There is a Hollywood action movie adaptation of the video game Rampage, and it is one of the dumbest, most fun movies in theatres right now.
All images: Warner Bros.
Gita Jackson: Tim, we had the incredible treat of watching Rampage starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson last night. Were you expecting to be as entertained as we ended up being?
Tim Rogers: Not exactly! I usually expect to have a good time watching Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, though this time it felt even looser and weirder and stupider than the years have prepared me for.
Gita: This movie is based on the classic video game Rampage, and honestly, I wasn’t expecting a hell of a lot from this adaptation. I like The Rock as much as any other person, though, so I settled in for a hot dog and a drink for what I thought would be an okay flick. Tim, this movie was fucking buck wild. It is gleefully stupid. I loved every second of it, even the 20 minutes in the middle where I took a quick nap. So considerate of this movie to have a boring 20-minute section so I can nap!
Tim: You napped during the most boring part. There were barely any hilarious jokes during your nap. You know, I now wonder why I didn’t expect to love this film. I should have known I was going to love it. There were so many clues scattered throughout my life over the last 10 years.
So, Rampage is an arcade game by Midway. The game came out in 1986. Warner Bros. acquired the rights to all Midway properties in 2009, back when Midway shut down. This was a weird time, because Midway had gone out blazing its past couple years. They knew they needed some kind of a hit to deal with the growing titans (Ubisoft, et al). So they made Stranglehold (2007) with John Woo! They made Wheelman (2009), starring Vin Diesel! They made SpyHunter: Nowhere To Run (2006), starring...Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. All of these things were beautiful and great and I yelled at all my friends to play them and no one listened. And now there’s this movie, which feels like part of that weird universe. That’s the end of my tale.
Gita: Wow that’s so neat! I should check some of those out. I was telling your friend after the movie that Rampage felt like a huge, gory Saturday morning cartoon, but it’s cool that The Rock already has a connection to the game and its developers and their weird expanded universe. Let’s set up the incredibly sparse plot before we move on to why every moment of this movie was incredible:
Rampage, the movie, begins at the climax of another, different movie, which is amazing to me. We begin in space (!) where a woman is being terrorised by a giant, mutated rat that she’s been experimenting on. The evil rich people on the phone tell her she can’t get in the escape pod unless she has the research samples, so she grabs them, but explodes upon re-entry to Earth, the mysterious canisters landing in various parts of America, conveniently. Then we meet The Rock, who is a wildlife preservationist who does not have human friends but is really tight with an albino gorilla named George. Ruh roh, turns out George picks up one of those canisters and starts mutating into an angry giant version of George! The evil rich people—who are just transplanted from like, RoboCop essentially, they are arbitrarily and aggressively evil capitalists—have sent Joe Manganiello and a bunch of contract militiamen to recover one of the other canisters, but it’s been opened by a wolf, who is now a giant murder wolf! The Rock, meanwhile, gets detained by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who is having the TIME OF HIS LIFE playing a weirdo cowboy stereotype. He literally says “ git” at several points in the movie. This is where I fell asleep.
Tim: I love a movie where everything falling out of space lands in America. It makes me more proud to be an American than a lot of stuff does. The evil rich people were amazing. They blew my mind. Every line they spoke was incredible. I was cackling. Everyone in the theatre was cackling. It was the same type of cackle. We were all cackling because we were all enjoying the film in similar weird ways. One of my hobbies is listening to and quoting awful video game voice acting from the PlayStation 2 era. That’s what the evil rich people sounded like. Wow, yeah, this movie is basically a cancelled Xbox 360 game.
I love George
Gita: I think it was when one of the evil rich people said “We did these experiments in space because it’s not like they were for the betterment of mankind” is when I completely signed on for this movie.
Tim: Some script doctor had a GREAT time punching up this movie. It is a direct-to-video film punched up by the Rocky Balboa of up-punchers. What about that cowboy, though!
Gita: Holy shit, every single thing Jeffrey Dean Morgan said made me laugh so hard.
He shows up wearing a big ass belt buckle, with a gun with an ivory handle on his hip, with cowboy boots on, and is using the most absurd southern drawl.
Tim: He was incredible! Everyone laughed at everything he said! I love that everyone laughed. For once I didn’t feel like a weirdo.
Gita: We were saying after the movie that Rampage felt like an old-school '90s blockbuster. It was dumb, it knew it was dumb, and all it wanted to do was entertain the audience. Everyone in the theatre was on board.
Tim: The Rock was good. He was The Rock, and he executed some good instances of PG-13 profanity. I kept staring at his shirt. He obviously has a private shirtsmith living in his house. That shirt fit him perfectly. I couldn’t tell if it was linen or merino. Great shirts, Dwayne.
Gita: Remember when The Rock got shot point blank, but was like, fine?
Tim: That sure put a hole in his shirt! Though yeah, The Rock getting shot led to maybe the funniest joke in the movie. I counted three holes in his shirt at the end of the movie.
