The arcade game turned action movie, Rampage, arrives on blu-ray this week, but is it worth picking up, or should you leave this one on the shelf? Check out my full review to see what I think of this week’s latest release!
I wasn’t sure how to feel about Rampage before seeing it (especially since I missed it in theaters). On one hand, I wasn’t sure about the idea of an arcade game getting this type of story treatment. On the other hand, however, I absolutely love giant monster movies and destructive action. As such, I tried to clear my mind of everything when I popped in the blu-ray.
The story centers on experimental drugs that can alter a lifeform’s basic DNA to give them some impressive boosts. It’s such dangerous (and not at all legal) research, that all testing/experiments have to be done in space. When a test subject goes rogue and destroys the space station, the experiments contained in special canisters are unleashed.
When the canisters fall to Earth in various locations, that's when all hell breaks loose. The most important connection, which gives us our human motivation, comes from the Ape George. He was saved as an infant by Dwayne Johnson's character, Davis Okoye, a Primatologist, with a history of military work and law enforcement against poachers. His character is fairly simple, and established early on that he cares more about animals than he does for humans.
Thus, when George encounters one of the canisters and accidentally exposed to its contents, Okoye is concerned at the sudden rapid growth and behavioral changes in his ape friend. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical company behind the experiment is eager to get it back. To do so, they activate a device (in the middle of a city on top of a huge building, of course) to call them in from all over the world. The result is a wave of enraged destruction as the military struggles to combat the genetically enhanced monsters.
As you expect, this means a whole bunch of over-the-top action, quirky one-liners, and quite a bit of humor. It has an old-school action movie vibe between it's simplistic plot and character motivations, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The action is well paced and feels suitably awe-inspiring, while Dwayne Johnson continues to bring a lot of charm to the role, managing to elevate a one dimensional character into someone you root for.
My biggest gripe with the film are the overly cartoonish villain characters (the brother/sister team who run the Energyne company). I mean, they're straight out of Saturday morning cartoon villains. They just come off as goofy and weird, totally at odds with the moments where the film wants you to take things seriously. And that's the thing, there are moments where the film wants to be serious, but the characterizations and dialog just doesn't allow for it.
Overall it's a big budget, dumb fun, action movie. There's not a lot of depth to be had here and the characters don't do anything surprising. Still, it nails the action elements and makes for an enjoyable, albeit shallow, monster movie experience.
Sight and Sound
Rampage features a great deal of special effects to bring the monsters to life, and they look really solid. While their later designs (as they keep getting bigger) begin to skew towards the fantastical rather than realistic, they look great. The VFX work shines through on the film's blu-ray transfer, with everything popping out in excellent crystal clarity. The color pallette isn't terribly diverse, sticking with more natural tones/color scheme, but the deep blacks on the transfer lets the image pop on the screen without crushing.
The sound design is equally impressive with solid surround sound that puts you in the middle of the action. From feeling surrounded in the forest and stalked by a massive wolf to hearing the buildings crumble around you in the final act, the sound is immersive without overriding the dialog.
The Bonus Features
Rampage's blu-ray comes with these special features loaded onto the disc:
Not A Game Anymore - From arcade sensation to movie monster epic, we explore how the Midway video game inspired the filmmakers to create the ultimate disaster film.
Gag Reel - Hilarious outtakes and mishaps captured during production.
Deleted Scenes - Deleted scenes that barely missed the final theatrical cut.
Rampage - Actors in Action: Strap in for a wild ride as Dwayne Johnson, Joe Manganiello and the cast prepare for the film’s demanding stunts and explosive set pieces.
Trio of Destruction - Follow the innovative design team and the artists at Weta Digital as they bring to life the biggest and baddest monsters for the film’s climactic battle royal.
Attack on Chicago - Director Brad Peyton reveals the challenges of filming on-location in Chicago and turning digital destruction into a cinematic reality.
Bringing George to Life - Discover the wonder of what it’s like to be a gorilla, as movement coordinator Terry Notary teaches actor Jason Liles how to move, behave and become “George.”
There are some pretty decent bonuses here for movie lovers to check out. If you're a fan of the original arcade game, there's a neat featurette exploring the game's history and how the filmmakers used it to bring their all new story to life. There are also a bunch of behind the scenes features that break down the various action pieces and VFX work throughout the movie.
For a mindless action movie, that's quite a bit of extra goodness added on. While you may not be likely to enjoy them more than once, they do add some weight in its favor for picking up the blu-ray.