Rampage is a movie adaptation of the popular 1986 Midway arcade game where players could choose to control King Kong (erm…George), Godzilla (Uh… Lizzie) or… a giant Werewolf (Ralph!) as they tear through major cities in the US of A.
What was fun and unique about the concept at the time was that you got to BE the bad guy. You got points by smashing property, eating people and swatting down aircraft. The more mayhem you could create, the higher your score.
When your monster took too much damage, they shrunk down to a human and slowly scooted-off screen modestly covering themselves (because they were not wearing clothes). This gave an opportunity for the other monsters to scoop the other player up and eat them for extra points. It was this fun level of detail that made the game a delight to play.
This whole review spoils everything about the movie. Just so you know.
Here is the official synopsis of the movie.
Primatologist Davis Okoye shares an unshakable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent gorilla who has been in his care since birth. But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry transforms this gentle ape into a raging monster. As these newly created monsters tear across North America, destroying everything in their path, Okoye teams with a discredited genetic engineer to secure an antidote, fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield, not only to halt a global catastrophe but to save the fearsome creature that was once his friend.
You may notice from that description one major change from the games. This time, it is animals (through genetic editing) that grow and create the mayhem.
Honestly, this annoyed me right away. It was evident from the trailers that this was going to be the case, and as a fan of the game, it kind of ticked me off. I mean… there are really only two things to the plot that need to be there.
1: People Turn Into Monsters
2: These Monsters Destroy Cities
You have PLENTY to work with here. The games DO have a storyline involving an evil company, chemical testing, blah blah blah… but you don’t need that.
To make a true Rampage movie you need:
1: People Turn Into Monsters
2: These Monsters Destroy Cities
So the movie begins in space and we see the aftermath of a science experiment gone wrong on a space station. A giant mutated rat has eaten the whole crew, save one person. The “Evil Corporation” won’t let the lone survivor on the escape pod until she secures the samples from the space experiment for safe travel back to Earth with her.
She complies and narrowly misses getting eaten by the giant rat. The escape pod… escapes, and seemingly all is fine for .5 seconds. The damage sustained to the side of the pod by the rat was too much and the pod explodes on re-entry.
We then get a nice set-up scene with Davis Okoye (Johnson) as we learn all about him and his relationship with George, the albino gorilla. They use a form of sign language to communicate and they have a special bond. It sets up the rest of the movie nicely, and I was truly engaged. The Rock can carry a movie. Even a bad movie can “cheat” by keeping the camera on Dwayne Johnson. He is a movie star and he does his thing well. The effects on George are also FANTASTIC. Great, believable work by the production team.
We then start to get into the other characters. The evil heads of the evil corporation (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) that speak evilly about doing evil things for evil money. There is also (not evil) scientist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) who has some sort of connection to the evil corporation. Yes – I know it has a name, and no it doesn’t even matter. It’s not the same name from the games, which just seems like an easy thing to include. Whatever, screenwriters.
Akerman’s character reveals that the containers that the samples from space were in are designed to withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, and they simply need to go and collect where they have landed.
One fun little joke is that they have a couple arcade cabinets in the Evil HQ, and guess what? Rampage is one of them. They call their evil genetic experiment “Project: RAMPAGE”, which I liked. That’s a fun way to tie it all together.
…so far I’m having fun, changes aside.
Of course, we know that the 3 containers have already crashed into the planet and the samples have been let loose. One on friendly gorilla George, one on a pack of wolves and the third into a river where a crocodile chomps down on it.
Poor George is injured and scared and breaks out of his enclosure. Davis is called back into work to try and figure out what is going on with his friend. George is not only confused and getting aggressive, but also growing bigger. Dr. Caldwell shows up and they begin to try and find answers. She knows that George was exposed to some genetic editing maguffin and that they need to find a cure for him fast.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan shows up as an OGA (Other Government Agency) agent. It’s never explicitly told where he is from, but it’s obviously some sort of X-Files/S.H.I.E.L.D. sort of thing.
I imagine every time JDM showed up on set, he looked around and said “Wait. What is this? Am I on Walking Dead, or that Rampage piece of crap? Nevermind. It doesn’t matter.”
Parts of this were shot in Georgia – just like TWD – so I’m probably not too far off. He probably shot scenes for this on his lunch break.
