Wait what? Another movie based on a video game? I thought we did the one for the year? We had Tomb Raider about a month ago, it was actually alright and probably the best video game movie ever made, which is rather sad. But because they are incredibly awful, I only want to deal with one a year. I need to recharge for the disappointment, I can’t deal with another one. But this one is based on an arcade game that barely anyone remembers? That if it does end up being terrible that no one will care because it’s based on a property that has no big fan base? Well ok then, let’s see if I can deal with Rampage.
Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) is a primate scientist who takes care of the apes at a wildlife reserve in San Diego. Notably he has a friendship with the albino gorilla named George. However an explosion of a satellite above Earth releases pathogens which heavily mutate George, turning him into an ultra-violent giant gorilla that is going to wreak havoc on anything it sees.
If you don’t know, this movie is based on an old arcade game from the 1980s. While there has been some updates since then, it’s not exactly the most famous franchise in the world. And perhaps that makes it perfect for an adaptation. For the major franchises, you are going to have super fans watching like a hawk to make sure you don’t change anything they love which you need to do in an adaptation. But no one cares about Rampage so in theory you can change some things and not cause as much anger. So yes, there is still a giant gorilla that destroys everything. But they can also make him quite a friendly gorilla with a sense of humour and a friend. It’s a good change as well. You need some sort of emotional investment in this film and their best attempt at this is the close relationship between George and Davis. It’s sold well with some good CGI on George which allows him to emote and Dwayne Johnson being his usual charismatic self. It does give the movie a nice throughline which keeps the movie going and a reason for people who aren’t in the military to be along for the ride.
But you don’t go to a movie called Rampage to see the sweet relationship between a man and a gorilla. You go see some giant animals go on a rampage. And yeah, it’s fine when it happens. You do get to see some giant animals destroy everything and there is some fun in seeing that happen. This is what monster movies are all about now after all. See big CGI monsters destroy cities in a massive CGI way. And as someone who enjoys monster movies, I feel like there is plenty to enjoy in destruction scenes even if you aren’t usually into this sort of thing. Unless you are a purist who only likes destruction in monster movies if the monster is a tubby man in a rubber suit and the city is in fact a delicately made model. But if you aren’t a purist, you’ll be fine.
But that is the last nice thing I’m going to say about this movie because it isn’t a good movie. Firstly, a lack of character. George the gorilla is the most developed character in this movie. Everyone else is a cardboard cut-out. Naomie Harris (Moonlight) is in this movie as a scientist though if we’re honest, she’s just the token girl that tags along so she force some exposition from Dwayne Johnson. It’s a waste of a great actress and all I hope is that Naomie got a big pay cheque out of this so she can afford to do some smaller but better films in future. And yes, Dwayne Johnson has so much charisma he can usually make himself the best part of any bad film. But his act is getting quite bad. In the last action scene, it’s two big beasts fighting while he makes quips. Could he at least try a different character? As a lead here with very little support, the fact this is just the same character he is doing again is heavily exposed.
But the worst characters are the villains. They are the brother and sister team of Claire (Malin Akerman, Watchmen) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy, Carol) who are the head of the evil corporation of Energyne. They were the ones who made the pathogen which mutated the creatures and the big question is, why? Why would you make a pathogen that will make a random animal into a vicious giant animal that will destroy anything in its path? Answers on a postcard please because the movie never tells us. While Claire and Brett are both pretty proud of making these monsters and want them back for some reason, they never get around to telling us why they made them. It is a big plot hole because on the surface of it, making this pathogen was a very stupid thing. All you have to do is say you the corporation are planning to sell them to the military, heck just say they want to take over the world. It’s silly but at least it would be some motivation.
It’s also hurt by the fact there is so much better films in the genre already out there. Monster movies are making a comeback and it’s best to go see the ones that brought it back and not this band wagoner. Godzilla is so much better at showing the destruction of a city because the director in that movie is smart to make all the monsters seem out of this world with low camera angles making them look even bigger. Here the director Brad Peyton (San Andreas) often goes for the birds eye view which makes these monsters seem small and rather normal. That defeats the point of a movie like this. I think it’s in homage to the video game, there’s also an arcade cabinet of the game, in the office of the villains, but you should only do an homage when it enhances the movie rather than distracts and make it worse.
Rampage isn’t worth your time. Yes, there is always going to be some fun in watching monsters destroy cities. But there are far better options than this movie which have far more character, better effects and monsters which are memorable rather than the rather bland ones we get here. As it’s a video game movie we should be thankful that this movie is just bad rather than god awful which the majority of adaptations from that medium are, but that shouldn’t mean that we allow this to be a success. Sorry Dwayne, but you can’t lift this one out of the rubble.