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Rampage is the Video Game Movie We Have Dreamed Of

What is this? A good video game movie? Starring Dwayne Johnson? About a giant mutated gorilla, wolf, and crocodile fighting each other and trashing Chicago? Hell yeah! Rampage is probably the best video game adaptation made since Silent Hill. It understands what it is playing with, and decides to just have a blast with it. The story is simple, since most audiences probably came to see the monster brawls. It is a fun, silly movie, and it’s completely awesome.

Based on the 1980s arcade game, Rampage doesn’t have much of a plot to work with, so it makes up its own. And, yes, some critics are trashing it for just how ludicrous it is. But what did you expect? It does have a rather blunt anti-poaching message via the Rock’s character, but is meant to be more of a disaster B-movie. Heck, giant monster movies are basically disaster flicks with an animal face slapped on the force of nature. Yes, the film is dub and silly, but that’s the idea, and the filmmakers know it. They aren’t aiming for Oscars here, more like entertainment. Why is it that we’re not allowed to have fun anymore? Too busy trying to “sabotage” Rotten Tomatoes, and launching petitions to change films to our own specific demands.

Oh, and as for Uwe Boll threatening to sue Warner Bros. for “stealing” the title of one of his film. Just shut up. How egotistical and lamebrained do you have to be to threaten a lawsuit against a company making a video game movie? He must have forgotten he has made numerous, terrible game adaptations of his own.

In the game, the giant animals were, in fact, humans exposed to radiation and mutated by an evil laboratory. In the film, it’s slightly more complicated. An evil corporation, Energyne, makes a gene-weaponising pathogen on a space station. As part of “Project Rampage”. Yes, really. When a mutated rat (a nod to an additional character in the NES version) escapes and causes havoc, the station explodes, and three surviving samples of the pathogen land on Earth. They infect a wolf Ralph, a crocodile Lizzie, and a rare albino gorilla named George, turning them into hyper-aggressive beasts giants.

The Energyne’s executives, siblings Claire Wynden (Malin Åkerman) and her wimpy brother Brett (Jake Lacy) plot to prove their research works. How? In the amazingly dumb decision to set off a homing signal atop their skyscraper, that will lure the animals to Chicago to destroy the beacon. Claire is a moustache away from being a cartoon villain, while Brett is a slug in human skin – trying to wiggle his way out of responsibility. They decide to blame their actions on Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), previously sacked from the company, after she planned using the genetic research to cure her terminally ill brother. She then spent a year in prison, and her brother died during her incarceration. Yeah, Claire is a bit of a cow. Nevertheless, her deliciously evil ways are great and her karmic comeuppance is delightful.

Dwayne Johnson plays primatologist Davis Okoye, a former special forces soldier turned poacher hunter. He runs a zoo, and is George’s friend and keeper. However, he isn’t a people person, preferring animals to humans. His distrust towards humans stems from his time in war and seeing animal cruelty. He adopted the orphaned George as an infant, and communicates with him through sign language. Johnson’s character guides the story on his mission to protect his gorilla buddy, and prove he is not just a rampaging brute to the military. He teams up with Caldwell, and snarky government Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to aid George, as he, Ralph, and Lizzie, march upon Chicago.

Johnson also understands the kind of film he is in, and carries most of it with his natural charm. God, I love this guy. His seemingly gentle, yet badass, nature, makes his relationship with George feel real. George is mo-capped by Jason Lines, so the ape’s characterization is similar to that of Caesar or King Kong. Ralph proves to be a vicious predator, annihilating an entire team of special ops sent by Claire to capture him. And Lizzie’s entrance into the third act is certainly memorable. I like that the animals also are physically memorable, and Ralph left me surprised more than once.

As you might expect, the third act takes full advantage of the source material, and it is great fun. The monsters just smash up buildings, swat helicopters, crush tanks, step on humans, occasionally eat them too. The film does obviously have its flaws. Characters aren’t too deep or near stereotypes, the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, and it is mostly carried by Johnson, and the monsters. But, the sheer sense of fun just makes Rampage a thrill to sit through. Yeah, it’s nothing special, but compared to other video game films, it is definitely one of, if not the best we have received so far.

Have you seen Rampage? What were your thoughts on it? A good video game movie, or just another bad one? Leave your thoughts in a comment below, or on our Twitter feed.

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Mark Russell

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