Rampage is laughably dumb, but at least there’s plenty of rampaging

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The original 1986 arcade game Rampage had a simple and satisfying premise: choose a monster to play, and then use it to destroy everything in sight. Soldiers with firearms, grenades and helicopters would eventually end up with the avatars of the players, but in the meantime, it was simple and fun. Like most of the games of the 80s, Rampage came with an extremely minimal background story: the three playable monsters used to be human, but each one had been mutated by something different. Apart from that, through decades of small reboots and ports from one system to another, Rampage remained quite basic, and focused mainly on the kaiju fantasy of leveling a city in the most complete and efficient way possible.
That lack of background gives the Rampage adaptation on the big screen of Warner Bros. ample space to breathe. Unlike video game adaptations like the Tomb Raider or Assassin's Creed series, which have to contend with years of increased myths and complicated character building, Rampage was always going to be on safe ground, as long as it featured a giant ape, lizard , and wolves hitting some buildings to dust. The screenwriters (Carlton Cuse of Lost and The Strain, Ryan J. Condal of Hercules and Ryan Engle of Non-Stop) seem to have approached the project with an attitude of "keep it simple, stupid": they reinforce the narration with some buzzwords. a science without sense, and try to inject a little heart and humor into the mix. But above all, monsters increase and send them into a frenzy of senseless destruction of CGI.

Dwayne Johnson, the main protagonist of Hollywood for showing a winning smile or slapping a worried frown in a ridiculous action setting, plays Davis Okoye, the primatologist of a San Diego wildlife sanctuary. Among other things, the habitat hosts orphaned apes by poachers. And one of those orphans, an albino gorilla named George, has a special bond with Davis, who rescued him in nature. George knows sign language and has a naughty sense of humor, and Davis's conversations with him have a rough and familiar dynamic. Davis treats George as something between a child and a co-worker who is in a unique position to help other gorillas acclimate to their new shelter home. But George is also the exact type of shoulder control partner and mocking emotion whose true affection for Davis will not stop him from drawing magic cocks on Davis' face if the human falls asleep in the gorilla enclosure.
Meanwhile, in an unlikely billion-dollar secret space station, a gene-splicing experiment fails for the hilariously unethical Energyne corporation, and a delirious rat, the size of a car, leaves the company's space lab. The rain produces three samples of an experimental mutagen that falls through the atmosphere and lands on Earth, where a wolf, a crocodile and George are infected. As everyone begins to grow and become increasingly savage and dangerous, the Department of Homeland Security intervenes to protect Davis and former Energyne employee, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris of Moonlight). Since the monsters are crazed and seemingly indestructible, a series of escalating conflicts ensue, with Davis desperately trying to calm George down or get a cure from Energyne before the monkey dies.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Rampage has a very informal and affable sense of humor, based mainly on jokes and some youthful antics. The beginnings get a weird amount of miles of humiliation from Davis's incompetent and cowardly pupil, Connor (played by Jack Quaid, recently seen as one of the Redsweet imbeciles in Logan Lucky by Steven Soderbergh). But the funniest things about Rampage are his overconfidence in the buzzwords of science and his villains who spin whiskers. The mutagen is explained as an instant DNA splice compatible with CRISPR, but the story changes constantly, depending on the moment: apparently also involves growth hormones, recombinant DNA that gives mutated animals several superpowers and some type of vulnerability programmed to a virus . beacon of reference Everything is ridiculous, but above all because the characters continue explaining it with the seriousness of the documentalists who present the latest advances in genetic studies.
And the villains who commissioned the project are so widely drawn that they would not be out of place in a Saturday morning caricature of the original Rampage era. Claire and Brett Wyden, the owner brothers of Energyne (played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) devised the mutagenic plan to sell armed DNA, and their complete billion-dollar business plan literally goes beyond "making and selling monsters " "Brett, another dummy who feels like Connor's lost cousin, explains out loud to his coolest and most competent sister at the beginning of the movie:" There's a reason we were doing these experiments in space, "he yells when mutagen escapes from the laboratory, "and it was not precisely to improve humanity!" The dialogue is terrible, and Lacy interprets Brett with such a jolt, it seems that periodically someone is testing him.Akerman, meanwhile, is a book of the era of the business woman of the 80s: she lacks the shoulder pads and the fluffy hairstyle, but she has the frozen reserve and the bottomless greed.

