Dwayne Johnson Refutes IndieWire’s ‘Rampage’ Box-Office Takeaway, But Both Sides Are Right — Analysis

Dwayne Johnson responded thoughtfully to our analysis of “Rampage,” and our box-office editor responded in kind.

It would be exciting to be noticed by any major Hollywood player, but even more so from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is as smart as he is successful. And when he tweets, he deserves an answer.

His tweet responded to my just-published article about “Rampage” and how it positioned him as a contender for the biggest star in movies (particularly in domestic play). He took aim at the headline. So, a response is in order.

The headline (which, as is normal practice, was written by my editor) synthesized the story’s message, which focused on his film’s domestic performance. “Rampage” was #1 for the weekend, and indeed met and slightly exceeded domestic projections. And, as the article pointed out, it deserved credit for an initial gross ahead of equally expensive recent action films like “Tomb Raider” and “Pacific Rim: Uprising.”

Statham The Rock Fate of the Furious

“The Fate of the Furious”

‘Soft,’ in this case, is relative. The context is the high expectations attached to the actor who’s arguably our current biggest star. He came to “Rampage” backed not only by a 17-year film career that’s grossed $2 billion worldwide (adjusted), but also with  “Jumanji,” his biggest domestic success to date.

So when “Rampage” grossed $35,753,000 for the weekend, that was good enough for #1 but less than we might have expected. (Of note: “A Quiet Place” bested it Monday and Wednesday). What are fair comparisons? As my article mentioned, “Kong: Skull Island” last year opened to over $60 million in similar pre-summer playtime. Johnson’s own “San Andreas” opened to $58 million adjusted.

Johnson is coming off the amazing run of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which gave “Rampage” an even bigger head of steam. However, its opening gross fell in the “soft” range of other films of a similar budget — “Blade Runner 2049” ($33 million), “The Mummy” ($32 million), and “Alien Covenant” ($36 million).

“Rampage”

Ultimately, we’re not talking about the comp game; it’s prognosticating ultimate results. Johnson is the real deal, a long-term success poised to thrive for years to come. With its strong Chinese debut and other foreign results, “Rampage” should gross enough to make a profit when post-theatrical revenues come in — and that’s where “soft” comes in to play. It’s difficult to parse how the actor who’s considered the biggest box-office draw can star in a film, made in his sweet spot, that still leaves the studios concerned about making a profit. It means future productions may decide that his appeal, however proven, doesn’t mean he can carry a derivative film solely on his name; he needs the backing of a strong ensemble, a franchise, or both. And judging by Johnson’s upcoming slate, he may have already reached the same conclusion.

The performance of “Rampage” will be revealed int he weeks to come; Japan and Germany are still to open. It could turn out its mid-level opening is enough. Or the film might end up doing less than hoped. Either way, it’s not the final answer to the original question: Is Dwayne Johnson our biggest box-office star?

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If Dwayne Johnson Is Hollywood’s Biggest Star, Why Did ‘Rampage’ Open Soft?

Johnson’s movie-star status says as much about the times as it does about the actor.

Rampage” opened #1 last weekend at just under $36 million, with Dwayne Johnson its only name draw. Is that enough to make The Rock the biggest movie star in Hollywood — or, is his greatest asset the near-complete dearth of actors who can open movies?

Johnson’s marquee value is well documented. Since 2011, he appeared in eight films that grossed over $100 million (nine if you include the animated “Moana”). “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “The Fate of the Furious” in 2017 each exceeded $200 million. However, times have changed. Once, being a top star meant your movies were always the year’s biggest movies. Now, in an era where animation and comic-book adaptations are the biggest draws, an actor’s own larger-than-life appeal is less important.

“Rampage” should make around $90 million domestic and another $300 million or so additional overseas. Expect it to make $400 worldwide, perhaps a little more. With production and marketing costs topping $220 million, Warner Bros. will make a small profit only after the film hits streaming.

Still, his career doesn’t show the same strengths as, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Another oversized personality from the athletics world, his films ranked among the annual top-10 box office lists for years. Some were action, some were comedies, but most were standalone star vehicles. So far, that’s not Johnson.

Even so, $400 million for a routine April release of a non-franchise film is nothing to sneeze at. Let’s look at the case for, and against, Johnson as the biggest domestic star of our time.

Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson

Erik Pendzich/REX/Shutterstock

The Case For:

Without Johnson, Warners would have been in trouble on “Rampage.” The year has been unkind to big-budget films that didn’t get good reviews like “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” “Tomb Raider,” and “A Wrinkle in Time.” Each of those cost $100 million or more, opened to less than “Rampage,” and failed to hit $100 million total domestic (“Wrinkle” will get close; the other two won’t even make $70 million).

