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You may have noticed that in recent years, films based on video games have become a genre in themselves and are often holiday blockbusters. Franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider, and Resident Evil are just a few of the plot-driven games that found themselves on the big screen. It came as a surprise to many when arcade classic Rampage was added to this list. Perhaps because the game literally just involved three giant animals destroying buildings. Despite this however, it may be the best films of its kind.
The beefed-up plot begins with an explanation of how the three unwitting animals – a captive gorilla, George, a wolf from Wyoming, and an Everglades alligator – all become infected with a pathogen that turns them into colossal monsters, hell-bent on destroying Chicago. As these mutants wreak havoc across North America, they are pursued by everyone’s favourite dad/daddy, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, as animal-loving ex-soldier, Davis, geneticist, Kate (Naomie Harris), and Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Meanwhile, the corporate villains responsible for the behemoths, the Wyden siblings (Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy) do everything they can to attain the monster DNA so they can use it for their own nefarious needs. The result is a lot of action, destruction, and sweet monster-on-monster fights that does everything it says on the tin.
Despite its outrageousness and clunky exposition, Rampage’s plot is well-paced and interesting. It keeps the audience engaged without relying on copious action sequences and overbearing CGI. It often delves into horror territory, with a chilling opening scene in space, a surprising amount of guts and gore, and body-cam sequences reminiscent of Aliens. Yet, it retains a sense of humour. It has cheeky sign-language interactions between Davis and George, several self-aware quips about Johnson’s physique, and Jake Lacy’s clueless villain, played like a perfect hybrid of Eric and Donald Trump Jr.
The acting is as good you can expect from a film like this. There’s Naomie Harris in her first big film since her Oscar-nominated role in Moonlight, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan clearly taking with him everything he learned from his time as Negan on The Walking Dead. Johnson however, is perfect as usual as he runs around amid the destruction – muscles bulging and eyes twinkling, but still very human too injured and scared. There was not one moment in the film where I did not believe everything he was doing. At 105 minutes long, the film maintains its momentum throughout. Plus, the audience is treated to the rampage it came for in the final act as Chicago is torn to shreds in oddly satisfying fashion.
At this point, many of us are sceptical about giant monster/city destroyer blockbusters. There’s been a long line of disappointments in recent years (i.e. Jurassic World, the Transformers films, Pacific Rim: Uprising). Even Spielberg’s latest sensory overload, Ready Player One, provoked an exasperated sigh from many movie-goers. Rampage is one of the most fun films of its kind to grace screens in recent years. It is indeed an action-packed edge-of-your-seat thrill-ride. However unlike other films in the genre, it doesn’t take itself seriously. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, I highly recommend you check it out (in IMAX if you can). Just make sure you supersize your popcorn meal deal.
PS Keep an eye out for the original Rampage video game somewhere in the film. It’s a nice little surprise.