Will the Rock Pull a Black Widow?

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Dwayne Johnson's Jungle Cruise character Frank lounging comfortably in a chair with his legs on a table and holding a glass of alcohol.

Jungle Cruise is a hit, but what’s next?
Photo: Disney

A massive Disney blockbuster starring the biggest star in the world is the number one film at the box office. This much is to be expected. But coming a week after another megastar sued Disney over their similarly successful film, there are certainly many things to discuss.

The film is Jungle Cruise, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. It opened number one not just in the United States, but all over the world this past weekend. According to Disney, it opened with “an estimated total of more than $90 million globally, including $34.2 million in domestic box office, $27.6 million in international box office, and over $30 million in Disney+ Premier Access consumer spend globally.” Considering the continuing covid-19 pandemic with cases once again rising due to lack of vaccinations and the delta variant, those are very solid numbers. Numbers that Johnson celebrated a few times along with his 260 million followers on Instagram.

But here’s where things get interesting. Last week, Scarlett Johansson sued Disney over her contract for Black Widow, mainly due to the fact Disney chose to release it simultaneously in theaters and streaming on Disney+ and didn’t renegotiate her contract. Disney also employed that release strategy with Jungle Cruise, so one might wonder, will Johnson follow Johansson’s lead? Most people think it’s unlikely. Deadline reports that “Dwayne Johnson and his Seven Bucks camp have no intention of battling Disney for any anticipated loss of dollars on this day-and-date release on the Jaume Collet-Serra-directed movie; the action star’s camp was in lock-step with the Mouse House when the announcement was made to deliver the pic to a global audience everywhere at a time when certain offshore theatrical markets (like Southeast Asia) are offline due to Covid.”

What that means financially, we don’t know. But Johnson’s seeming happiness with it has been ever-present. Back in May, Johnson himself announced the news of the shift from only theatrical to simultaneous release on Instagram with a four-minute video filled with nothing but excitement about the move. Since then, he and co-star Emily Blunt have promoted the hell out of it too, doing all sorts of stunts and videos to get the word out. The Black Widow team did that too—they’re contractually obligated to it— but in retrospect, the two tours have very different energy. That’s also probably because, as revealed in a story over on Polygon, Jungle Cruise wasn’t just a cash grab for Johnson—it was a long-time dream fulfilled. “Ironically, Jungle Cruise was DJ’s favorite ride,” producing partner Hiram Garcia said. “And luckily, Disney was in a place where they were interested in trying to get something [going] with Jungle Cruise. But DJ had this wish that we never even knew that he had this aspiration of like, ‘One day I want to, I want to be able to do that.’ So it all came together. It all came together in a great way just several years later from the first time we talked about it.”

Though he probably didn’t make as much money as humanly possible, Johnson seems fine with how things turned out by finally turning this famous ride into a movie. But it’s unclear if he’s simply toeing the company line because he wants to continue his working relationship with the studio (something neither Johnson or Johansson “need”), if Disney gave him something they didn’t give Black Widow’s lead, or if he really is just happy to be here. Would the film have grossed more if the world was a normal place? One would assume. But as long as he can get on Instagram and celebrate having the #1 movie in the world, the Rock seems like a happy guy. And, if our review is evidence, audiences will be happy watching Jungle Cruise too.


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