When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago. (from IMDB)
When you look at video game properties like Tomb Raider, Uncharted, Halo and maybe even Warcraft, it’s understandable to imagine a film based on the characters and story featured within. However, when you have an arcade game like Rampage where you play a monster with the sole purpose of leveling city buildings to the ground, you don’t look at it and immediately exclaim “This should be made into a movie!” However, that’s precisely what the new action film, Rampage, is.
I’d love to have been in on the discussion when the idea to make Rampage into a feature film. (The initial reactions were probably hysterical!) It’s absurd, but if done right, it probably could be a lot of fun, right? After all, who doesn’t like a good building-smashing monster movie like Godzilla?
Well, you can’t say the film Rampage doesn’t try. It opens with a scene set in space with every bit of a setup like it’s a horror film. A lone survivor is trying to escape a space station that has been taken over by a mutated animal due to an experiment gone wrong, complete with some gruesome imagery. The film unfolds, setting up the monsters’ origins, even giving us cause to sympathize with the gorilla, George. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is established as ex-military who now spends his days at the San Diego zoo working with George and other gorillas. But when George and a few other animals in the area are exposed to the same deadly chemical, they mutate into building-sized monsters who… go on a destructive rampage.
Rampage almost works. Almost. Last year’s Kong: Skull Island was a brutal but fun monster movie that never took itself too seriously. It offered an impressive cast and solid effects, with soldiers dropped onto a monster-covered island to fight for their own survival. Rampage acts as a tonal see-saw, veering in opposite directions all too often. Johnson’s character Davis Okoye, and Naomie Harris’s scientist Kate Caldwell, play their characters relatively serious. Johnson of course presents his character like he’s aware he’s in a giant monster movie, but it all feels somewhere between the horror-comedy mash-up of The Mummy (1999) and its first sequel, The Mummy Returns, which ratcheted up the ridiculous several notches (and Johnson actually made his film debut in that disappointing sequel). Meanwhile, Malin Ackerman acts alongside Jake Lacy, who appeared as a regular on the final season of The Office, and the pair feel like they’ve been lifted right out of a Saturday morning cartoon. Lacy, who I really enjoyed in The Office, feels sorely out of place here, and the scenes these two are in make the film feel even more ridiculous than it already is. What makes things weirder is, when the giant wolf is introduced in a scene where it ravages a tactical team, it’s presented as pure horror. Hints at far gorier imagery are mixed with pure terror for these characters. This scene, and the movie’s opener, are much more intense and scarier than anything else in the movie, and, in the end, it causes the whole of the film to feel inconsistent and sloppy. And it’s unfortunate, too, because, if the right balance had been struck, this could have just been pure, ridiculous fun. Rampage just barely misses the mark of achieving that goal, too.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a highlight in the cast, but even his governmental “cowboy” approach isn’t quite enough to elevate the film enough. What Rampage probably needed was a lot more solid laughs to keep the audience simultaneously thrilled and amused. On the other hand, endless attempts at humor that just ultimately fall flat would result in something like any of the recent Michael Bay-directed Transformers films (and we really don’t need more of that). The barrage of joke misfires there end up doing more harm than good. So while this isn’t quite the hot mess that 1998’s Godzilla turned out to be, it’s just not quite as fun as Pacific Rim (the first one), Kong: Skull Island, or even Johnson’s and Rampage director Brad Peyton’s other outing together, San Andreas.
The Rampage video game featured three main monsters: a gorilla named George, a wolf named Ralph, and a lizard named Lizzie. When you’d start the game, you’d already be the monster, but when you lose power and “die,” you actually reverted back to a naked little human being and sheepishly side-stepped off the screen. You could fight the other monster players, but the goal of the game was to be the monster with the most city-wide destruction before the military could defeat you. The film version features animals who mutate into these monsters, with altered DNA that makes them more aggressive (which is why the friendly George goes rogue). Our film’s goofy villains turn their home base into a beacon that calls the monsters to Chicago, where the city-wide destruction takes place. While we’ve already seen Chicago torn apart by giant alien robots in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Peyton tries to give us a different experience, and succeeds for the most part. There are little references to the game hidden subtly inside the film, but I couldn’t help but feel like there were a few missed opportunities — like mimicking some of the destructive techniques the characters would implement (like jumping up and down on top of a building, or even scaling a building and punching out windows in a way similar to what we see in the game). We get plenty of nonsensical destruction, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t help but expect a few more clever references to live up to the film’s namesake.