Negan takes George, Davis and Caldwell prisoner and they all get on a plane.
Meanwhile, the Evil Corporation bad actors (literally and figuratively – these two seem to be the only ones that can’t seem to act their way out of the awful dialogue) send a squad out to round up the first container. Joe Manganiello is the poor sap, er…Merc to lead a team there. The reward for their effort is to come face to snout with an enormous wolf that eats them.
Evil Corporation realizes it is time to activate the safeguards they had built-in to the genetic editing program. You see, the animals will continue to grow in size and aggression. They heal fast and contain genetic abnormalities that make them better to adapt and survive. For example, the wolf has little “flying squirrel” wings so he can glide through the air. Evil Corp. needs to get the monsters to the Evil HQ so that they can get the living weapons back that they spent so much time and money on developing. The way they will accomplish this is by some low-level radio signal set up on the building.
This signal isn’t easily detected by most living creatures, but it drives the Project: RAMPAGE monsters insane with an irrational desire to find and stop it. That is probably not the smartest thing Evil Corp could think to do. They do understand that they have created giant unstoppable monsters, right?
SO… FINALLY the monsters “get on the road” to Chicago to stop the signal and GET SOME G-D PEACE AND QUIET AROUND HERE FOR A CHANGE.
Chaos ensues. Buildings are smashed. People are eaten. Tanks are thrown about. The Rock fires big guns and says quippy lines.
George gets a sort-of antidote that allows him to regain his sanity and lose his aggression. Now thanks to the set up from the beginning, Davis can explain to him (sort-of) what is going on. He is able to convey to George that they need to help protect people from the other monsters and a creature plus man vs. creature vs. creature battle ensues.
The good guys win, blah blah blingity blah.
It’s all fun monster action!
I’d put it somewhere with the latest American Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, although those were better movies. If they would have had Monarch in this movie, I would have no problem accepting it was set in the same universe.
In short, it was a decent monster creature-feature action fest.
The caveat: it DOWNRIGHT SUCKS as a Rampage video game adaptation.
It’s not a big deal that the monsters don’t look exactly the same as the game. I like having a somewhat unique take on the characters.
I even didn’t mind that the video game exists in this world and that the evil science project was no-doubt inspired by it. It’s a fun idea!
I just think that they could have made a movie that held a little more true to the core of the games. They could have had the same cast and the same budget, but a better overall product. They could have done something DIFFERENT and unexpected – not just another entry in the smashy-smashy monster movie genre.
Johnson should have still had his affinity for gorillas, but HE should have been George. The genetic editing turned him into the giant gorilla. Ackerman should have been the evil antagonist that uses the experiment on herself, turning into a monstrous lizard. You could have had Manganiello as Ralph the enormous werewolf. The Merc that starts off working for Ackerman, but realizes his mistake and joins forces with Johnson.
Lastly, you have JD Morgan and Harris as the Government Agent and Scientist that are trying to get to the bottom of it all.
The games were about turning the monster movie idea on its head. YOU got to be the monsters. The movie flips it back to the ho-hum standard story.
The main characters in this movie should have been the monsters. It would have added a layer of attachment to the trio that you need to have in a compelling story. This movie as-is did a decent job setting this up with George, but having the monsters be the humans would have gotten to that place faster. AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN LIKE THE DAMN GAMES. It would have been great for the monsters to have a more human side to them, to have motivation and stakes for them to survive. You would be able to root for the “good” monsters and feel contempt for the “evil” ones. As it is, I felt bad for Ralph and Lizzie. They were just poor animals that got mixed into all of this by no fault of their own.
Every version of the game follows this basic idea of the monsters being the main characters. There weren’t even many cute nods to the game as the monsters are destroying things. I caught a couple, but there needed to be more. This is the RAMPAGE movie, after all. SHOW US WHAT WE CAME FOR. I have a feeling that this was some other monster movie that they grafted the Rampage names on to.
There is so much potential here. The latter games even branch out and include LOTS more monsters. This could have been a franchise with new monsters in the mix every film.
It’s a decent monster movie but does nothing to advance the genre. It can’t even be bothered to get the basic premise of the game correct. Go see this if you REALLY like monster movies, or can check it out at matinee prices.
Side note: the toys are only available at Walmart, are HUGE, and actually look like a load of fun. These are all under $20 a piece!