5 Ways to Prep: Rampage
By George Rose
April 12, 2018
It was just a few weeks ago that hope sprung for video game adaptations with the Tomb Raider reboot. With a little less than $60 million in the bank, hope now seems lost again. You could say Ready Player One’s $40+ million opening renews a bit of that faith but that film just uses the idea of video games, not a specific title. Ramage is sort of stuck between these two movies. On one hand it’s a direct adaptation like Tomb Raider, although a more loose interpretation of the story in comparison. On the other hand you could argue Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s star appeal is closer to that of Spielberg himself. Will Rampage earn the video game average final score of about $60 million or will star power help it unlock the $100+ million achievement?
I want to stay positive, I really do. At best, Rampage stands to be among the top three biggest game adaptations of all time. That’s because only two have earned over $100 million and none have earned more than $135 million. The good news is that Johnson takes $150 million blockbusters dumps every morning after breakfast. After first appearing as a digitized joke in 2001’s The Mummy Returns and staring in 2005’s disastrous Doom adaptation (his first video game movie), he eventually would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors. Maybe what the new Tomb Raider lacked was discovering a heroine with a bigger fan base; Alicia Vikander may also have a Supporting Actress Oscar but she doesn’t have Angelina Jolie’s appeal. The Rock might just be the cheat code we’ve been searching for.
Video game puns aside, there’s little good to look for in Rampage outside of Johnson’s presence. Yes, Rampage is one of the great classic arcades and it should make the visual jump from 8-bits to HD with ease. The problem lies in the writing. As a writer, nothing could be more infuriating. I’d rather watch lazy special effects or have the shaky camera make me nauseous. I do NOT enjoy watching a film fail based on obvious issues with story. Since the trailers showcase some rather enticing action sequences and Johnson can sleep his way through keeping an audience entertained, all middle fingers are pointing at the writing. There are no reviews for the movie that’s opening in three days (as of this writing) so one can assume those that will be posted by the time you read this article will suggest the same thing.
Despite the inevitable, there is still a bit of excitement surrounding Rampage. Being born in the 1980’s and having grown up around the birth of video games, you can expect to see me at the theater on opening weekend. With a $60 million average video game adaptation total, there’s at least a few million of us fans out there. For those ready to log in with me and join the battle, here are 5 Ways to Prep for the ultimate monster mash-up: Rampage!
#1) GODZILLA (1998)
The premise of Rampage is rather simple: chemicals are released that affect three creatures (gorilla, lizard and wolf), turning them into large and aggressive monsters that destroy cities. In the game, you were the animals and you found pleasure in destroying the environment. As you leveled the skyscrapers, you got bonus points for grabbing helpless civilians from building windows and for crushing tanks as the military attacked. I’m still not sure why people blame games for violence but, hey, I got a new high score for causing mass chaos!
If the story about a tiny creature growing taller than a tower sounds familiar, it’s because it has been done before. A lot, actually. Godzilla is the mother of all unnaturally altered beasts. Is it really a surprise that a game from the 80’s would use giant monsters similar to Godzilla and King Kong? No, since those movie games didn’t exist back then. It is a surprise, however, that such great game can feel like such a trite piece of filmmaking. You really can’t out-Godzilla the original Japanese legend. We have the classic exports that are decades old and we also have a recent reboot of the giant lizard from 2014. Since the latest American-made Godzilla is a darker take and is intended to be part of a larger cinematic universe (Godzilla vs Kong coming in 2020), it seems more appropriate for a viewing of the comparison to Rampage to be the one-off film from 1998. It was - as the creature itself would encourage - a disaster.
With blockbuster filmmaker Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) at the helm, everyone expected 1998’s Godzilla to be a monster hit. Instead, it ended with less than $140 million and almost killed the franchise. Thanks to modern technology and 3D enhancements, the series got another restart in 2014. For now, the best way to prep for the giant lizard in Rampage is the watch Hollywood’s last truly terrible attempt at Godzilla. It is sure to help you enjoy Rampage’s variation on the tale and gives you a more reasonable expectation for where this film’s chances lie at the box office, though $140 million might still be asking for too much.
