Great Political Analogy, Terrible Film

The RockYou may remember two weeks ago, I compared John Boehner to General Hummel in The Rock. The point was that Hummel threatened to kill 80,000 people in San Francisco, but when his bluff was called, he was unwilling to do it. In the film, he is killed and his subordinates try to do it anyway. Although Boehner clearly does agree with everything his crazy caucus is pushing for, he’s a seasoned enough politician to know that a government shutdown is at best a dangerous move. Well, all of that got me in the mind to watch the movie.

I saw the film in the theater when it was first out and I was not pleased. It seemed boring in the extreme; I absolutely did not care about the characters, so I spent most of the film noticing how the filmmakers seemed to think that people were only ever burned by flames—a person could survive fine in a 500° oven, as long as the flame wasn’t currently on. But I was willing to give it another try. Maybe I had just been in a bad mood when I saw it before.

It turns out that I was right about the characters. In fact, the characters only seem to exist as glue to hold together Michael Bay’s ridiculous (And long!) action sequences. But there is a much bigger problem with The Rock. The script over-explains everything. Worse still is the absolutely terrible dialog. General Hummel says, “Then you probably have no idea what it means to lead some of the finest men on God’s earth into combat and then watch their memories get betrayed by their own fucking government.” It’s perfect: half Moses on Mount Sinai and half whining high school student.

If I could bear it, I would go through the film and provide you with the quotes. It is hard to know who exactly to blame. The film was originally written by David Weisberg & Douglas Cook, the team who brought us Double Jeopardy—a bad film, but not nearly so bad as The Rock. Then it was “reworked” by a number of writers. And, of course, there was the requisite director’s hissy fit when his friend didn’t get screen credit. (Funny thing that. Most people just do their jobs for money. These screenwriters are extremely well paid even though they have very little talent. Yet such a big deal is made of credits. Most of these guys should be glad they aren’t working at Starbucks.)

There is lots else that is wrong with the movie. There’s lots of Christianity thrown in randomly. There is obsessive praise of the military, even though the film is about a bunch of rough military people involved in a terrorist blackmail scheme. That’s another interesting thing: war and the Prince of Peace go together so well in American mythology. Oh, and there is the quite serious suggestion that everyone’s favorite conspiracy theories are correct. Womack says, “This man knows our most intimate secrets from the last half century! The alien landing at Roswell, the truth behind the JFK assassination.” John Spencer shows he’s a great actor by delivering those lines without laughing.

So just for reference, I’m embedding the important scene from the movie here. You really don’t want to waste your time watching The Rock.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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