Rampage: It's Exactly What You Expect (Blu-ray)


The Film:

In the past, there have been video game properties that have had great potential when it comes to adapting them for the big screen. Classic games like “Assassin’s Creed,” “Silent Hill,” “Doom,” “Tomb Raider,” and “Warcraft” seem like they could make for entertaining films if done right. Granted, all of these examples turned out terrible, but it’s understandable as to why filmmakers would at least want to give them a try. When it comes to the arcade game “Rampage,” it’s rather inexplicable as to why anyone would think it would have potential as a film. After all, the game merely consists of three giant monsters (a gorilla, a werewolf, and a lizard) destroying buildings and eating various things along the way. However, that didn’t stop director Brad Peyton and several screenwriters from tackling the thin material anyway and delivering their rendition of an all-out monster flick.

In the early 90s, a form of genetic editing is developed known as CRISPR, a process which is so dangerous that it is eventually deemed illegal. However, a company called Energyne has continued to research it on a space station, which eventually leads to disaster when the station is destroyed, raining canisters of the pathogen they’ve developed down on several spots across the US. One of these spots happens to be in a wildlife sanctuary where an albino gorilla by the name of George lives. The pathogen quickly begins to affect him, causing him to grow and become more violent to the point where even his best friend and trainer, Davis (Dwayne Johnson), can’t control him.

Davis is eventually contacted by Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a geneticist who helped develop the pathogen and wants to help cure George. However, when things get out of hand, they find themselves captured by a team of agents under the command of Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who puts George and his friends on an airplane. Meanwhile, Davis and Kate are informed that the same mutations have happened to a wolf (and, later on, to a lizard). After George’s inevitable escape, they find themselves having to go up against the leaders of Energyne who are behind the entire mess, but with all three creatures converging on the company’s HQ in Chicago, the situation becomes outright catastrophic as they try to stop the monsters’ rampage across the city.

It is indeed rather perplexing as to why anyone thought that such a game could or should be a full-blown motion picture, but you have to give the four screenwriters the smallest amount of credit, for they try their hardest to give this disaster flick a partially-logical and entertaining storyline, at least as far as tying together monsters destroying a city, speaking characters, and some kind of stakes. That being said, it turns out pretty much as you’d expect, i.e. the film is little more than an exercise in visual effects as we watch the creatures go on their endless rampage, smashing and destroying everything they can as they try to reach their goal.

On those terms, it’s partially entertaining as a mindless popcorn flick, but as it goes on, it inevitably becomes rather monotonous, especially during the over-extended climax. That’s not to take away from the incredible VFX work that you get to see throughout, you’ll just wish it was in service to a better narrative, one that’s actually worthy of all of the hard work that went into creating the creatures and all of their destruction. Their homage to King Kong and Godzilla is clear, but it merely makes you wish that they had taken a better look at those classics when it came to putting together a compelling story for these monsters to inhabit.

As far as the human characters go, you have to hand it to Dwayne Johnson, who remains as charismatic as ever as he runs around trying to stop his giant gorilla friend. He’s quite a likeable actor, though it’s unfortunate to see him stuck with this same kind of bland action flick over and over again. His enthusiasm is actually a big reason as to why the film gets as far as it does and is not the all-out disaster that it could have been, for he does provide a number of amusing moments throughout to lighten the drudgery of the multiple action sequences. In short, without him, the film probably would have been a total bore.

“Rampage” is basically a movie where you know what you’re going to get from the title (and subsequent video game affiliation). Again, kudos to the screenwriters for even attempting to put together a story based on a rather simple and repetitive game, but everyone involved should have had an inkling that this would likely turn out exactly like it did: an action-filled mess that becomes quite tedious by the time it reaches the end of its relatively short 100-minute runtime. If any good is to come of this, hopefully it’ll prevent anyone from attempting to make a “Pac-Man,” “Joust,” or “Asteroids” movie (or the like) in the future.

Video/Audio:

“Rampage” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.4:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The picture is perfectly sharp and clear throughout the entire film, which does a fine job of highlighting the film’s extensive visual effects work. The Dolby Atmos-True HD Audio is equally impressive, giving you all of the dialogue, score, and the multitude of sound effects (explosions, gunfire, animal noises, etc.) in outstanding quality. Overall, there’s certainly nothing lacking in the film’s treatment, leaving you with a great experience in both departments.

Special Features:

Not Just a Game Anymore (6 Minutes): A general behind the scenes featurette that discusses the game and the beginning of the project.

Rampage: Actors in Action (11 Minutes): A featurette that explores some of the film’s big action sequences through behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.

Trio of Destruction (10 Minutes): A featurette that examines the film’s trio of monsters.

Attack on Chicago (10 Minutes): A featurette that takes a look at the film’s epic climax.

Bringing George to Life (12 Minutes): A look behind the scenes at how actor Jason Liles became George.

Deleted Scenes (10 Minutes): A collection of seven deleted/alternate sequences that were easily left out of the final film.

Gag Reel (3 Minutes): A mildly-amusing collection of outtakes.

Conclusion:

Even with the always-charismatic Dwayne Johnson in the lead, “Rampage” can’t help but be an action-filled mess that suffers from a rather silly plot and a tedious, overblown climax. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone given the property that the film is based on, but that only makes the question of why anyone would try to adapt such a game for the big screen even more poignant. When it comes right to it, you get exactly what you expect, which unfortunately isn’t much.

Score: 2.5/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

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