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Posted on May 4th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under RF Cinema, Rampage, movies, discussion

Hello, fine movie-lovers! Today we continue our look at recent blockbuster game movies with the second of three for the year, Rampage. Starring Dwayne "Walking Slab of Meat" Johnson and....a bunch of other people, it tries to do what the Battleship movie did and make a film out of a game that really had very little plot to speak of. Does it succeed where Battleship spectacularly failed? Let's find out.

Upon first seeing the trailers for Rampage, one could be forgiven for thinking it was going to be hot garbage, especially with the tag line it's saddled with. "Big meets bigger." Seriously? Is that the best Warner Bros. and New Line could come up with? Add to that the fact that the director, Brad Peyton, doesn't exactly have a long list of successful blockbusters to his name. Looking at his IMDB page, the only two movies of his I recognize are Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and San Andreas. I've been told the latter was a neat film, but I got pretty fatigued with disaster movies a long time ago. Point being, I was fully prepared for this movie to be trash.

The movie starts in space, because where else would a Rampage movie start? There's a disaster that happens on a research space station and most of the crew are already dead. It quickly becomes clear that one of the experiments has gone wrong and the only surviving member of the crew is forced to save the canisters containing the virus that created the problem. The crew member's pod doesn't survive re-entry, but the virus manages to make it through and fall down to Earth.

Nothing's wrong officers. Just taking my pet monkey for a walk.

Next we're introduced to primatologist Dwayne "Sentient Punching Bag" Johnson. He's a former US Army soldier who now works for a wildlife preserve. His only real friend is an albino gorilla name George, who he communicates with using sign language. Coincidentally, one of the canisters from space crash lands in George's habitat during the night, and by morning he's growing in size, strength, and temper.

In another part of the country, the company who created the virus has been monitoring the situation and has learned of a wild wolf that has found its way to another one of the rogue canisters, and who is experiencing changes similar to George. They send a strike team to capture the creature, and it's not hard to guess how that goes. Once the evil head of the company realizes they won't be able to capture the mutants, she devises a plan to activate a beacon on the top of their skyscraper headquarters that was designed to emit a signal to draw them straight there. Convenient, right?

Spoiler: that helicopter doesn't stand a chance.

Naturally, there's a mysterious government agent who shows up to "handle" the situation, and a random scientist who used to work for the company who created the virus shows up, convincing Johnson she can fix George. The film even tries to give The Rock's character some depth; turns out he used to be part of an anti-poacher unit, explaining his self-induced social isolation. At the end of the day though, it's all super convenient meetings and paper-thin pseudo-science intended to give the mutants an excuse to tear through a big city and scale a tall building. And that pretty much sums up how expectations should be set going into this movie.

Dwayne "Who Needs Feelings When I Can Punch Something" Johnson is not impressed.

I started out watching Rampage and criticizing it all over the place. But about halfway through, I had a kind of epiphany. This is a movie based on a video game where the only plot was "a bunch of mutant animals smash up a bunch of buildings." Do we really care how they get to said buildings, or even how they became mutants? Personally, I don't.

Once I was able to let go and just enjoy Rampage for what it is, I started to have a lot of fun. Harvey Russell, the aforementioned government agent intent on capturing George and eliminating the threat he poses, is a surprisingly enjoyable character. He has a sort of lazy Texan drawl to his speech and a casual smile that works well wheather he's telling the main characters he's not as dumb as they think he is, or helping them out. He actually became one of my favorite characters.

Dwayne "I Only Have One Facial Expression" Johnson doesn't scare mysterious government types.

The best parts of Rampage are watching the massive gorilla and wolf wreck everything in their path. Their escapes early on in the film, before they get to the city, are great action scenes, and once they get to civilization the collateral damage doesn't let up. By then it's tough to even try caring about any of the human characters so I didn't even bother. The effects look good and I give the film credit for not giving George much unrealistically human facial expression, which is something I was a bit worried about. They do, however, go a bit overboard with the banter between The Rock and George. I don't know sign language so I can't say for sure if the signing they do to communicate with each other is authentic, but judging from the fact that there's not much of it compared to the amount of "talking" they do, and the number of nauseating jokes they share, I'd guess it's not.

This is the only plot summary you need to worry about.

On the scale of video game movie quality, I'd say Rampage falls somewhere between Battleship and Mortal Kombat. The scenes that don't include mutant animals destroying things range from forgettable at best to groaningly irritating at worst. After all, for as good of an actor as Dwayne "Gonna Melt You With My Stony Glare" Johnson turned out to be, even the best actors are only as good as the material they're given. But this movie also knows what it is, and thus leans into the premise it's based upon. So in that vein, it definitely succeeds, and if that's what you're looking for here, you won't be disappointed.

I'm calling it right here. The plot of Fast and Furious 9 will be the "family" going up against George and Ralph.

I'd love to know what you thought of Rampage, so don't be shy. Speak up in the comments below or in the RF Cinema discussion thread here.

**Note: There won't be an entry of RF Cinema next month. I have a couple other article ideas that have been noodling around in my head that I need to get out, and I have something special planned for July, so I'm stepping away from the feature for a few months. However, it definitely won't go away for good. I've enjoyed putting these together and there's plenty more great - and not so great - game movies out there to examine and discover. So until next time, I encourage anyone who wants to write their own entry to please do so. I look forward to reading more of them from our great community!

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Thanks for the review, Zophar.  I had been putting off seeing Rampage, because I was convinced it was going to be terrible.  But yeah, like the original "Pacific Rim", it sounds like this is a Big Dumb Action Movie that knows what it is and doesn't try too hard to make you think it's anything but.  I rather enjoyed all your descriptors for The Rock - very amusing Smiley
The real comparison... is it better than The Rock's performance in Doom?
@MetalFRO: Thanks lol. It was fun coming up with new nicknames for him. And yes, I agree about Pacific Rim. I went into both of those movies knowing that as long as building-sized robots punch building-sized monsters I would be happy. And that's exactly what I got haha.

@OatBob: I actually couldn't bring myself to see Doom. That may have to be the next entry in RF Cinema!
I liked this movie quite a bit and share your sentiments almost exactly. It doesn't really start off on an exciting foot, but the payoff of the monsters utterly flattening the city of Chicago was totally worth it.

Way better than Ready Player One if nothing else!

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