The Geek Empress Reviews: Rampage (2018)

I needed a break from working on the game, so today I’m going to talk about a movie that I went to see a couple of weeks ago.

Rampage came out not long ago, but I didn’t want to go see it until it was in the local discount theaters. With coupons, you can get tickets for $1.50 each, so even if the movie is lousy, you don’t feel like you’ve lost too much. It was a good call for this movie.

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Rampage, starring Dwayne ‘No, I’m always going to refer to you as the Rock, regardless of how seriously you try to take yourself as an actor’ Johnson and is based off of the 90s series of arcade games where you play as three giant monsters trying to destroy as many buildings as possible. After seeing the trailers, I had hoped this would be a silly, so-bad-its-good giant monster movie, akin to a high budget Sharknado. The reviews were mixed, but more people liked it than hated it, so I went in hopeful. My bar was pretty low to start with, but I still found myself disappointed.

The plot of the movie, such as it is, is that an eeeeeevil biochemical company has an experiment go wrong on their space station. When one of the surviving scientists tries to escape to earth with the last of the samples of the chemical, called CRISPR, the escape pod gets damaged and explodes. The samples are then blown across North America and get in contact with an alligator in Florida, a wolf in Wyoming, and George, an albino gorilla living at a wildlife refuge in San Diego. George’s caretaker, a scientist/ex special forces agent named Davis who dislikes people (you know that because he turned down a date and constantly says he doesn’t like people) tries to find a way to save George from himself, as he’s now become giant and extremely aggressive, as well as from Homeland Security (seriously) by teaming up with one of the eeeeeevil company’s former scientists, and one of the security agents, Douchey McSouthern Fed (not his real name, but might as well be.)

Meanwhile, the eeeevil CEO and her stress-eating brother figure out a way to get the animals contaminated by their samples back before the government finds out what they did and why. Their brilliant, not-at-all-can-this-backfire plan, after a team of commandos fails, is to lure the monsters to the middle of Chicago via a radio signal that drives the already giant, super pissed off monster animals crazy.

The plot is just loony toons enough to be fun, but it’s undermined by two big problems. For a PG-13 movie, it’s incredibly gory, which wouldn’t be so bad if this were a horror movie, but it’s not. It’s an adventure movie based off of a kid’s series of extremely cartoony games with really whimsical graphics. Not to mention a general, unwritten rule of giant monster movies is that civilian deaths either need to be fast and moved on from quickly, or are supposed to be karmic for the bad guys. A bunch of assholes getting eaten is fine, but showing a dripping pool of blood from a bus full of tourists, with people sobbing in terror that lingers for over a minute, is incredibly distasteful given the genre. The other seriously big issue is that there was way too much 9/11 imagery. The whole point of Rampage was to destroy as many buildings as possible. It’s goofy, stupid and incredibly simple. Not only does the title rampaging only come towards the 3rd act of the movie, its treated like this genuine disaster, as horrific. I do not want to see little kids covered with ash and dust being carried by first responders to their sobbing mothers. I want to see a giant gorilla and giant wolf smashing buildings.

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The effects were really hinky as well, with some of the animation looking more like a PS2 game, especially with all the scenes on the space station at the beginning of the movie. The monsters, while they had cool designs, weren’t shown for anywhere near long enough. And George’s scale was always questionable because of some forced perspective they unintentionally shot.

There were funny moments, some intentional, some not so. The Rock’s Davis has his trademark smugness that played well, and George was fairly well developed with some good jokes done via sign language. Some of the destruction scenes and animal attacks were really funny. The CEO’s brother also chewed the scenery as well as any piece of food in any scene he was in, and some of the acting was so bad-its-good.

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Overall, it suffers from the ongoing issue with Warner Brother movies (I’m looking at you, DCU), and it tries to take itself too damn seriously. The story was too stupid and too full of plot holes, the characters too flat and mostly badly performed to get invested in them, and it was too bleak to be mindless fun. I don’t know if it’s ‘better’ than other video game adaptations, but it’s still not the movie to change the view of the genre.

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