On Rampage and Its Salute to Toho Films

21 Apr

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Somewhere along the way, the movie adaptation of the video game Rampage forgot its video game roots. The monsters were once human. They were mutated from the craziest of sources and to tell the entire backstory is a movie in itself! I’m okay with this core change. It would have made for an amusing B-Movie horror film back in the 50’s, but these days, the demands are elsewhere.

Audiences want it loud. Production studios want realism. For me, I have too much of a cat’s curiousity. I want to see what kind of story can materialize from many an 80’s arcade game. Not all of them had enough of a narrative to begin with.

No matter what, Dwayne Johnson, can do no wrong. His natural charm and the investment he makes into the roles will usually get me buying a movie ticket for. Even when he was a wrestler, this guy is the only reason I paid attention to the WWE. I can smell what The Rock is cooking, and that’s his natural charm. When he has that pearly white smile, you know you are in for a ride. He makes anything he appears in just that gosh darn fun.

Rampage is more about him appearing in a rehash of ideas from Jurassic World. Like Owen Grady, Primatologist Davis Okoye is very close with a gorilla. They see each other as equals and this bromance kept me interested. I also suspected this work would eventually become Destroy All Monsters. This film begins in space to give the necessary exposition about how genetic manipulation is banned. Nobody likes to play Frankenstein, and the question is who is worse, man or beast, is barely at the heart of this film. This product could have gotten deep with plays on the fears of a superior power taking over the Earth, but instead keeps it simple. This work is popcorn entertainment.

This film is slick enough to add a few Aliens moments and inserts a prerequisite Predator sequence to try to make this work a horror film. It fails; there’s no tension. Instead, this work has the feel of a Toho Kaiju movie. Instead of aliens, we have evil corporations. The mutated ‘gator has a few characteristics of Anguirus and the wolf is capable of flight ala Varan!

The thin plot about how Energyne wants to engineer the next super soldier can only help set up the movie so far, but when the human villains are, I can not even cheer for their eventual demise. This film is a one-off. The arcade game fared better with its sequels than this work.

rampage_jeffrey_dean_morgan_tommy_lee_jones

Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s saves this film from being just another bad adaptation. He’s a FBI agent whose southern drawl made me laugh far more often than I should! As Harvey Russell, he was a holler and a hoot. He could stand up to Okoye and say, “We gotta stick together.” The explicative is edited out. His genius comedic chops is a huge contrast to when I first recognized his talent in The CW’s Supernatural.

Ultimately, the fun part will not manifest until the third act. I wanted more carnage and as feeling disappointed. The level of damage is not San Andreas level, which was director Brad Peyton‘s previous work, and it was limited to a 6×6 block radius at best. As the monsters were drawn to Chicago due to a plot point, I was left wondering the damage left in their wake is a concern. Full on carnage would have been found.

Not every detail is looked at. If I had to choose between which of the two released video game to movie adaptation is far more entertaining, Rampage wins because of its homage to Toho’s vast catalogue of works.

3½ Stars out of 5

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