#2) LAKE PLACID (1999)
We’re only one out of three monsters deep and there’s already a problem with Rampage. In the game, the green beast with a long tail and sharp teeth was assumed to be a lizard. In our defense, fans knew it was lizard because the character’s name was Lizzie. So why, then, would the writers (or producers or director) change that monster in the new film to be a massive crocodile? Granted, the commercials say the results of the toxin will lead to unpredictable results (the wolf can fly now) but those changes should be more consistent with the game. I don’t see a reason to make the film’s green meanie into a crocodile other than trying to avoid the trappings of a comparison to Godzilla. Then again, I’m about to debunk that theory.
The giant crocodile thing has already been done, too! There was a great little B-movie back in 1999 that starred such a threat. It wasn’t the size of a house but it was large, and it had the capacity to take down a helicopter. That makes about as much sense as The Rock’s ape-lover being able to fly a helicopter himself in Rampage, but we’re already past making sense. All we can do now is find ways to try and make this weekend’s release watchable. Lake Placid only scored 40% positive reviews and barely came close to making it’s $35 million budget back. The good news is, the movie is actually quite fun and Oliver Platt is as funny as usual. With a bigger star and triple the budget, there’s no way we don’t smile at least once watching The Rock fighting a giant green lizard/crocodile/dinosaur/these-writers-suck. After all, it’s only a small change to the original game. How bad could they have screwed up the rest of the monsters?
#3) KING KONG (2005)
Big brown gorillas are nothing new to Hollywood (like Godzilla) so there should be plenty of interest in seeing Rampage’s version of this furry friend. Wait, what was that? Rampage’s producers got a call from both Godzilla AND King Kong’s reps that demanded greater differences? I don’t understand how the Rampage game got away with plagiarizing these two classic creatures. I mean, that’s obviously what happened because for some reason the Rampage movie is trying to dodge bullets. It really doesn't make sense because Warner Bros distributes King Kong, Godzilla, AND Rampage. Rights shouldn’t be an issue. Instead, what we have in Rampage is white-washing at it’s finest. Since the fans are too familiar with the tale of the original brown building-climber, the producers gave the gorilla a white makeover and called it an albino. And then they slapped him on the poster. Then they called the movie Rampage because at least there’s still three monsters, I think. Let’s all pretend the game was about a crocodile, an albino ape and a flying wolf so all can go back to being golden.
#4) THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)
And there’s nothing more golden than taking the only creature (the 100-foot tall wolf) not to ever have its own movie and STILL CHANGING IT! Because, why not?! There are plenty of werewolves in Hollywood features past but they seldom grow bigger than a bear (despite their ability to huff and puff and blow house down). The only big bad wolf that can stand ground against faux-Godzilla and faux-Kong is the one we saw just last year in Thor: Ragnarok. The plots couldn’t be more different, so I won’t dare compare the two. I will say though that for such an endangered species, large wolves love to fight green competitors. Rampage’s will battle Crocodile Dundee’s worst nightmare while Ragnarok’s hunted down the Hulk. I guess that, too, was a potential plagiarism lawsuit so now the wolf can fly. In Ragnarok, the green guy won. Let’s see if this new wolf can survive The Rock’s fake Kong friend to make it to the end credits.
#5) SAN ANDREAS (2015)
Somehow in 1986 the Rampage arcade slipped past every legal problem possible by releasing a game about King Kong fighting beside Godzilla and the Big Bad Wolf. Flash forward to 2018 and we have makeovers for the three biggest stars of Rampage so nobody should try to sue for a portion of the profits. I can still wrap my head around this abomination and contribute my $13 towards a ticket. What I can’t understand is why the one new addition to the game that is needed to turn it into a movie (a human hero at the center) is the biggest, most obvious rip-off of them all! What we got is new-ish monsters with the SAME story we’ve seen 1,000 times from The Rock. A man with the ability to drive every vehicle possible (car, boat, helicopter, unicycle, whatever, etc.) somehow finds himself present during the destruction of city buildings. No, not The Rocks movie LITERALLY titled Skyscraper (due in only three months on July 13). I’m talking about San Andreas, when The Rock + crumbling buildings = $150 million. Despite his presence, I fear too many changes were made to the Rampage movie. Luckily for actors there’s the video game curse to blame when there’s a box office glitch. All things considered, somewhere between the $60 game average and The Rock’s $150 million appeal seems likely.