At the very least, video games seem to be evolving to where they’re no longer abysmal and are gradually edging toward entertaining. “Tomb Raider” was a blast, and “Rampage” is a fun ninety minute diversion. Based on the pretty plotless classic video game of the same name, Brad Peyton’s movie injects science fiction, action, giant monster movie madness, and yes, even features the game’s iconic monsters rampaging through civilization, bringing down buildings left and right. It’s bits and pieces of “Mighty Joe Young,” “King Kong,” and “Jurassic Park” that tries to deliver on many levels.
After a space bound scientific experiment goes haywire, a piece of a contaminated device crash lands on Earth infecting three wild animals. Dwayne Johnson is David Okoye, an animal lover and primatologist whose formed a bond with a rare albino silverback gorilla named George whose stubbornness makes him hard to tame. But when George is affected by the shrapnel, he begins to rapidly increase in size and begins to experience uncontrollable rage induced fits that make him more and more a danger to everyone around him. With two rogue scientists seeking to murder the three infected animals, and David hoping to save George from being euthanized, he and geneticist Kate (Naomie Harris) look for a way to engineer an antidote, all the while trying to save the world from the rampaging trio of wild animals.
“Rampage” is by no means a masterpiece, or even a great movie, as it embraces its B movie monster roots from the get go. The video game was such a series of repetitive scenes involving monsters knocking down buildings, and the screenwriters do a solid job of giving the monsters rhyme and reason, as well as streamlining their designs for cinematic effect. I especially enjoyed the vicious wolf Ralph, as well as George, the lovable anti-hero thrust in to a situation beyond his comprehension. Johnson as always is charismatic and charming, and is aided by a great supporting cast including Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Joe Manganello in a role reminiscent of Gary Busey in “Predator 2.”
Peyton’s film wears its heart on its sleeve, feeling a lot like a silly Saturday morning cartoon, with big monsters, a buff hero, cool army guys, and two sniveling mustache twirling bad guys in the form of Claire and Brett, as played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy. They’re so cartoonishly evil they almost feel like rejected “Captain Planet” villains. “Rampage” digs a bit deeper in to the more important aspects of the narrative, exploring the back story of our albino hero George, and he’s a fun force of nature with excellent CGI that works well off of Johnson. Warner seeks out to build a goofy giant monster brawler and by god with “Rampage” what you see is what you get. It’s not a stellar bit cinema by any means, but I imagine it’ll allow for some fun late night screenings on basic cable in the next few years. Hell, it’s at least better than “Fallen Kingdom.”
On the new release, there’s “Not a Game Anymore,” a six minute look at how the legendary Midway video game inspired the monster/disaster movie, the legacy of the video game, and how all the cast, including Dwayne Johnson are big fans of the original title. There’s a two minute gag reel, and an HD reel of seven deleted scenes. “Rampage: Actors in Action” is a ten minute behind the scenes segment with looks at how Johnson, Joe Manganiello and the rest of the cast prepared for the demanding stunt work and set pieces, and how director Brad Peyton envisioned the stunts and filmed them over and over.
“Trio of Destruction” is a ten minute look at the design of the monsters with the artists at Weta Digital, as they bring the beasts to life for the film. “Attack on Chicago” is a ten minutes look at the carnage wrought on Chicago, the challenges of filming in the city on location, and the digital destruction that ensues. Finally there’s “Bringing George to Life” a twelve minute look at the creation of George with movement coordinator Terry Notary, and capture actor Jason Liles, who mastered behaving, moving and becoming “George.”