The Rock 20 Years Later

therockAs anyone who knows me will attest I am a huge Aaron Sorkin fan. I own most of his movies and television shows. This includes movies where he just did some script-doctoring and is not listed as a writer. One of those movies is The Rock. I had not watched this movie in a few years and it was interesting to see what stuck out at me this time around.

For those who haven’t seen it The Rock is a 1996 movie in which Ed Harris and a bunch of rogue Marines steal a bunch of missiles with poison gas, take over Alcatraz Island and threaten to kill everyone in San Francisco if their demands for one hundred million dollars aren’t met. The good guys send in a SEAL Team and Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery to save the day.

Watching this as an Aaron Sorkin movie is a bit of a stretch but there are familiar bits. West Wing fans will notice that John Spencer is in this one. The scenes involving White House staff sound very West Wing-like. But since he only did the polish on it, it’s hard to accurately say that all the best lines in the movie are his fault. Still, sometimes it’s clearer than others.

The Rock is directed by Michael Bay. He is not one of my favorites. He likes explosions way too much. (On the commentary for Armageddon he mentions how BMW gave them money to use their car which allowed for more explosions.) However, I feel this movie is his best one.

The main reason for this is that it’s not just an action movie. The main characters grow and change. (To avoid spoilers, skip this paragraph.) Ed Harris’s General Hummel realizes he doesn’t want to kill innocent people. Nicolas Cage’s Stanley Goodspeed realizes he has what it takes to work in the field. Sean Connery’s John Mason learns to trust someone again.

Twenty years after I first saw this movie in theaters it’s still highly enjoyable. That said, in 2016 I see some significant flaws as well. There are effectively no women in this movie. Stanley has a girlfriend who we see basically complain in every single scene she is in. Mason has a daughter who is in exactly one scene and she effectively does nothing (which is too bad given that she’s played by Claire Forlani who is awesome). There’s also the problem that anyone who isn’t white is either playing a stereotype, a bad guy, or essentially an extra. None of this was strange twenty years ago, but these days it sort of sticks out as a severe diversity problem.

On the flip side, there are things in this 1996 movie that surprised me such as the President saying that we are ‘at war with terror’ and one of the terrorists having a man bun.

All in all, it was an enjoyable movie watching experience and The Rock remains a solid action movie with good three dimensional characters.

– Jack Cameron