When I saw the preview to Rampage, I thought it was quite possibly the dumbest trailer of 2018. But I don’t mean that in a bad way.
If you’re familiar with Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s body of work, you know that this is like a Tuesday for him. He’s the charismatic king of dumb popcorn flicks, in which he’ll put someone in a choke hold with the “big arm” and survive a catastrophe that no human being should be able to walk away from. I must confess—I really enjoy him as an actor. He knows which movies are made for him, and he looks like he’s living his best life while starring in them.
So, something like Rampage? That’s got his name written all over it. Because if we’re gonna be honest, Rampage—the game on which the movie is based—is dumb.
And again, I don’t mean that in a bad way.
When I played Rampage back in the day, it was a silly arcade game with a novel premise that I didn’t mind wasting a couple of quarters on. A gorilla (George), a lizard (Lizzie), and a wolf (Ralph) walk into a city and are gonna wreck it. The monstrous trio used to be human, but the sinister Scumlabs conducted experiments that transformed them into building-smashing titans. And yes, that’s the name of the lab—bless the movie for changing it to Energyne, because the original is a bit too on the nose. It was never a game I felt the need to conquer because the destructive charm eventually wore thin . . . though tossing people into your mouth like popcorn did have its appeal. So, with a premise like that, the movie was bound to be, at most, an unabashedly dumb spectacle in which Chicago gets leveled by three giant monsters.
I was completely okay with this. There’s no “but” to that statement at all. I legitimately had fun with this film.
The plot is . . . serviceable, and considering the source material, I didn’t expect anything groundbreaking. That’s assuming people even cared about the story in the arcade game, because honestly, that’s not what my hard-earned quarters were being spent on. I basically wanted to kick in a building, but you can’t really do that for an entire motion picture, so there needed to be some kind of, well, something.
The movie takes the approach of the monsters being mutated animals instead of humans transformed into wild beasts. And Energyne conducts Project Rampage in space because in space, no one can hear you altering animal DNA. It’s a pretty smart idea until the space station blows up and three canisters fall onto Earth. Here, we meet Davis Okoye (the Rock), who’s got a relationship with one of the beasts like Chris Pratt and Blue in Jurassic World—and I dare say it’s better executed. The friendship between Davis and George is actually . . . heartfelt? And entertaining? You’ll actually be rooting for these two, especially when George becomes infected with the gas that turns him giant and angry, setting the real plot (or action) into motion. It’s unfortunate that the other two creatures don’t get the same kind of development, and some of the human characters are left behind in favor of more Davis trying to rescue his friend.
Speaking of human characters, they’re passable. The villains are a brother-and-sister team who are about as cartoonish as they come, two breaths away from maniacal laughter and tying a girl to the train tracks. Former Energyne employee Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) serves as “the girl” in the movie, hellbent on stopping the duo because, gasp, they used her research in the most malicious of ways. Then there’s Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who plays the part of “government agent basking in his asshole behavior.” Everyone fills the roles you expect them to, and it’s all very predictable, right down to Davis’s hatred of mankind because of poachers killing George’s family. But you get the impression that the cast is enjoying their archetypes—especially Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who’s basically giving us Negan without Lucille.
After sitting through all the bullet points of the plot, we get to the climax of the movie and . . . it’s good. Really good. It’s basically what you came to see. George, Lizzie, and Ralph are breaking up helicopters and buses like piñatas, and people are being tossed around like flimsy pairs of socks. You get small glimpses throughout the movie of what’s to come, but the final showdown in Chicago? Phew! It’s the game on the big screen. Sit back and enjoy.
So where does Rampage fall on the scale of video-game movies? Listen, this movie is stupid, but it’s a fun kind of stupid—the kind of stupid you find yourself smiling about when you leave the theater. It reminds me of the fun I had with the original Mortal Kombat movie: a guilty pleasure I watched so many times that I can still quote it today. At the end of the day, Rampage knows exactly what it is, and that is a movie where you turn your brain off in favor of watching the Rock team up with a giant white gorilla to fight a flying wolf and a heavyset lizard. If you’re into that type of delicious cheese, you’ll have a great time.