Film * Brad Peyton * Dwayne “The Rampage” Johnson * 2018
I don’t know what y’all do when you’re feeling a little bit down. I assume endlessly watch tepid episodes of Friends on Netflix considering how much they spent on that atrocious show and I cannot think of another reason people would subject themselves to it if they were feeling okay. As for myself, I appreciate and embrace the allure of really stupid nonsense to really numb the brain. Disaster movies starring The Rock are pretty much exactly suited to make me feel better. It’s like ninety minutes of shit blowing up for no reason and Dwayne Johnson doing stuff with his eyebrows is the equivalent of a couple tabs of Celexa (note, dumb movies are not an actual alternative to taking your meds). Rampage is no exception to this, nor did I really expect it to be. All the trailers suggested that it was basically San Andreas with CG monsters instead of an earthquake. That’s… pretty much exactly what this movie is. It’s great.
Rampage, if you weren’t aware, is actually a video game movie. It is based on one of my favorite arcade games from when I was a little kid. I loved that game because you played as the monster and the entire point of the game was to smash up buildings and move from town to town. Rampaging, as it were. I would always play as Lizzie, the Godzilla analogue, but your other options were George the fake King-Kong and Ralph the enormous wolf. The first few stages in the game are suburbs of Chicago, then you get to beat up Chicago! Pump enough quarters and you can tour the entire United States, knocking buildings over. It’s not a great game. But when you’re eight? Man, I just wanna knock down Portland! I’ve been there!
If you couldn’t tell from the above description, there really isn’t all that much to adapt. Three big monsters? Check. Big monsters beat up Chicago? Check. You did it! You’ve perfectly adapted Rampage for the big screen. The problem is, audiences expect stories and characters and bullshit like that, so the screenwriters had to put in some work to make any of this make sense. Still, the disaster movie template is pretty well established, and they managed to get Dwayne Johnson, so they found a way. Is it a good way? It’s better than The Core! It’s not as good as Deep Impact! This is largely because the disaster in this situation is courtesy of three very large CG monsters, which, mmm, doesn’t have quite the same gravitas as a planet-killing asteroid. Basically The Rock is an employee of the San Diego zoo. He is the science-man in charge of the gorillas. He likes them more than people, because of his dark past as a Special Forces anti-poaching, uh, guy. Anyway, one of his gorillas – George – is hit with a canister of DNA juice from space and he turns enormous and angry. As do a wolf and a crocodile. Rampaging ensues.
The time elapsed to actual rampaging in this movie is just about thirty minutes, in case you were wondering how much boring set-up there is. The villains are an evil brother-and-sister team whose company developed the aforementioned DNA juice in space. The introductory scene takes place in the super-secret evil satellite where they were doing the illegal research. One of the space rats got all huge and crazy and wrecked up the place. The one remaining survivor managed to rescue the DNA juice, but blew up in re-entry. That’s why the monsters happen. Then the baddies set off a beacon they’ve hidden in the giant antennae on top of the Sears Tower, which calls the monsters to Chicago so that they can, I dunno, harvest the juice? It’s not important. What is important is that the rampaging happens, and it is cool. Also, the villains remind me of Sandra Bernhard and Richard E. Grant as the Mayflowers in Hudson Hawk. Oh, I love Hudson Hawk, by the way. You can judge me accordingly.
Man, I have this whole section subtitled “discussion” and I have very little to discuss. Okay, well, one thing I enjoy about disaster movies is that there’s always an Important Ecological And/Or Moral Lesson to be taken away from the experience. I somehow haven’t written about it yet, but The Day After Tomorrow is a good example. In that absolute classic, there are these monster death-storms which super-blast the United States with mega-ice and snow-hurricanes. The point being that climate change is real and don’t be dumb. Here in Rampage, the progressive ecological lesson is that poaching is bad. Don’t, like, go to Africa and illegally hunt gorillas. Okay, movie, I won’t! Nor will I purchase or support whatever monstrous products people make out of dead gorillas. Seriously, what kind of nightmare person would hunt a gorilla to make ghoulish products out of their humanoid-ass corpses? Oh, wait, I figured it out.
Alrighty, things we’ve learned about Rampage:
- It’s a good smashy-smashy-kaboom movie if your brain enjoys that kind of thing.
- Dwayne Johnson is always a delight.
- George the gorilla flips people off a lot, so that’s, you know, hilarious.
- The movie invokes fond memories of bad arcade games and extremely stupid Bruce Willis movies.
- DNA juice = bad.
- I like that the movie makes you wait to see Lizzie, my old fave, and when she shows up she is suitably badass.
- Poaching. Not cool.
And that’s about it, I think. About my only disappointment with this thing is the missed opportunity with the ending credits. You’re telling me you couldn’t do an old school arcade theme as a call back to the game? Pretty weak, guys. Ah well, maybe next time. Rampage 2: Rampagier.