This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Director: Brad Peyton
Behold! We are officially in the era of giant monster movies. From PACIFIC RIM to GODZILLA, and now RAMPAGE, audiences have come out in droves to see massive destruction and chaos at the hands of fictional creatures. But why? Why now? Why did Warner Bros think now is the time to release a live action adaptation of the arcade classic? The answer is simple: The Rock. His smile, his charm, and charisma ooze off the screen in every shot, making what would normally be unwatchable, kinda entertaining. RAMPAGE is that movie that you turn on in the background and tune into when the action starts rolling. It knows exactly what it is and at times succeeds in something most video game adaptations fail at: not sucking. RAMPAGE had moments that took me back to the glory days of B-Movies. In short, Rampage is the ANACONDA of a new generation.
Anyone else notice that The Rock has worn the same shirt in his past five films?
The plot is hilarious. We are introduced early on to The Rock’s character (insert bland name here) who is not only a zoologist, but also a special forces badass who can literally do anything. One moment he’s bonding with a gorilla, next he’s mowing down a giant wolf with a grenade launcher. Basically, a canister containing a mutation gas infects a gorilla, wolf, and alligator, leading them to wreak havoc around the world. Now it’s up to The Rock and his group of friends to save his friend George, a gorilla The Rock’s befriended, and bring those responsible to justice. Unlike most game adaptations, it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. If you have played the original RAMPAGE video games, you would know the plot is not the focus. Hopping around from building to building, eating people, and destroying the city is the name of the game, and luckily, the film doesn’t forget that. Each monster’s introduction has a hint of horror and suspense, but maintains a sense of light excitement. This balance of tone is hard to achieve, yet director Brad Peyton does it effortlessly. In fact, this film has no right to be as good as it is, due in large part to a surprisingly stellar acting outing. The Rock’s charisma makes his character likable and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is doing his best Negan impression, but the true highlight is the chemistry between the two. These two need to do more movies together, because somehow their scenes rival the 20-minute monstergasm ending. Unfortunately, the roles themselves are admittedly poorly developed, and both Morgan and Naomie Harris’ characters have little-to-nothing to do in the final act. It’s a shame to see some of the talent RAMPAGE amassed not be utilized, but hey, I’m sure they got a good paycheck.
Peyton obviously has a hard-on for destruction given his prior film was the equally slack-jawed SAN ANDREAS. Having learned how to cover the screen with death and massive city chaos, Peyton competently delivers a monster movie that solidifies itself as so-dumb-it’s-good. What’s more, the film manages to establish an emotional core with the relationship between George and The Rock. At times George feels more lifelike and human than nearly every other character in this film. He has humanity in his eyes and you genuinely fear for him when the other creatures appear. But speaking of the other creatures, it must be said that the villains are some of the worst I have ever seen. No, not the giant wolf or the bootleg Godzilla. I’m talking about the human characters that for some asinine, convoluted reason want massive destruction so that they can make money rebuilding the city. It’s ridiculous in a movie that is built on being ridiculous. What makes it even more absurd is the fact that RAMPAGE exists in this world. In various scenes you see the old arcade game, and in not one, but two, instances the world names the characters after the RAMPAGE characters. It’s one of those fan service moments that falls completely flat and reminds you that you’re watching something based on an arcade game. More thought went into making this movie’s logic work than the game it’s based on.
Me in the morning
But once again, and I can’t express this enough, if you leave your brain at the door there’s lots of stupid fun to be had. The action sequences are excellent, with a nice mix of the absurd and the occasionally terrifying. Seeing a giant wolf leap out of a building, spread his wings (yes, really), and attack a giant gorilla is insanely entertaining. The monsters look spectacular and their movements showcase the level of detail motion capture can achieve. On a purely visual standpoint, this is one of the most impressive of the year.
I am trying to process that RAMPAGE is actually good, maybe even great, yet still has so much wrong with it. The plot is absurd, but that’s the point. The characters are half-baked, but it’s a giant monster movie, so of course they are. A giant rat kills people in the first opening minutes, but it’s a treat watching it happen. RAMPAGE did the impossible: it delivered the first great game adaption. It’s fun, overblown, and gives you exactly what you want. It’s not perfect, and you can literally tear the plot apart, but then you would miss the point. This is a big budget B-Movie, and with more coming this year, including THE MEG, the era of giant monster movies is only going to get more absurd.