Compared to his movie-star peers, “Rampage” overperformed. “12 Strong” had Chris Hemsworth, “Den of Thieves” Gerald Butler, “Red Sparrow” Jennifer Lawrence. All opened between $15 million-$17 million and grossed less than $50 million domestic. And while “Rampage” wasn’t a franchise title, it repeats the formula, star, studio and director of 2015’s “San Andreas” — and has him dealing with rampaging FX animals that echo his recent smash “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” These days, an expensive action movie can’t count on an opening of even $20 million if it doesn’t offer something extra. The extra here seems to have been Johnson.

Technically, Robert Downey, Jr. is bigger. Based on box office since 2011, the star of the “Iron Man” and “Sherlock Holmes” movies has the lead. He also benefits from his Marvel ensemble work, showing up in “Captain America” and “Spider-Man.” However, in that period Johnson made six films with a domestic gross over $200 million each. Four titles — “San Andreas,” “Central Intelligence,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” and “Journey 2” (along with his voice work in “Moana”) made over $100 million domestic

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“Pain & Gain”

The Case Against

He’s an asset, but has he created the Dwayne Johnson Movie? Before the “Jumanji” reboot, his biggest hits were four “Fast and Furious” films in which Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker were the leads. (In adjusted grosses, his four entries rank among the five biggest of the seven-film series ).Beyond “Jumanji” and the “Fast and Furious” franchise, his top-performing film since 2011 was “San Andreas,” the #20 movie for 2015.

Look at Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg’s films have grossed less than Johnson’s since 2011 — around $1.5 billion total. However, Johnson gets more than half of his $2 billion domestic haul from the “Fast and Furious” series, in which he was not the lead. Less than a third of Wahlberg’s gross stemmed from two “Transformers” entries, in which he received top billing.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby

“The Great Gatsby”

And then there’s Leo. If star power is defined as the ability to get an atypical film made at a high budget, and then elevate interest for general domestic and worldwide audiences, with the result of $300-500 million grosses, then DiCaprio’s draw is arguably greater than any other current actor. Even while making far fewer films, Leonardo DiCaprio continues to elevate his titles to event status. It is hard to imagine his four top films from 2011 on — “The Revenant,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “Django Unchained” — performing as well without him. Nor do any of these films resemble the profile of what’s successful today. Perhaps more than any other working actor, DiCaprio’s presence casts an imprimatur of importance.

That said, since 2011 none of DiCaprio’s films have made $1 billion worldwide, and two of Johnson’s “Fast and Furious” films grossed over $1 billion in foreign alone. But those were ensembles with an emphasis on car chases and stunts, compared to DiCaprio’s acting showcases.

Whatever the wattage of Johnson’s star, he seems to like it just fine, thanks. His crowded slate is filled with franchises (“Jumanji 2,” “San Andreas 2”), a DC Comics superhero launch (“Black Adam”), a Disney theme park ensemble (“Jungle Cruise”) and a Fast and Furious spinoff (“Hobbs and Shaw”). Beyond that, he’s suggested an interest in politics, and might aim at the top job. Take that, Leonardo DiCaprio.

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‘Rampage’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Warner Bros. claims the top spot in spending with “Rampage.” Ads placed for the sci-fi film had an estimated media value of $5.47 million through Sunday for 1,110 national ad airings on 52 networks. (Spend figures […]

In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Warner Bros. claims the top spot in spending with “Rampage.” Ads placed for the sci-fi film had an estimated media value of $5.47 million through Sunday for 1,110 national ad airings on 52 networks. (Spend figures […]

The Best Monster Movies to Watch Instead of ‘Rampage’ — IndieWire Critics Survey

“Rampage” may be the highest-rated video game movie on Rotten Tomatoes, but it feels like puny stuff compared to these epic monster movies.

Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)

Last weekend saw the release of “Rampage,” which may be the highest-rated video game movie on Rotten Tomatoes, but probably won’t go down in history as the king of monster movies.

This week’s question: What monster movie should people watch instead of “Rampage?”

Matt Zoller Seitz (@MattZollerSeitz), RogerEbert.com

“Godzilla”

The 2014 “Godzilla,” directed by Gareth Edwards. Try to watch it on the biggest screen you can find, in a dark room. It’s the most aesthetically daring monster movie, and one of the most daring big budget SF films, released in the last decade, owing as much to “Close Encounters” as it does to anything Toho made. I was shocked by how much money it made. It was basically a Terrence Malick Godzilla movie, right down to the cutaways to other animals in the ecosystem and that final shot, which was reminiscent of “The Thin Red Line.”

