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The Rock's VOD Era Is About To Begin & It's All His Fault

It's a time that can come for any action hero at some point in their lives. No matter how stellar their career, there may come a day when their particular brand of shooting and punching is going to start boring the audiences, and the individual who once starred in great action classics suddenly finds themselves in a series of video-on-demand fodder. It can happen to the biggest names of the genre too — just look at Sylvester Stallone's best and worst movies and you'll get a fair idea of the periods when his heroics have turned sour and his box office performance has followed suit. 

As such, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson should feel no shame in how many signs point toward a slump in his career. However, he might want to pay attention to the fact that the movie-going audience may just be starting to get tired of him because of his own actions. Let's take a look at why the VOD era of Johnson's movie career seems to be near, and how this state of affairs came to be. 

Allegations against Dwayne Johnson's work ethic have been made

One early sign that Hollywood's biggest star might slowly be starting to fade came when Dwayne Johnson's DC takeover failed spectacularly. The "Black Adam" star's attempt to take the steering wheel of the DC Extended Universe failed to change the hierarchy of power when the movie's underwhelming success deflated his team's spirited attempt to take center stage of DC Films. Johnson's big plans for Black Adam vs. Superman (Henry Cavill) never came to be, and the DCEU was rebooted into James Gunn and Peter Safran's DC Universe.  

Johnson's attempt to posit Shazam villain Black Adam as a Superman adversary was one thing, and his power moves behind the scenes were another. However, TheWrap's insider report alleges that the star's habitual lateness and even absences from the set have hindered several projects, including the holiday-themed film "Red One," the HBO show "Ballers," and others, causing massive complications in the productions. Per the article, Johnson's tardiness also at least temporarily drew the ire of both "Red Notice" co-star Ryan Reynolds and "Fast & Furious" franchise lead Vin Diesel. This brings the story back to the Dwayne Johnson-Vin Diesel feud, which was arguably the first major blemish in his affable facade. 

In all fairness, industry sources also refute the allegations against Johnson's work ethic in the article, praising him as a dedicated pro. Still, such insider allegations against Johnson's work ethic could cost him far more dearly than any behind-the-scenes studio power plays. After all, he has always presented himself as the ultimate worker — a consummate and reliable guy who isn't afraid to put in the hours. If that armor cracks in the public eye, he might have a serious image issue on his hands.  

His drawing power isn't what it used to be

Let's put Dwayne Johnson's real and alleged actions aside for a second, and look at the one thing the tentpole movie corner of Hollywood loves the most: money. Historically, Johnson is a massive box office draw. After some early ups and downs, his star climbed steadily and steeply from 2010 to 2019, when he was the single highest-grossing actor on the planet. No one can take that away from him. 

Since 2019, however, things have gone downhill. In both 2020 and 2021, he was still among the top draws out there ... but by 2023, he was the 26th highest-grossing name at the domestic box office. Per The Numbers, he's effectively back at his 2010-2011 draw levels, and the trend is downward.

Yes, numerous factors can explain a temporary dip like this. Johnson's only film credit in 2023 is "Fast X," for one, and his 2022 movie presence was entirely devoted to DC's "The League of Super-Pets" and "Black Adam," neither of which were massive barnburners. Still, when you combine an action star with a trend of diminishing returns and mounting reports of unsavory personal antics, there's always a chance that the GPS might lead toward VOD Alley. Could this be the case for The Rock?

The Rock will probably be just fine in the long term

Then again, Dwayne Johnson has been too big to completely fail for a good while now. He's a highly-paid actor with his own production house and several business ventures that can no doubt act as a buffer even if he has to taste the bitter pill of VOD for a while. Perhaps in recognition that a quick return to his roots was in order, he's also back with the WWE. He was a major part of the pro wrestling juggernaut's WrestleMania 40 event.  In January 2024, he was also appointed to parent company TKO Group's board of directors, which grants him far more sway than ever in the WWE ... and the UFC, for good measure. 

With all this, it seems that Johnson is extremely prepared to ride out a potential career slump on the acting front. He also seems to be partially pivoting away from his usual action-hero muscleman roles. His upcoming projects include a return to the voice role of the goofy demigod Maui in "Moana 2," and the role of UFC fighter Mark Kerr in writer-director Benny Safdie's A24 movie "The Smashing Machine." 

If successful, such roles might work in his favor and remind the public that he's more than just his Instagram, his The Rock persona, and his endless tough guy roles. Time will tell if that's enough to save the movie leg of his career from VOD hell, but it would certainly be interesting to see The Rock cooking with some serious gas when it comes to peculiar movie roles. After all, the man is a veteran of films like "Be Cool" and "The Southland Tales." If anyone can reconfigure things with a bit of controlled weirdness, it's him.