Video games are great fun. Movies are incredibly entertaining. However, they don't often translate well to one another. Video games based on films usually struggle for a litany of reasons. The same goes when the shoe is on the other foot. Look back at Super Mario Bros., Prince of Persia: Sands of Times, Need for Speed, Silent Hill, Max Payne, or Doom. These were all huge video games, but the film versions didn't capture what made the games special, and ultimately failed in their new medium. In 2018, Rampage was the latest game to take the dive into a film attempt. Did it succeed where others failed?
Rampage was never a game you'd expect to see in theaters. The highly popular arcade game isn't story driven, like you'd want in a movie, and it isn't even character driven. The premise is just the player controlling these giant monsters as they destroy buildings. Not ideal for a 90-minute story. The adaptation, directed by Brad Peyton, kept that general idea, but layered in some story to give it heart. Dwayne Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist who is great friends with a rare albino gorilla named George. As a result of a rogue experiment, George is mutated into a giant raging monster, along with a wolf and an alligator. Without giving too much away, Johnson's character teams up with a genetic engineer (Naomie Harris) who had previously been unjustly fired from the company (Energyne) who performed the experiments that caused these mutations. They work together to try to find a cure for George, while also figuring out a way to stop the other monsters, yet are thwarted by the military, government, and Energyne, who all have their own motivations.
When you sit down to watch this movie, you aren't going in expecting Oscar bait. And that's okay. Not every film needs to be Academy Award worthy. Sometimes, you just want a highly entertaining popcorn flick. For a video game that isn't heavy in the storyline department but is in terms of action, you want to see that in the movie. Brad Peyton was the right director to put at the helm of this movie. Not only does he have a past with his lead actor, Johnson (they worked together on San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island), but he's handled films where destruction is all over the place. The scenes where the monsters are destroying Chicago are all packed with action and look great. This is the kind of thing that could look really cheesy if it isn't handled properly. The massive wolf literally flies at one point and in the hands of a director not skilled in this area, that would've been laughable. Instead, you'll find yourself just enjoying the sheer wackiness of it all.
Though the game isn't focused on characters or story, the film does a good job giving this one a heart because of Okoye and George. Early on, their playful yet loving relationship is established and is done so in a way that you can't help but smile at. George likes to play practical jokes and you can clearly see how close he is with George. It makes the later scenes where George is in peril all the more emotional for the viewer. There's a connection there you'll never expect and that adds a lot to the overall enjoyment of the film. However, Rampage struggles with the supporting characters.
This is also something that some games have had issues with. The protagonist and antagonist shine, yet some of the supporting characters leave a lot to be desired. That was the case here. Malin Akerman played Claire Wyden, the CEO of Energyne. Her performance leaves a lot to be desired and the character is just a generic campy villain. There's no emotion behind anything she does and it feels like they just threw all the basic ideas for an antagonist at her. You don't like or dislike her, you kind of just nothing her. Jake Lacey is her brother, Harvey Russell, who also feels like another stereotypical character as the dim-witted guy. His motivations also change at the drop of a dime. In one scene, he literally says he doesn't care about the money and just wants to avoid jail time, only to turn and talk about the profit they can make from a sale no less than two minutes later. Another problem arises from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays a government agent named Harvey Russell. It literally feels like you're watching Negan from The Walking Dead. It's as if Morgan plays that role so much, he's adopted it into his personality. It was distracting.
Rampage mostly succeeds as a movie based off a video game. It changes enough about the game to craft a compelling story, yet it does a good amount to remain faithful to the source material. The supporting characters and the lackluster performances by talented actors bring things down and make it tough to get through certain parts of the film. They nailed the relationship between George and Okoye, as well as all the big action pieces involving these monsters. That makes for a movie that is far from perfect, but still enough fun to make you look past it for an hour and a half or so. And it's success as a video game film? Rotten Tomatoes recently officially listed Rampage as the top rated movie based off a video game in history, with a 53% rating on the Tomatometer.