Gita: So when The Rock gets shot, it’s because him and his scientist friend, Naomie Harris, have chased the mutated animals (which now includes a crocodile) to Chicago, where the evil corporation is. They’ve lured them there for… reasons? Anyway, they’re trying to get some kind of cure for the evil pathogen so they can save George the gorilla. The evil people show up, and they just fucking shoot The Rock. It was incredible. And then Naomie Harris feeds the evil rich lady to George in a frankly incredible moment in cinema history.
At this point in the movie, the Rock had been shot relatively recently and just like, shook it off.
Tim: The whole last action set-piece was hilarious. It was almost exactly like watching an Xbox 360 game. It was the movie equivalent of Midway’s Wheelman starring Vin Diesel. So The Rock gets George to snap out of his rampage-fury and join the fight against Big Wolf and Weird Godzilla. So you’ve got The Rock with a machine-gun just strutting alongside this 50-foot-tall gorilla and it’s like, they’re just Dudes Bein’ Dudes. I kept thinking about The Rock’s hit box, though. In that last big action freakdown his hit box is like the size of a ping-pong ball.
Gita: Seriously! He’s up against Weird Godzilla, the largest of the three monsters, and so many times I was like “Man, the croc got his leg…. nope…… guess it just clipped right through………”
Tim: It somehow never stopped being hilariously self-awarely stupid even during its action scenes. It’s like, we’ve seen action scenes like this before a million times, and this is a movie based on a game loosely based on a bag of parts of old movies, and just hearing The Rock yell “Get away from MY FRIEND” while shooting a machine gun at Weird Godzilla, where his friend is a 50-foot gorilla, is priceless. All my thoughts about this extremely streamlined simple straightforward action movie are so messy and weird. I love it. How about the drama! The Rock’s character hates humans and loves animals and that leads to like five hilarious dialogues.
Gita: I liked when he said that Naomie Harris was his friend and George the gorilla was like “okay u fucken tho”.
Tim: Man, yeah, seeing The Rock do sign language, first of all, was great. And having all the sign language in the movie build up to one hilarious punchline was excellent. I actually liked the “romance.” It was a very Starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson Romance.
Gita: Seriously tho, this is such a by the numbers action movie but every part of it that makes it good is just…. so good. It’s out of control. They just went for it in every single scene. No one stopped Jeffrey Dean Morgan from doing that absurd accent. No one thought for a single second if the rich people should have any more motivation than “being evil.” A makeup person put a huge scar on Joe Manganiello’s face to denote that he was also evil. It is just Pure Action Movie and it’s not trying to be any deeper than that, and that made me love it. The best part is that because they’re just throwing tropes at the screen, one of the evil dudes can just get straight up crushed to death by a falling building, and it’s played for comedy!
Naomie Harris looks this confused for the entire film.
Tim: That was such a great joke. Wow, every scene has some little touch. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the pet rat! I really liked Naomie Harris! She was the Earnest Scientist Character who was Just Trying To Do The Right Thing. And she’s just like instantly best buds with The Rock.
Gita: They get along great! They both like animals and are concerned about George! That’s as much characterisation as anyone gets in this movie!
Tim: I love when The Rock owns that chump dude in the beginning. That chump’s entire character is “Not As Cool As The Rock.”
Every time you go see a movie starring The Rock, there’s a preview for another movie starring The Rock, and I guess I wanna see Skyscraper now. I guess I like The Rock. I loved that dumb Hercules movie he was in. I forgive him for not replying to my multiple tweets telling him to come to Kotaku to play Rampage the arcade game with me on a stream.
Gita: The Rock should absolutely come to Kotaku and play Rampage though. Tim before we close out, we have to talk about the number one surprise of the film for the two of us. We stuck around to see if there was a post-credits sequence (there wasn’t), and there was a rap song playing over them that we were half listening to. This song had an AMAZING sample.
Tim: I almost cried. That was better than any after-the-credits scene could have been.
Gita: This was the new single from Kid Cudi, called “The Rage” featuring a sample of “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” by the Smashing Pumpkins. The moment I realised I was listening to the dulcet tones of Billy Corgan, my brain fell out of my head.
Tim: The whole time I was like, “oh god this owns,” and then, suddenly, it hit me: there is literally a rat in literally a cage in this movie. If only the song’s lyrics would have been “Despite this ram-page, we still have this rat in this cage.”
Gita: I’m screaming.
Tim: And I think you mean WILLIAM Corgan. He goes by William now.
Gita: Please forgive me William Corgan.
Tim: I just wanna say that ultimately this film made me think, and feel sad about, Midway. This film is exactly the tone of a rebooted Rampage video game that Midway would have definitely absolutely made in like 2012 if enough people had bought Stranglehold. They could have gotten the Psi-Ops team to make it. And it probably would have had The Rock in it. Man, we need another video game with The Rock in it.
Gita: You hear that, Dwayne? Be in another game, man.