The content of the film is as messy as the film itself. It’s PG-13, but the profanity felt pretty frequent, including over 20 uses of the “S” word, almost 20 uses of “h*ll,” and quite a few inexcusable uses of Jesus’ name in vain. It really added nothing to the film and really felt gratuitous. George is even shown flipping the middle finger a few times, and inserting his index finger from one hand into a circle made by his fingers on the other hand to make an obvious sexual reference. The violence is what you’d expect, but there was a surprising amount of quick gory moments in the movie. The opening scene in the space craft shows a bloodied human face for a split second, with what looked like something hitting a gored-out eye socket as things floated around. We then see a severed hand floating in the foreground as the lone survivor is trying to escape. Later, we see a bloodied dead bear in the zoo and some bloody wounds on George the gorilla, and when the wolf attacks the tactical team, we see what looks like a body severed in half out of focus in the foreground for another character to see in full. We also see split-second flashes of other victims that are too quick to really see details, but enough to get the idea of what happened. Other scenes show a character with blood on their clothing, especially after being shot, a lot of blood splatter onto glass when a character is squashed by debris, and some gory moments with the monsters getting dismembered or impaled on things.
Rampage probably isn’t nearly as sloppily executed as I’m making it sound. In trying to decide how I feel about the film, it’s tough to make a firm assessment. I enjoy a good, silly, fun destruction / monster film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but Rampage just falls short of whatever it is that strikes the right chord with this viewer. The content alone is enough to warrant caution and discernment, but overall, if you don’t mind a stupid, nonsensical yet entertaining time at the movies, Rampage fits the bill.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 4/18/18)
4K UHD / Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Along with the feature film in 4K UHD, the 2D Blu-Ray disc and digital copy of the Rampage are the following Extras:
Rampage in 4K UHD – The 4K version of Rampage, with HDR (High Dynamic Range), is vivid, but I’m learning more and more that 4K transfers seem to vary in quality. I was surprised at how grainy Rampage looked compared to other recent 4K releases (like A Quiet Place or Rampage‘s studio-mate, Tomb Raider). It’s still good, but I would say the standard Blu-Ray release should probably suffice for this title. Seeing the film a second time, the movie played a little better for me, but it still seems to lack a bit — whether it’s the fact the tone felt uneven throughout, I’m not sure, but I do think it all could have been a lot better. (And the constant profanity felt so gratuitous and not necessary, too.)
Not Just a Game Anymore (6:14) – The Rampage game creator talks about making the game, and the filmmakers talk about how they decided to make the game into a movie. Dwayne Johnson also reveals that he was a huge fan of the game back in the day, and desperately wanted to do this film. (1 “d*mn,” 1 “S.O.B.,” 1 “S” word, 2 “a” words)
Deleted Scenes (9:51) – There is a small batch of deleted scenes. In the first one, the strike team (AKA “Killers R Us,” as Brett called them) meet a farmer and end up shooting him (1 “h*ll”). The next scene shows unfinished effects where the sibling villains are flipping out over learning about George’s existence (1 “h*ll”). The next scene is another sequence where Brett is panicking (1 “h*ll”; 1 “g*dd*mn”). There’s then a pair of versions where Davis looks at the survivors after everything dies down (which are both very similar, and I’m not sure why both are included). There’s then a pair of deleted scenes where we find out that, in the Florida keys, a mutated octopus was created. The most interesting part about that is actress Alexandra Daddario (who was also in this director’s film, San Andreas) makes a cameo. I suppose this scene is supposed to set up a sequel, if they would’ve decided on that.
Gag Reel (2:42) is a collection of bits where the actors messed up lines, with a whole lot of bleeped-out language.
