The Rock Midnight Movie Review
By Bret Dorman
I don’t know about most people, but I seem to go through ‘Movie Liking’ phases.
First, when I was a kid, I liked kid movies. Simple enough.
Then, as a young adult, I liked action movies. And ONLY action movies.
Then, I had a rebellious period where I denounced all Indie Films and only watched and enjoyed anything by Hollywood, sort of a continuation of my previous phase.
Then, I took a sharp 180 degree turn and started to only like Indie Films and Foreign Movies.
Then, that led me to a phase where I only watched movies that came out before 1980.
Then, I entered a phase that was probably my longest running and happiest, I liked ALL movies. Hollywood, Indie, New, and Old. No matter what the movie I gave it the benefit of the doubt and only disliked the REALLY bad ones.
Now, I am a little more picky of my movies. I still go see anything and everything and root for them all going in, but I like them to try to be as innovative and creative as possible.
Somehow, The Rock fills all these phases, needs, and wants.
The Rock is a crazy good action movie, complete with a high body count, good death scenes, intense speeches, and Nicolas Cage.
The Rock is also a crazy stupid action movie, complete with a ridiculous concept, silly one liners, conventional plot twists, and Nicolas Cage.
And even more importantly, The Rock is the mark a true auteur. This isn’t just ‘an action movie’, its ‘a Michael Bay action movie’. This movie is even in The Criterion Collection. Which may be more difficult to wrap your head around than its plot.
The Story: Brigadier General Francis X. Hummel (A Growling Ed Harris) is a tragic villain who steals some green stuff (a.k.a. biochemical weapons a.k.a. green stuff) and takes over Alcatraz to hold the city of san Francisco hostage. Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (A Crazy Nic Cage) is called in to help with the green stuff. John Mason (A very Scottish Sean Connery) is released from prison to help some Navy SEALS sneak into Alcatraz. They all fight and yell at each other. Also, Bay fits in his ‘A Hummer must Crash into at least 5 objects’ quota… plus some.
When watching The Rock, its easy to see the elements for what would make Michael BAy go on to be one of the best Directors of Destruction. From the way he fetishizes over the procedural of anything Military related to the classic Michael Bay Cam (low swinging camera looking up at actor standing into frame and looking off into area that is about to be or recently was destroyed).
Unlike with the Transformers movies, The Rock only takes a little time at the beginning to introduce its main characters and step away from the main action. Other than these scenes (Nic Cage diffusing a bomb, Nic Cage learning he is soon to be father, and Sean Connery ‘escaping’, two of those which are action or action-ish scenes in their own right) the movie doesn’t meander away and try to fit in other side plots. This movie is all about the good guys getting to The Rock and fighting people once they are on it.
Combined with Bay’s signature auteur style, a fast paced editing style, and Han Zimmer’s(/Nick Smith’s) music, the movie always feels like something important is happening. Sometimes this can lead you to think you are watching a 2 hour long preview for a movie instead of the real movie itself (Transformers suffered from this big time). But luckily there is enough here to ground you firmly in crazy action movie land, for example Nic Cage screaming about Zeus’ butthole.
Speaking of Nic Cage, he is definitely the ‘Wild Card’ element at play here. Sometimes bluffingly heroic, sometimes truely heroic, and always batshit crazy, its easy to see how this could be his first big budget action movie role and hard to see how this could lead him to becoming a standard go to action guy. As for Sean Connery (I know I will be in trouble for saying this…), he has never impressed me in a movie… This is definitely my favorite of the Sean Connery films/roles but even here he is only so good.
More importantly, whatever happened to Michael Beihn? This man was in some great action movies, then dropped off the face of the Earth (only to recently kind of resurface here and there. He has a great shouting match with Ed Harris that serves as one of the films exhilarating highlights.
The best part about The Rock is no matter how seriously it takes itself or sometimes pokes fun at itself, its nice to see a movie made from 100% pure Action Juice… none of this concentrate crap. Some of the twists and turns provide a fun first time through, but the overall execution will keep people coming back for more and more. I can’t wait for when Michael Bay gets another script like this, seeing what he can do now with even bigger budgets and crazier action set pieces.
Why You Must See It At Midnight: Talk about a great crowd movie. You can laugh along with The Rock and at it, as the movie is simultaneously legit action gold and insanely ridiculous. And if that weren’t enough, if part of you feels weird about watching this ‘summer crap’ at a real Chicago Cinema Art House, remember… The Rock is in the freaking Criterion Collection, which is reserved for the Best of the Best.
The only thing that would make this night perfect is upon entrance the door opens for you and standing there holding it is Sir Sean Connery himself… and with a grin and a very Scottish accent he simply says “Welcome to The Music Box Theatre.”