This weekend, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson posted an Instagram message that he’s agreed to play the pulp hero Doc Savage, the “Man of Bronze,” in the upcoming Shane Black production.
Granted, he’s got the bod for it—though I’m not sure how well he’s going to rock the bronze hair (see what I did there?)—but I’m even more interested to see how he plans to play a character who is, in Johnson’s own words… “A F*CKING HILARIOUS WEIRDO!”
Johnson’s further comments enlighten us: He states that although Doc is a physical and mental master of pretty much everything, he was raised and trained into adulthood on a tropical island by a team of aging scientists, with not a single woman around; and as a result, Doc has the social skills of a—wait for it—rock. That’s apparently how they want to play him: Adept at every task, but hard to communicate with on a personal level.
Which is, in fact, very little like the Doc Savage of the pulps. Doc didn’t have trouble communicating with anyone… because he was all-business, all the time. He wasn’t a social person, it’s true: He didn’t kick back and throw down a few beers with his buddies; he didn’t try to bed the girls he came in contact with; and he generally avoided any female attentions lavished upon him by just busying himself elsewhere. But he didn’t generally get tongue-tied around women, or struggle to fit in with his comrades. He had the seriousness of Batman, without the flighty playboy alter-ego.
Unfortunately, the Black/Johnson take does fit the modern trend to throw shade on nerds and geeks, to poke fun at them and keep them from fitting in. (I could write a chapter on that.) Clearly Shane and Johnson buy into that… if only to make movies that sell to the largest segment of moviegoers, the ones who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time… but buy boatloads of gum all the same.
So you know that means every discussion with a pretty girl will become a laugh-riot… right? Well, knowing movie-makers, they’ll certainly do everything to make that so. And we’ll have a combination adventure movie and sitcom, with the main character as the straight man to his own gags.
Now, this may work. Lord knows, Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones made it work. And Shane Black has a filmography stuffed to the gills with quirky characters in action-adventure films. But gags can be taken too far, and I’m crossing my fingers that this team will know when to pull back.
The other issue with this franchise is Doc’s associates. Renny Renwick, Monk Mayfair, Ham Brooks, Long Tom Roberts and Johnny Littlejohn are a pretty unique bunch themselves, and casting them will be tricky—Monk most of all, since he’s supposed to be so short, muscular and homely that he can supposedly be mistaken for a pigmy gorilla in a dark alley. If they screw up with the Fabulous Five, it could ruin the overall project.
As for Pat Savage, Doc’s sassy, sexy and statuesque blonde cousin? Okay, I don’t think Hollywood would have a problem filling that role… but honestly, I’d expect them to avoid adding Pat to the movie, as a female lead that Doc can bumble around will be sooo much funnier if it’s not his cousin. I suppose she could still be there, as the stereotypical “female instigator” trying to push Doc into this girl, or give advice on how to land that girl… (I know, I’m not showing a lot of confidence, am I?)
Still and despite all that, it’ll all be worth it to see Dwayne Johnson as Doc. Yeah, I’ll buy a ticket for that, boys.