman who represents regret or whatever. Either way, you get a movie where, despite Mr. Johnson’s insane ziggurat body, he still gets flung around like a ragdoll, and that’s just good cinema.
Once upon a time, The Fast And The Furious was a film series about people who raced cars. Then Dwayne Johnson joined the cast in Fast 5, and with him came an influx of fight scenes. The three films that followed were as much mano-a-mano as they were auto-versus-auto, and if Johnson puts aside his differences with Vin Diesel and continues on to the ninth entry in the franchise, it’s time for The Fast And The Furious to go to the next level. I’m speaking, of course, of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, in the role of former government agent Lucius “Luke” Hobbs, fighting a car. Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Erik, these are cars that were souped-up for the purposes of illegal street racing that are now being deployed in a series of increasingly ludicrous, high-stakes crimes. Wouldn’t they just run Hobbs over and be done with it?” But you’re not thinking big enough. Sure, they’re moving fast (and furiously!), but you’re discounting the man’s reflexes, and surely he’d be able to time a jump in such a way that he lands on the hood of the car, hanging on with one hand while tearing the vehicle apart with the other. This could be a single set piece in a Fast And The Furious, or it could be the premise of an entire movie, set in the future (so after the events of Tokyo Drift), when advances in AI technology have created a master race of self-driving cars who’ve killed every last human, except for the one man who managed to outsmart and out-punch them: Luke Hobbs. Coming soon to a theater near you: A film that gives new meaning to the term “human race.” (I would also settle for a Fast And The Furious/Cars crossover, because how satisfying would it be to watch Johnson clock that Larry The Cable Guy truck right in its stupid, biomechanical atrocity of a mouth?)
It remains absolutely baffling to me that Johnson has been so adamant about playing DC Comics villain Black Adam in a movie when he would be mind-blowingly perfect as Adam’s nemesis, do-gooder Captain Marvel. (Sorry, Zachary Levi, but we both know it’s true.) The whole point of Captain Marvel—the “SHAZAM!” one, not Brie Larson, by the way—is that he’s a little kid’s idea of what the perfect grown-up would be like. What is that, then, if not The Rock, who’s friendly, huge, and as close to invincible as a human being is likely to get? I have this indelible image in my imagination of Johnson flying through space, grinning that big doofy grin of his as he launches a haymaker at a big meteor—or maybe the flagship of an invading alien armada—smashing it away from the Earth. Dude’s halfway to being a literal superhero anyway; why not take it all the way?
There’s perhaps only one force that could pose a plausible threat to the might of Dwayne Johnson, a force so mighty and implacable that audiences could entertain the possibility that Johnson might not emerge victorious. I want to see Dwayne Johnson fight entropy. The second law of thermodynamics, that the entropy of a universe tends toward the maximum, is irrefutable—except when it comes to The Rock. Statistical entropy, information entropy, thermodynamic entropy—it doesn’t matter. This summer, they’ll meet the immovable object even the most speculative theorums didn’t account for. And he’ll come bearing some hot one-liners involving holographic models of freedom. Science... is about to get an ass-kicking.