Rampage: Actors in Action (10:46) focuses on the stunts and the high volume of action in the film. It also talks about pitting Jeffrey Dean Morgan against The Rock, and putting together the strike team in the film. (1 “h*ll,” 2 “a” words, and some bleeped language)
Trio of Destruction (10:09) is all about the effects team WETA making the film’s monster effects. They also talk about the monsters as mutated forms of their normal versions and how they wanted to go really huge with them. This featurette also covers the designing process for them, the challenge of doing the effects in the daylight, and more.
Attack on Chicago (10:21) – For the attack on Chicago, the filmmakers took a team to the city to film reference footage for set creations and digital recreation. The main building in the movie is 110 stories high and they had to rebuild it and populate the city and the little details all digitally. (3 “S” words, 1 “a” word)
Bringing George to Life (11:51) – The second time around, I really appreciated how amazing the effects for George were — especially since he was entirely created digitally via the motion capture process, which is so impressive. Jason Liles performed as George via mocap. Actor Terry Notary, who worked on the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy coached Jason, and we see some of that here. They also talk about how they tried to create the digital version of George to capture Jason’s performance and personality. (1 “S” word, 1 “S.O.B.”)
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/16/18)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: A girl flirts with Davis, hinting she’d like to go out with him (and possibly do more). Davis’ friend encourages him to do it, but he doesn’t; George the gorilla is shown inserting his index finger from one hand into a circle made by his fingers on the other hand to make an obvious sexual reference.
Vulgarity/Language: George gives the middle finger in two different scenes. Roughly 1 incomplete “mother–“, 24 “S” words (and 1 additional one in an end credits song), 19 “h*ll,” 4 “J-sus,” 1 “J-sus Chr-st,” 4 “g*dd*mn,” 3 “a**h*le,” 8 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “Oh G-d,” 3 “a” words, 3 “S.O.B,” 1 “b*stards,” 4 “d*mn”
Alcohol/Drugs: Davis states, at one point, that he needs a drink.
Blood/Gore: The opening scene in a space craft shows a bloodied human face for a split second, with what looked like something hitting a gored-out eye socket as things floated around; We then see a severed hand floating in the foreground as the lone survivor is trying to escape; We see a bloodied, dead bear (with a pool of blood under its head) in the zoo and some bloody wounds on George the gorilla’s chest; When the wolf attacks a tactical team, many characters are quickly picked off and eaten (with some quick, bloody results). A soldier follows some bloody spots on the ground till we see what looks like a body severed in half out of focus in the foreground for another character to see in full. We also see split-second flashes of other victims that are too quick to really see details, but enough to get the idea of what happened; Davis has blood on his shirt for a long time in the film; A character is shot in the abdomen. We see a bloody spot on their shirt in that area for the rest of the film; Blood splatters onto a glass door when debris crushes a person after they leave a building; George has bloody teeth marks on his body and bloody cuts; A monster has a bloody spot on its chest after it’s impaled by a metal rod; A monster rips another monster’s head off and swallows it; Davis has blood on his chin and face; Kate has slightly bloody abrasions on her face.
Violence: Lots of creature action violence; We see the remnants of a space station ravaged by a mutant mouse; We see a space station explode; An escape pod window breaks, killing the person inside; A gorilla hazes a student by pretending to be violent; Debris crashes to earth, setting off chemical charges that cause animals to mutate; A mutated gorilla kills a bear (not seen); A mutated wolf kills a tactical team in the woods. Later, we see the wolf attacking soldiers again via nightvision; The three monsters attack a city, destroying buildings and eating people; A woman shoots a man in the abdomen; A woman is tossed up into the air and lands into a monster’s mouth and is eaten; Debris falls and flattens a man on the ground; A monster goes nuts inside an airplane, wreaking havoc and causing the airplane to crash; Monsters fight in city streets; A monster bites the head off of another monster; A monster is impaled through the chest with a metal rod; A monster impales another monster through the eye with a metal rod; And lots and lots of other kinds of destruction and mayhem.