Photo by Frank Masi / Warner Bros.

But there is a strange retroactive charm in the simplicity and idiocy of these villains. Claire's master plan involves the use of an orientation beacon that will lure the monsters to Chicago, where she intends them to go crazy and be destroyed by the military, after which Energyne can harvest her DNA. This whole plan is a big question: how exactly do you expect your company to survive the process of inviting monsters to flatten their flagship building? How do you expect to get the corpses out of the government monsters without all the other evil scientists on the planet taking samples of the wreckage from the plane? And how exactly are their mutants able to hear a signal from thousands of miles away, and locate their location with absolute precision? None of that matters. Where many more serious-minded modern films would try to build a relevant message in this plot about the dangers of corporate power without control, lax regulations or genetic experiments, Rampage consciously seems to make the antagonists as strident and unrealistic as possible, for avoid any unfortunate association with reality. They do not exist to present reflective concerns about society. They are here to introduce monsters into a building-rich environment, and let the wild uproar begin.
It is clear that the filmmakers behind Rampage learned from the complaints about the crushing climaxes of the city of Man of Steel and other contemporary superhero films, where the focus was more on the emotion of the destruction than on the plight of the villains. . They make sure to eliminate all victims from the path, and leave aside the healing mechanics of the original game, where monsters can tear open buildings, snatch suffering victims and eat them to improve their health. There are survivors in Chicago whenever pathos is needed, but the movie pretty much comes with a final credit slogan that says "No innocent bystander was harmed in this story." Cuse and director Brad Peyton may also have learned from the last movie they made with Dwayne Johnson: San Andreas, who was as stupid and as hungry for destruction as Rampage, but was much less funny and quiet about it.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

In San Andreas, Johnson's character is indifferent to the suffering of other people as he tries to save his family, and his relentless severity does not do much to take advantage of Johnson's charm or his ability to make a silly scene look like a large lark. of group. Rampage, on the other hand, places a heavy narrative burden on Davis's fears for George, and his determination to save the unfortunate animal from both the scientific and the military experiment. Johnson's talent for worrying about wrinkled eyebrows and impeccably emotional sincerity gets fit in Rampage, but at least Davis's relationship with George is relatable and enjoyable. The film never seems genuinely concerned about any of its other human relationships, nor about the threats posed by the mutated monsters. But it's genuine about George's innocence, and his right to survive whatever has been done to him. That just pushes the movie in a more soulful direction.
And what about all that destruction of the action movie, the open and obvious reason why the movie exists? For audiences that have just emerged from the similar appeasement of the city at Pacific Rim Uprising, it will not look much different to a large extent. The area in front of the river in the center of the city of Chicago, also reduced to ashes in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, is a picturesque backdrop for a large-scale confrontation between the military and a group of CGI monsters. The forces of action of Rampage are based mainly on the mobility of the giant creatures, which skip the skyscrapers, dive on one side of a building in a glass explosion and leave the other side, and at a point (in a clear tribute to the original video game), mounts a skyscraper falling to the ground. The action is quite familiar, but at least it is staged clearly and clearly.

Photo: Warner Bros.

And while Ralph, the emaciated and strangely naked wolf, never seems completely convincing as a real creature, George the monkey and the giant crocodile have a palpable weight and strength that help the illusion. Physics goes completely out the window every time Johnson gets involved in the action; He has an uncanny ability to be under his feet when half of the city is raining in smoking chunks around him, but escapes unscathed, but when only the monsters appear, Rampage presents a relatively convincing and immersive illusion. It is mainly about how much a viewer can get excited to see how another computer generated city is reduced to ashes, smoke and fragments.
Already in his day, the original Rampage felt innovative. In a playground where players tried to fight the invaders and save the cities, this game allows players to embrace the low resolution fantasy of running a coward, playing little Godzilla in a smaller world. Rampage's live-action film no doubt covers the equivalent of 2018: to be safe in a crumbling world, to see how hell breaks loose and to get away physically and emotionally unscathed. But now it's harder to find new ground to explore (or hit small pieces, then light a fire). In this case, the filmmakers try to innovate to a great extent by making the film toothless and easily digestible. Nothing in the film is real enough to worry about the past, or serious enough to disturb the audience's dream. Maybe in a world that is already full of real-life disasters, it is innovative enough to make monumental destruction this fun and silly.

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