David Ehrlich (@davidehrlich), IndieWire

“Godzilla”

Kimberley French

I will go to my grave defending (and being mocked for defending) Gareth Edwards’ 2014 “Godzilla,” a peerlessly graceful monster movie about humanity’s ultimate insignificance. Call it “post-human,” call it prescient, call it whatever the hell you want, but it only gets getter as the Americanization of the genre gets worse.

Candice Frederick (@ReelTalker), Freelance for Harper’s Bazaar, IGN, /Film

“Jurassic Park”

“Jurassic Park.” One of the many things that’s so great about this movie is that it introduces these gargantuan creatures as empathetic beings that should be protected. And because of the compassion Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) has for them, how she marvels at their mere existence, we come to see these otherwise frightening dinosaurs through her sensitive lens. But as the movie progresses, some begin to retaliate and embody the very traits that terrified us in the first place. It is one of the precious moments in film when the giant monster actually gets a really interesting arc that is as conflicting as it is horrifying.

Stephen Whitty (@StephenWhitty), Freelance

“Godzilla”

The first thoughts that came to mind were Joon-ho Bong’s “The Host” and “Okja,” but I suspect they’re the same titles a lot of people are thinking of right now. (And if not, why not?) So I’ll go a little further afield and suggest fans of big monsters — particularly the city-stomping kaiju variety — check out the original, non-export cut of “Godzilla” from 1954. Still called “Gojira” then (and definitely not featuring cutaways to a curious Raymond Burr) it’s surprisingly serious, and a strong metaphor for the horrors of invasion, Hiroshima and the arms race. The always invaluable Rialto Pictures re-released a restoration, with English subtitles, theatrically in 2004 and 2014; it’s available on disc from Criterion as well.

Joshua Rothkopf (@joshrothkopf), Time Out New York

“The Mist”

Can’t pass up an opportunity to hype for my beloved “The Mist” with its downbeat ending—the darkest Hollywood ever pushed on an audience. (Seriously: Stephen King read Frank Darabont’s revised ending to his original novella and called it “such a jolt—wham! It’s frightening.”) Yes, you’ve got giant monsters: huge scuttling spiders with razor-wire webs, vicious scorpion thingies, praying mantises. It’s awful. And yet, Marcia Gay Harden might be the scariest of them all. On the plus side, you’ve got Toby Jones, Action Hero.

Rafael Motamayor (@GeekWithAnAfro), Flickering Myth

“Colossal”

A gorilla fighting a giant crocodile and a flying wolf isn’t enough for you? How about a mature film about addiction and toxic friends that also features giant monsters? Nacho Vigalondo plays with the kaiju-genre in “Colossal” and delivers a genre-mashup that has a lot to say about alcoholism, self-destructive behaviour and empathy, while also featuring a monster and a robot destroying Seoul, South Korea. Plus, Anne Hathaway shot drunken fight scenes while pregnant, can The Rock do the same?

Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko), Pajiba/Riot Material

Anne Hathaway

“Colossal”

Brightlight Pictures

“Colossal.” Nacho Vigalondo’s amazing monster movie got a lot of buzz out the festival circuit for being the “Anne Hathaway / kaiju” movie. Then somehow, after its release, the talk of it died off with a whimper. In it, a giant, mysterious beast appears in Seoul, bringing senseless destruction to the city. Then a reckless drunk (Hathaway) half-way around the world realizes how this creature connects to her. The monster becomes a metaphor for the consequences of our actions made through selfishness in various forms. First, it’s tied to the heroine’s alcoholism. Then in a fascinating second-act, it smoothly shifts focus, revealing the true monster of the movie, and a clever exploration of gender politics.

I don’t want to say more, because the surprises of the film are one of its richest assets, among many including sharply funny performances from Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, and Tim Blake Nelson. But this is an absolutely fantastic, imaginative, and hilarious movie that deserved more attention.

It’s now on Hulu. So, check it out yourself to see why it was my favorite film of 2017. 

Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker

COL_D22_0047.NEF

“Colossal”

Cate Cameron

Movie monsters have gotten worse as they’ve gotten fancier; the cheesy splendors of the spate of low-budget nineteen-fifties monster-apocalypses are in keeping with the pulp-loopiness of the plots. The ease of destruction by means of CGI ramps up the stakes for overwhelming yet seamlessly plausible effects while, at the same time, the naturalistic earnestness with which movies of mass destruction are both received and made strips out even the hectic and operatic glories of earlier threadbare catastrophes. But the most perceptively ironic and inventively gleeful of recent monster rampages is Nacho Vigalondo’s “Colossal,” starring Anne Hathaway, in which the very subject is the monstrosity implicit in daily life (and which also builds the discovery of effects and the power of image-transmission into the story).

Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail/Film Festival Today 

“King Kong”

I hate to be boring and traditional, but sticking strictly to the genre of giant world-destroying monsters, I’d have to go with both “King Kong” (Merian Cooper, 1933) and “Godzilla” (Ishirô Honda, 1954), both of which were extremely influential for their respective eras, and remain both artistically engaging and narratively entertaining to this day. The former was a pioneer in the craft and technology of stop-motion animation, with lead animator Willis O’Brien leading the way in the aesthetics of creature combat. I highly recommend finding the 2005 “RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World” (available on the 2005 DVD and Blu-ray re-release of the original “King Kong”), which features, among other things, director Peter Jackson and his team, as research for their own 2005 “King Kong,” recreating a lost sequence from the first movie. Watching them work with O’Brien’s techniques offers a wonderful lesson in why the 1933 film remains such a touchstone.

As for more modern films, I’d go with “The Host” (Bong Joon-ho, 2006), “Cloverfield” (Matt Reeves, 2008), and “Monsters” (Gareth Edwards, 2010). The last one, especially – far superior to the same director’s inert 2014 “Godzilla” – is a terrific example of innovative low-budget filmmaking. Traveling through Central America with a tiny crew, Edwards prioritized story and careful capture of location sound to later emphasize character and space, supplemented by his own brilliant use of post-production effects. The last sequence of two enormous alien monsters gently dancing against a nighttime sky as actor Scoot McNairy watches, mesmerized, is a thing of great cinematic beauty.

Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film), Freelance

Michalina Olszanska in The Lure

“The Lure”

Concealing their sharp fangs and murderous appetite, the two mermaids in Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s mesmerizing horror musical “The Lure” are monsters with complex desires, but still driven by gruesome, man-eating motivations. Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszańska) are not stomping on cities when their reach Polish shores in the 1980s, but instead gain the trust of their potential victims, many of whom want to exploit them as novelties, before deciding whether to feed on them or not. Smoczyńska subverted the Hans Christian Andersen approach to the mythological figure of the mermaid, and looked back to the ancient and much more monstrous tales of sirens who would prey on gullible men through songs. It’s only fitting that songs are also integral part of this utterly unique exploration of a creature whose dangerous qualities had been cleaned up by Disney in the collective consciousness. Also, the director went to great lengths to use practical effects -particularly for the massive mermaid tails the protagonists wear on screen -like many monster-loving directors before her have done.

Question: What is the best film currently playing in theaters?

Answer: “You Were Never Really Here”

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Weekend Box Office: Rampage gives Dwayne Johnson something new to brag about 

It’s a true testament to Dwayne Johnson’s charisma that even when he’s being totally cocky, it still comes across as charming. (Even the official Doom twitter account played along when he shit-talked the movie on Twitter.) Now Johnson has something new to endearingly brag about on social media, as his new film Rampage

Read more…

It’s a true testament to Dwayne Johnson’s charisma that even when he’s being totally cocky, it still comes across as charming. (Even the official Doom twitter account played along when he shit-talked the movie on Twitter.) Now Johnson has something new to endearingly brag about on social media, as his new film Rampage

Read more...

Korea Box Office: ‘Rampage’ Rules Weekend

Opening on Thursday, “Rampage” debuted on top of the South Korean box office. The Warner Bros. release scored $5.58 million from 687,000 admissions over four days, and accounted for 35% of the total weekend box office. Opening on the same day, “A Quiet Place” landed in second. Locally distributed by Lotte Entertainment, the Paramount movie […]

Opening on Thursday, “Rampage” debuted on top of the South Korean box office. The Warner Bros. release scored $5.58 million from 687,000 admissions over four days, and accounted for 35% of the total weekend box office. Opening on the same day, “A Quiet Place” landed in second. Locally distributed by Lotte Entertainment, the Paramount movie […]

Is Dwayne Johnson Hollywood’s Most Bankable Star?

With less than stellar reviews on top of an already cursed genre, it’s a wonder “Rampage” wasn’t a total flop at the box office. Well, it’s not a total wonder. After back and forth projections showed “Rampage” wrestling with “A Quiet Place” to see who would come out on top at the box office last […]

With less than stellar reviews on top of an already cursed genre, it’s a wonder “Rampage” wasn’t a total flop at the box office. Well, it’s not a total wonder. After back and forth projections showed “Rampage” wrestling with “A Quiet Place” to see who would come out on top at the box office last […]