Everything That’s Wrong With The Rock

What can we say except ‘no, thank you’?

Disney just announced plans Monday to remake its 2016 animated hit Moana into a live-action film starring Maui himself, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

No, thank you.

I get that these live action (or reimagined, in the case of 2019’s The Lion King, because there’s not a frame of that film that’s live action) remakes earn enough money to build Mickey Mouse his own country, let alone his own House.

Those remakes are also a part of the Disney legacy of newly reinistalled CEO Bob Iger, who returned after Bob Chapek made a number of political missteps after taking over.

But Moana was one of Disney’s biggest animated hits in the last decade. It’s not even 10 years old. Why not make an animated sequel to the original first? Probably because Disney just started laying off 7,000 employees, and animated films that aren’t Pixar haven’t been doing so well at the box office lately. The company is only making animated sequels to Frozen, Toy Story and Zootopia according to a recent report.

What is The Rock cooking?

The live-action Moana is also the latest in a series of interesting career moves for Johnson. Late last month, he made news because of his ego and continued insistence that Black Adam was not a commercial failure.

Johnson’s continued insistence on this fact apparently tanked the release of Shazam! Fury of the Gods, according to a report in TheWrap.

In addition to his insistence that Black Adam was a rollicking success, Johnson also reportedly went over the head of then-DC Films head Walter Hamada to score a Henry Cavill Superman cameo at the end of Black Adam instead of playing up Black Adam’s story link to Shazam. He then teased an eventual showdown between Black Adam and Supes.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson after lighting DC’s money on fire.

“Instead of making a movie, he wants to extend his brand and make a brand centered on himself,” one exec told TheWrap about Johnson.

Shazam 2 opened to $65M worldwide, an underwhelming debut. Black Adam opened to $67M.

On Instagram, Shazam 2 star Zachary Levi seemed to confirm these reports that Johnson intentionally undermined the Shazam franchise, simply posting “The Truth shall set you free.” on a repost of the report from TheWrap. Later, he also posted on Twitter asking to be cast in The Last of Us on HBO and implored families to see Shazam instead of John Wick Chapter 4,  saying that reviews had not highlighted how good the movie is. (Our review is relatively favorable!)

An uncharitable reading of the Moana news is that Johnson needs a hit, and needs some public goodwill. The best possible reading is that he’s doing this remake to do something for the kids and to highlight his Pacific Islander culture, even though the animated film does a great job of that already. Either way, it’s a completely safe bet. The man doesn’t take risks any more.

Johnson used to be a movie star who made interesting projects. Be Cool. Southland Tales. Faster. The Rundown. The Other Guys. He even had fun with his persona in Fighting With My Family and Young Rock. Now, his filmography looks like one interchangeable character after another, where he reportedly refuses to cede his starpower to anyone.

But Johnson is not a movie star. He is a brand. And he is now attempting to do anything to get that brand back on top. Granted, he was probably in talks to remake Moana long before Warner released Black Adam, but the timing is fortuitous. Rebound from one of the biggest setbacks in your career with a double-dip of one of your greatest career highs, with a company that is hellbent on mining its content until the end of time? That’s a win for The Rock, baby.


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Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at jakeharrisbog.com or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

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