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Rampage (2018)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 7/17/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/5/2018

Of all of the various sub-genres in the world of film, few get as much flack as movies based on video-games. These movies consistently get bad reviews and receive little-to-no respect, mostly from those who know nothing about the gaming world. But, the harsh truth is that most of these movies don't deserve any admiration, as many them aren't very good. As we've discussed in the past, the problems always come down to story. The people behind these movies either to create a story where one did not exist or take a game which has a solid story and alter it. Rampage certainly falls into that former category.

Rampage introduces us to Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a primatologist who works at the San Diego Wildlife Preserve. His favorite animal is George, an albino gorilla, with whom he shares a special bond, as the two like to joke in sign language. One day, a mysterious canister falls from space and lands in George's compound, spraying the animal with a green mist. When Davis arrives at work, he finds that George has grown dramatically and that he's acting very agitated. Meanwhile, another canister lands in Wyoming and affects a wolf, while another crashes in Florida. The objects came from a satellite which was conducting experiments for Energyne. Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), who has been affiliated with Energyne, rush to the zoo to assist, and soon she and Davis find themselves in the custody of federal agents, along with George. Little does anyone know that George and some other animals are going to begin mutating out of control, placing millions of people in danger.

If you aren't familiar with the Rampage video game, I wouldn't be surprised. The game premiered in arcades in 1986 and was very popular. It also made its way to various home consoles and did well. And while the game had quite a following in its day, it's overall lack of depth didn't promise any true longevity. The game's only real novelty when it came out was that three players could play simultaneously. Otherwise, the gameplay was very simplistic. Players took control of one of three characters -- George, the gorilla, Ralph, a werewolf, or Lizzie, a Godzilla-like monster. Each of these monsters could climb buildings, which they would punch and destroy. They could also grab tenants of the buildings to eat and they could fight soldiers and smack helicopters out of the sky. When the monster was defeated, they would revert back to their human form, as each was the product of a mutation.

Because of the lack of any concrete story in the game, the makers of Rampage could take the movie's plot in any direction. As it turns out, that's bad news. In the extra features, the producers admit that they fielded story ideas from several writers before going with Ryan Engle's take on genetics and mutation. So, they threw out the notion of the monsters being people and went in a totally different direction. Which raises the question -- Why did they call this Rampage? Why didn't they just make a new, original movie and called it something else? We see a vintage Rampage video game in the background of a shot and the animals are called something like "Project Rampage" at one point, but otherwise, the movie only barely touches on the game.

Whether or not Rampage ultimately becomes a moot point. The reality is that this isn't a very good movie. This is one of those movies which is very serious, but contains many elements which make it feel like a comedy. You've got to hand it to Dwayne Johnson, no matter what a movie calls for, he commits. But, it's still hard to buy him as an ex-soldier turned primatologist. The back-and-forth between Davis and George is supposed to be endearing, but it comes off as silly. Of course, silly is the order of the day here. As the animals mutate and grow, it should be engaging, if not creepy, but things just get more and more ludicrous as things go along. I don't think that anyone came here expecting a deep movie, but Rampage simply has too much plot. It just keeps introducing characters and ideas which weigh the movie down. This makes the movie feel much longer than its 107-minute running time.

The most surprising thing about Rampage is just how solemn it is at times. I don't think that any filmmaker could have made this a serious movie, but Director Brad Peyton should have just run with it and made it 90-minutes of dumb fun. Instead we get a PG-13 movie in which a lot of people die, and not implied deaths either. The villains are comically evil at times, but evil nonetheless. There are some attempts at levity, but the movie always returns to its grim tone. (There were several moments when I said, "I hope people didn't take kids to see this.") I had expected the movie to be big and loud, and it certainly lived up to that, but it wasn't the fun ride that I'd hoped it would be. In fact, the only part of Rampage which truly impressed me was that it had the guts to kill off a familiar actor pretty quickly. Aside from that, we get a movie which is less entertaining than the primitive game on which it's based.

Rampage should have done more research on crocodiles courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 65 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The picture has a very nice crispness to it and the level of detail is impressive. The scenes in which Johnson interacts with the CG George don't show any distracting faults. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would imagine, the subwoofer gets a constant workout during the monster scenes, but the wall-shaking effects are never distorted. The surround sound effects show nice detail, truly placing us in the middle of the action. The front channel effects show nice separation, and highlight sounds coming from off-screen.

The extra features for Rampage are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "Not Just a Game Anymore" (6 minutes) actually shows a good deal of footage from the game which helps to remind us just how simplistic it was. We also hear the fond memories of the game from those involved in the film. This leads to a discussion of where the film's story came from, which has Screenwriter Ryan Engle saying, "...to do a love letter to my favorite 1980s monster movies that I grew up with. Jaws, Jurassic Park..." Neither of which were released in the 1980s. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 10 minutes. Most of these focus on the villains and two of them are repeated for some reason, but we do a get a deleted coda which contains some interesting cameos. We get a 3-minute GAG REEL. "Rampage: Actors in Action" (11 minutes) takes us on-set to see how the action sequences were planned and executed, including how the cast was prepared for the scenes. "Trio of Destruction" (10 minutes) examines the design of the creatures and shows how the motion-capture and visual effects were integrated into the film. "Attack on Chicago" (10 minutes) shows real footage of Chicago was used as a root for having the monsters destroy the city. "Brining George to Life" (12 minutes) provides an in-depth look at the work which went into the motion-capture performance which brought the gorilla to life.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long