“Rampage” Fits the Standard for the Cliché Monster Movie

April 21, 2018

How does a movie get made from a video game with no point? Create a movie full of random acts of violence with a wolf monster, a mad monster lizard, and angry gorilla as they charge through Chicago, and ask Duane Johnson to join the party.

Rampage is based on an arcade game that came out in 1986, The goal of the game was to simply see how much the monsters – a gorilla, a wolf, and a lizard – could destroy buildings to get the highest score. The original games did not have a real plot, so screenwriter Ryan Engle (Commuter, Non-Stop) could write any story he wanted.

“Rampage” is a basic “something goes wrong in a science lab” plot served with a side of dry humor that Johnson has become known for. The movie revolves around the main protagonist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) and his gorilla friend George (Jason Liles). When a genetic chemical leak infects a rat in space, the astronauts in the space lab are killed except one. She grabs three vials of the remaining chemical in her escape, but then is killed on the trip back to Earth. The three vials break on impact and three different animals are infected – George the gorilla, a wild wolf, and an alligator.

Okoye is a primatologist at an animal reserve and has been friends with George for years when the gorilla suddenly gets infected. Alerted by the news, Okoye pairs up with geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) to create a cure to save both George and the city of Chicago from the three rampaging monsters.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Dwayne Johnson in Rampage

The plot feels rushed in places and has some unexpected gory parts. For example, in one scene the wolf rips apart a group of military men and blood, bodies, and torn limbs fly across the screen. Other than that, buildings and vehicles are what get torn to bits.

Despite a hurried plot full of holes, this is a movie that is work because of it is fun. It is as if the writer acknowledges that the plot does not truly exist. The goal of Rampage is to be an action-packed monster movie saturated with a set dose of humor that is almost formula and director Brad Peyton delivers.

The characters are what makes the movie work. They have an endearing quality that makes the exaggerated stereotypes still likable. Okoye is a strong and independent man that hates people but loves animals. His relationship with George is tight-knit and provides a lot of the comedy in the script. George shows a friendly and loyal behavior deep affection for Okoye, along with a twisted sense of humor. It’s a running gag through the film that is not overused, which movie goers will appreciate.

Perhaps the most likable characters are the villains, Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy). They are siblings who run the corrupt organization of Energyne, the company responsible for the mutations. It was their lab in space running the experiments to use a dangerous pathogen to create a biological weapon. These two are hilarious because they are irredeemable – and they are happy about it.

Claire is the evil mastermind who gets what she wants, no matter who lives or dies. Her brother Brett is definitely her subordinate as he is in it for the money, but overall is a cowardly man. They are reminiscent of James Bond villains, cliché and dastardly.

Peyton does try to make an attempt at an emotional connection. It gets lost and somewhat glossed over in the events of killer monster action. The only connection apparent was with Okoye and George. Many of the characters in the film are not “deep” so there is nothing really to divulge into. This can be both a set-back and a charm. This film is not winning an Oscar by any means for its script, but the humor in the dialogue makes up for the shallow character development.

The real stars of the movie are the rampaging monsters. Their design and appearances are different from their videogame counterparts on a large scale, but the change fits the movie nicely. Where the games had the overly cartoony and exaggerated angry monster faces, the film took on a more realistic approach with more animalistic features. There is a lot of detail with how the animals move, breathe, and interact with the environment.

warner bros pictures rampage
Naomie Harris and Dwayne Johnson in Rampage

George was the star of the show for obvious reasons, being the partner to Davis, but the other monsters still have a presence on screen. Accompanying as a minor side plot, the infected wolf (dubbed as Ralph in the games and hinted at in the film) had a grand introduction. Reminiscent of dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movies, a group of soldiers are stuck in a forest and notice the wolf stalking between the trees, barely in sight. It’s when it dashes in starts chomping, they know their doom is inevitable. In this scene, cinematographer Jaron Presant shines as the classic ‘not-fully-revealed’ monster destroys the troop of men.

There are plenty of great action sequences, both viciously and beautifully. Since the plot calls upon the genetic chemical altering animals with traits exhibited on other species, the wolf and alligator have different mutations. George lacks this, besides his size, for unknown reasons other than he is the protagonist. The alligator shows up towards the end of the movie. The largest and most heavily detailed, it crawls out of the water to show its plethora of terrifying teeth and spikes. It was obvious the visual effect team had fun with the design because they clashed together large tusks, dinosaur-like teeth, combined with its wing-like gills, ending with a modified tail.

“Rampage” a mix of a simple storyline, crazy characters, and awesome action-sequences. The comedy provided great content which helped hold us out for the grand monster fights. It is important to note that it does need the PG-13 rating. As a videogame film with no plot to go on, it is fun to watch and made the comedy and characters shine.

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