Reviewed by: Ryan McLelland

The very first time I saw the trailer for Rampage I thought to myself, “Really? Are they that devoid of ideas where they are making the Rampage video game into a feature film?!?!” nThe game itself was pretty cool upon its release back in 1986. Along with Atari’s Gauntet, Rampage was one of the very first games that you could have more than two players playing at once. This was quite revolutionary. The object of Rampage is quite simple. You pick your monster (George the Gorilla, Lizzie the Lizard, and Ralph the Werewolf) and basically go from city block to city block destroying buildings. It got more fun as you ate residents of the buildings, knocked down Army helicopters, and even got to eat the poor soldiers shooting at you. Each stage was passed when all the buildings on screen were destroyed. After about ten rounds or so things go really boring so you probably just spent your last quarter and moved onto Punch-Out or Arkanoid.

The trailer had Dwayne Johnson as some animal guy who is friends with George the Gorilla. After George sucks in some toxic gas, he becomes like 30 feet tall and starts wrecking havoc. Of course it is up to Dwayne to stop George. The Rock probably yells, “GEORGE!” thirty times during that two minute trailer. Rampage came to theaters and, while I like seeing Dwayne Johnson films, I decided to just skip it. I thought it a wise move.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Rampage turned out to be a very entertaining and well done film. There is an actual plot to all of the nonsense and plot kinda sorta makes sense kinda. I mean it’s not the most amazing story that is going to win the screenwriters some Academy Awards or anything. But the screenwriters do an amazing job having us get to know Dwayne, George, the other characters (good or bad) who inhabit this world, and show us how Dwayne may able to stop George and the other monster creatures that show up. I was completely entertained by this film from start to finish and my only wish is that I did get to see it in theaters.

Johnson plays Davis, a primatologist who works for the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary. He’s pretty much the top dog as Dwayne Johnson usually is and everyone takes their cues from this massive monster who gets along very well with the primates in the sanctuary. Taking a cue from most movies featuring a guy working with animals, Davis doesn’t get along too well with the humans he works with. He’d rather hang out with his buddy George, an albino gorilla who gets along quite well with Davis and communicates with him through sign language.

Up in space, a space station blows up. An escape pod was jettisoned but the pod burns up during reentry. Three boxes are thrown from the pod and land in different places across America. One of the pods lands in the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary and is found by George. A green mist is unleashed when George gets close and he breathes it in. The entire audience immediately says to themselves, “Well, this can’t be good.”

There are immediate changes to George. He starts growing at a very accelerated rate and starts becoming more aggressive. Davis is still able to communicate with George and seems to be the one and only thing that can calm George down. But George keeps growing bigger. Faster. Stronger. He’s scared and he’s aggressive. A cage probably won’t be able to hold him for too long.

Energyne is the company who has been developing the ‘Rampage’ drug up in space (as genetic animal research has been banned on Earth). The CEO of Energyne is Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) who doesn’t really care that her space station blew up. All she wants is at least one of the contatiners that fell to Earth when the pod blew up. She sends a mercenary task force led by Burke (Joe Manganiello) to a remote location to pick up one of the capsels that landed there.

Burke’s force is a bunch of badass mofos well trained by the military. But when they arrive they find that the capsule has been opened. Claire doesn’t care that it has been opened, she just cares about finding the creature who got infected, killing it, and bringing it back to the lab so they can start trying to replicate the Rampage formula. Unfortunately for Burke and his men, a wolf was infected and has becoming this big, massive, hulking wolf creature looking to kill everything and everyone. That includes Burke who is ripped to shreds.

Meanwhile Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a researcher from Energyne, shows up at Wildlife Sanctuary and tries to help Davis makes sense of what is going on with George while trying to help the animal. She says she is able to cure the gorilla though it doesn’t seem that she is just carrying around a syringe that can plunge into George’s arm. Is she who she says she is? Kinda but we learn more about Caldwell’s background and motives as the film goes on.

The main part of the story comes about when George is captured by the military, though Davis and Caldwell are allowed to follow the beast. Wyden will do whatever it takes to get one of the three creatures back (the last pad fell into swamp land and gave birth to our favorite Lizzie the Lizard) so she can replicate the Rampage formula. So Wyden launches into a series of pans that affect the safety of George, Davis, Caldwell, Government Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and basically anyone else who lies in the path of these massive, destructive monsters. The one shining star is Davis who believes that no matter how big or aggressive the gorilla becomes, his friend George is still in there somewhere.

Rampage is chock full of intense action and incredible special effects. You usually only have a few seconds to breathe after an action sequence when you are usually filled in with some necessary exposition. Then? Then Wyden launches another plan of attack and our heroes find themselves up a creek without a paddle. This happens over and over again but each attack is different and therefore always feels fresh and new. The monsters George, Ralph, and Lizzie are all very animated and look great up on the televsion. They really never look like bad CGI creatures. They look like real monsters wrecking havoc all over the United States.

Dwayne Johnson is the big draw here and his charisma, talent, and commitment once again drives this film. The man is a born star and I’m pretty sure he can star in a film about Congress voting on taxes and it would be riveting. Johnson does a great job interacting with the CGI creatures and you really believe he is talking to George when the gorilla is onscreen. It never feels fake and that is due to Johnson’s immense acting talent.

The film does reunite Morgan and Akerman who both starred in the 2009 DC Comics superhero film Watchmen (though, from what I remember, their scenes together were quite limited…if they had any at all). Additionally Manganiello also cameoed in Justice League as villain Deathstroke, so there is quite a bit of Zack Snyder superhero actors cast in Rampage. Throw in the fact that Johnson is still supposed to play villain Black Adam in an upcoming DCU film and you see that Rampage is just chock full of superhero actor goodness.

If you go into Rampage expecting some serious movie you may be disappointed. This is a film based on a videogame where monsters beat up buildings. The fact that they were able to cobble together any sort of actual plot and make a good movie is astonishing. I’ve seen many films over the years based on video games and they are usually subpar to not very good. Rampage may be one of the first truly great video game films. I mean sure – it is about a man running after his mutated monkey while trying to save Chicago – but it at least adheres a bit close to the actual arcade game. It certainly was way, way better than Warner Bros other recent video game film Tomb Raider. That movie was a huge snoozefest while Rampage was pretty much amazing from beginning to end.

At the end of the day this is a film where Dwayne Johnson tries to stop giant Kaiju creatures from destroying Chicago using any and all means possible including sign language with a huge 60 foot gorilla named George. What’s not to love!?!?!?

I have the 4K Ultra HD release of Rampage and, MY GOD, this is truly the way to watch movies at home. The film looks unbelievable and makes watching Rampage in the privacy of your own home just as good (if not better) then watching it on the big screen. The colors are crisp, the picture is gorgeous, and the sound really kicks some major ass. If you are a movie connoisseur and do not have a 4K player and 4K television yet it is probably time to do some investing. 4K is really the only way to watch movies, especially huge special effect films like Rampage.

There is a ton of extras on this disk which includes a gag reel and some deleted scenes. In addition there are several featurettes for viewers to enjoy from the actors talking about the action to the creation of the film from mindless videogame to kickass Hollywood feature.  There’s some good stuff tossed in like talking to team over at Weta Digital and director Brad Peyton talking about the challenges of filming such a CGI heavy film.  I love me some featurettes like this and there was a ton of stuff to enjoy here.

Final verdict?  This Rampage 4K burns on all cylinders and delivers beautifully.  It is truly one of the better popcorn films of the year and one I think I’ll enjoy watching again and again over the upcoming years.


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