Rampage Is A Deadly & Dull Creature Feature

by Ben Martin

Movies and video games are both immensely engaging forms of entertainment. Perhaps this is why the two mediums have influenced one another over the past couple of decades. Video games have become progressively more cinematic. On the flip side of the coin, though, many would argue that movies seem to be getting more and more like video games every year. Still, one would think adapting a video game to film would be a somewhat natural process. Alas, it’s become clear at this point that isn’t the case. Despite being a young sub-genre in the scheme of things, after getting things off to a rocky start with Super Mario Bros.(1993), video game adaptations have been a mixed bag at best. The latest title being thrown into the said mix is Rampage.

This flick is based on the 1986 multiplayer arcade game. Produced by Midway Games, the game of the same name follows characters who were formerly human. However, after coming into coming into contact with a mutagen, those humans become one of three giant, rampaging animals. Players can choose to play as follows. There’s Ralph, an enormous werewolf; George, an albino gorilla as big as Kong; and Lizzy, a long and strong crossbreed crocodile/reptile of sorts. As one of these characters, the player rampages through the states, destroying one city after another. Of course, there’s interference from the military as they attempt to stop the destruction. Rampage proved to be a very successful game in the arcade format. One which, based on my hazy memories of playing it, was cartoonish in style and fun. Therefore, the game soon made its way to console and computer systems as well. The video game has also spawned five console-based sequels since its inception.

Well, the games have enough of a following to prompt Hollywood to take this story from page to screen. Designed as another star-vehicle for Dwayne “The Rock Johnson (of the upcoming Skyscraper) Rampage’s original script stayed closer to the game on which it’s based. In other words, Johnson’s character would become George and have to fight the other creatures as well as the military. On top of that, the rest of film’s protagonists would have to find a solution to revert George to Johnson. Alas, that more game-accurate and exciting take on the story never made it to the screen.
Instead, the film takes a much more traditional approach. The movie follows David Okoye (Johnson), a primatologist (and in a seemingly odd turn, zoo manager.) David’s professional pride and joy, but more importantly, close friend, is named George (Jason Liles). Who just so happens to be a giant, hyper-intelligent, albino gorilla. All is well until George stumbles upon a mutagen that fell from space. After that, George grows to a monstrous size and is enraged. Soon, George and two other creatures (Lizzy and Ralph) tear through various cities. In a race against time, David, Dr. Cate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and federal agent, Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) find themselves in a race against time and the military. Not only must our heroes save George; they must protect humanity!
You know, movies and video games have another thing in common. If something you watch or play is great, you’ll remember it forever. The same goes if the title’s bad, oddly enough. However, if a movie or a game is mediocre, you likely forget it in the time it took you to consume it, if not less. I think you get where I’m going here. Rampage is smack dab in the margin of mediocrity, hanging on the lower end. The movie is entertaining enough for the first hour or so. The creatures are fun to look at the cast in fun to watch. “The Rock” and Jeffrey Dean Morgan light up the screen with charisma. Furthermore, Jason Liles (Death Note) delivers an engaging motion-capture performance as George.

Despite the competently crafted destruction harnessed by director Brad Peyton, re-teaming with Johnson after San Andres (2015), Rampage‘s ongoing destruction losses its appeal after the first hour. Thus, the remainder of the picture becomes a bit of slog. Not that pacing is a new issue for destructive creatures. Personally, I find that most if not of this sub-genre suffers from pacing problems. Rampage does have a more significant issue unique to it, though. That being, that film takes itself far too seriously.
I know it’s hard not to do when depicting mass destruction in America; but Rampage draws very heavily on 9/11 imagery, consciously or otherwise. Thus, the flick chooses not to have much fun; instead of taking a more earnest approach to its subject matter. Why?! Rampage is a movie about massive creatures rampaging through major metropolitan areas! So why an action-driven creature feature aimed at families isn’t more silly and light-hearted is beyond me. For example, the creature design in the video game on which this movie is cartoonish. Personally, I think following suit for this movie would’ve been helpful to maintain a lighter tone. But oh well, self-seriousness it is, and that’s undoubtedly a detriment for Rampage.

In closing, Rampage is just decent and nothing more; if you’re still inclined to watch it after reading this review, feel free. However, I’d strongly recommend waiting for home video. Seeing as the film was released only a couple of weeks before Avengers: Infinity War, it will no doubt be available for home viewing soon enough. Here’s hoping that Dwayne Johnson upcoming roles in The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) will be part of much more inspired screenplays.


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