Reel Shorts | Rampage

by Monica Hayes

Brad Peyton’s entertaining and action packed adaptation of the 1980’s arcade game Rampage hits the big screen with a familiar path of destruction we have seen many times before.
Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) is an ex-Army special op turned primatologist who trains gorillas in the wildlife sanctuary of the Wyoming Zoo. Davis is especially close to George, an albino gorilla whom he saved from poachers as a baby and raised. Together they have an unshakable bond that can only be described as brotherly. This bond is put to the test when a genetic experiment crashes into the wildlife sanctuary and its mysterious green mist infects George giving him increased strength and he has increased in weight and height and unpredictable fits of rage. Davis doesn’t know what happened to his gentle buddy, but he is trying to keep the incident quiet because if it got out, George will put be down.

Meanwhile, Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a discredited genetic engineer, and former geneticist for Energyne, hears about George on the news. She knows exactly what happened to him and comes to the sanctuary to help cure him. She tells Davis that she is the one who engineered the pathogen and she knows how to restore George to his gentle self. Together they embark on a North American quest, leading them to Chicago with an unsuspected ally in Agent Russell (Jeffery Dean Morgan) to get the antidote. However, little do they know that George is not the only species who came into contact with the green mist; a now thirty-foot wolf dubbed Ralf and Lizzy the Crocodile have become infected. They must race to save Chicago before Energyne and sister brother team Clair and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy), who are behind this mess in the first place, can weaponize the creature’s DNA to sell to the highest bidder.

Rampage began its life as a 1980’s arcade game. I have to admit, I spent A LOT of time and quarters in the arcade and this was one of my favorite games. The premise of the game was to control George, Ralph and Lizzy, who used to be humans and destroy as many cities around the world all while avoiding the police and military forces. Looking back, I think the creators were ahead of their time with the mature themes in the game (pre-Grand Thief Auto). The monsters can gain strength by eating people and food but will lose strength by eating a toaster or something like that. Its big screen debut has pretty much the same premise except for a few minor details. Here, the monsters start out as a normal gorilla, wolf and crocodile until they are exposed to the mysterious green mist.

Normally, when we see Dwayne Johnson in an action movie, he’s Special Agent Hobbs, or he is on some type of military recovery team. But in his latest movies, he has taken on more non-characteristic roles such as Spencer in Jumanji and here as Davis. It is nice to see him in roles that go against what we are used to seeing. Naomie Harris’ career has spanned the gambit of action, drama and Sci-fi movies. We are used to seeing her in James Bond movies as Money Penny or as Tia Dalma/Calypso in Pirates of the Caribbean series, and each time, she gives a stunning performance. Last but not least, we cannot forget Jeffery Dean Morgan’s cowboy version of Agent Russell. We all know him as the sarcastic and manipulative Negan in The Walking Dead. While we can still see glimpses of Negan, it’s safe to say, he and his barbwire bat do not fully emerge.

Peyton’s adaptation of Rampage while entertaining, resembled a lot of movies wrapped up into one. It’s like the albino King Kong, Lake Placid and the black wolf from Twilight teamed up to cause havoc across the country sprinkled with a little San Andreas. The story is very easy to follow and the special effects are off the chain. Especially, Lizzy who looked like a cross between two dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and a rhinoceros.

Overall, not a bad movie. It was better than I thought it would be thanks to the special effects and Johnson’s presence.

Grade: B

by Tom Clocker

What do a primatology with a special forces background, a secretive, “cowboy” special agent, and an evil CEO have in common? Well, nothing, except for the fact that they are all characters in New Line Cinemas’ film adaptation of the popular video game Rampage. For those of you unfamiliar, the 1986 Bally Midway arcade game featured several large monsters that the player controlled. The object of the game was to destroy as many buildings, vehicles, and helicopters as possible, all while occasionally snacking on people. The video game was later released on consoles as well.

Rampage, the film, follows Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a primatologist who works for the San Diego Zoo. He oversees, you guessed it, the primates. His primary charge is an albino gorilla named George. Davis rescued George when he was a baby and raised him. Life is good in sunny, southern California until George nearly doubles in size overnight and shows signs of extreme aggression. Even his best bud, Davis, can’t seem to calm him down. Meanwhile, similar fates have befallen a wild wolf and an alligator, both located hundreds of miles away.

As you might expect, the United States government decides to “handle” the situation. They send in a special agent from a secretive organization who thinks of himself as a modern-day cowboy. Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tries to bring George in, and that’s when things get…hairy. After George escapes from custody, he and the other monsters all head to Chicago. Evil CEO Claire Wyden (Malin Ackerman) and her company are behind the whole mess. They created the gene-altering material in order to weaponize animals. Claire tries to lure them all to the company’s headquarters so she can recover her research. And Chicago may just pay the price for Claire’s malevolence.

Rampage is as predictable as night following day. Watching the story unfold is like reading the very first assignment by a student taking “Screenwriting 101” in college. Every common element is included and carefully placed in all the “traditional” locations. Every box is checked. The film is so predictable that many people will be able to tell when the “one-liners” are coming and, possibly, know exactly what that line will be. Even the ending is obnoxiously easy to intuit. There is not a single unique element or style in the 105 minutes.

Director Brad Peyton (San Andreas) took the action-oriented screenplay and tried to turn the classic video game into a “summer popcorn flick”, similar to the Transformers franchise. Unfortunately, the story and amount of action are both severely lacking in Rampage. There wasn’t enough of either to put it in that category. A better direction for this film may have been a straight comedy, like Jumanji, or a really campy action film that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, like Sharknado. At least then the filmmakers would be admitting that the movie is not great, but they just want the audience to have fun.

However, there is some fun to be had. Fans of the video game will experience some inherent fun just from seeing a blast from the past brought to life. Watching the monsters destroy Chicago is pure joy…since it’s not real, of course. It would have been nice if more time was spent on that, and less on the character development and monster creation stories. The one-liners and comedy breaks are all pretty funny and the special effects are pretty good.

Rampage may not be a total waste of your time, but it will almost certainly be a waste of your money at the theater. This film is rated PG-13 and is surprisingly gory at times.

Grade C-