Kevin: Well with the summer movie season getting ready to kick off with “Avengers: Infinity War” in a couple of weeks, CJ and I decided to check out the last of the spring blockbusters over the weekend with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s “Rampage,” which is based on the ‘80s arcade game in the same way that 2012’s “Battleship” was based on the board game (i.e. they incorporated a couple of recognizable aspects into a completely unrelated story). Leading into the weekend it appeared that this was going to underperform box office expectations for what a movie starring The Rock about a giant gorilla fighting a giant flying wolf should do, but apparently enough kiddies came out during the matinees to give it a respectable opening:
CJ: The only number I see is the only one that matters: #1 at the box office baby! That’s right, The Rock has conquered us all again, and I think it is about time we accept that he can enact prima nocta on all of our asses. ALL HAIL THE ROCK!
Kevin: But while parts of the ad campaign seemed to sell this as a family friendly “Mighty Joe Young” type of story, some of the violence and destruction is probably too intense for younger eyes, especially an opening set piece that is closer in spirit to last year’s bloody Jake Gyllenhaal space thriller “Life.” One of the first things we see in the film is a bloody, eyeless corpse floating in zero gravity in a space station that is under attack from a giant mutant rat, with sole survivor Marley Shelton trying desperately to reach an escape pod before she is devoured.
Yes you heard that right, I said a giant mutant rat, and yes I also said Marley Shelton. For a second I thought I had been transported back to the year 2000, when Vanity Fair predicted she would be one of the biggest movie stars of the future, along with Mena Suvari, Chris Klein, Selma Blair, and whoever that chick is on the far right:
Well the future is now, so rather than headlining a big budget blockbuster with one of the most popular stars in the world, Shelton is out of the movie before we even get the opening title, in this instance when her escape pod blows up on re-entry, killing her but bringing to Earth three dangerous samples of a virus she and her team were working on. Between this and the fact that Neve Campbell plays his wife in the upcoming “Skyscraper,” I feel like The Rock casts his movies by flipping through HBO, coming across something like “Bubble Boy” or “Scream 3” and thinking, “Oh yeah, haven’t seen her in anything in a while, let me do her a solid.”
Either way, we are soon introduced to our hero, the most brilliant and muscular primatologist in the San Diego area, Davis Okoye. Now I know we all love The Rock, but he really does need to play someone with more of an edge pretty soon. I feel like this is the umpteenth movie lately where he has played the world’s best CIA agent/lifeguard/rescue pilot/primatologist etc., who is totally perfect in every way, completely devoted to his family/job/country, and if he has any flaw whatsoever it’s that HE CARES TOO DAMN MUCH!
Although while later we find out the totally expected revelation that he is ex-Special Forces, he may also be part monk as well, as early on he totally rebuffs a hot blonde trainee at their zoo who – after seeing him pacify an angry gorilla – asks him out for a drink and all but announces that she wants to do some King Kong/Fay Wray role-playing later.
CJ: I’ll admit that scene was odd, because you have this attractive grad student openly throwing herself at him with a “Wanna grab a drink and discuss the ‘science of submission,’ wink wink?” and he’s all “No dice lady.” Meanwhile, his assistant offers to get a drink and everyone laughs at him. Why? He’s clearly the only person here who read the room correctly and was trying to make it work. Don’t laugh at this hero just because he’s balding, of average size, and doesn’t take HGH!
Kevin: Yeah The Rock just blows her off to spend time with his dogs, because as we are told more than once in the film, he prefers animals to people. First off, I think we agree that the people who describe themselves like that in real life are creepy weirdos who you want to keep as much distance from as possible, and they never look or act like The Rock. Usually they are socially stunted, pierced, and heavily tattooed millennials who make pronouncements like “Dogs are better than humans because they never disappoint you,” usually followed by “You’re not my real dad!”
Now later we discover that The Rock’s experiences in war soured him on humanity, which as someone who rode the New York subway system for several years is something I can totally relate to. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t get blown once in a while by a hot young blonde, right?
Actually considering what a sex symbol The Rock is supposed to be, I’m starting to find it kind of weird how he never seems to have a love interest in his films. Now I normally appreciate an action film for not stopping cold to shoe-horn in some romance subplot, but even in something like the R-rated “Baywatch” The Rock exhibits zero interest in the ladies. At the end of “Rampage” the giant gorilla does the “finger-in-the-hole” move to indicate that The Rock will soon be engaging in sexual intercourse with Naomie Harris’ character, but nothing we have seen up to that point would indicate that they have any sort of romantic connection. Hell the Rock has more chemistry with Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character than her.
CJ: I’m going to defend The Rock in this case. Let’s be clear here, the movie is about a gorilla, a crocodile, and a wolf who all clearly took a hit off Ken Griffey Jr.’s “Brain & Nerve Tonic” …
… and developed an extreme case of gigantism, coupled with rage. If you’re looking at this movie going “Hmm, wonder how they are gonna handle his love life?,” then you are the same person who goes to a rib joint asking if they are known for their garden salad.
I will say that when the gorilla is making the “you two gonna fuck, right?” finger-in-his-hand motion as they are surrounded by trillions in city damage and hundreds of injured (and dead) people being pulled out of the rubble in slow motion, it was probably pretty cold of The Rock and the gorilla to be like “HAHAHA fucking!” If I’m one of the people being dug out from the rubble, still unsure of whether my friends and family survived, I’d be pretty pissed off if I saw The Rock laughing his ass off over possibly getting laid.
Also, did anyone ask Naomie about this? At no point did anyone get her thoughts on this potential hook-up. In fact, this is the way the movie leaves it: a 1,000-ton gorilla, with raging tendencies, suggested to The Rock, a 280-pound real-life super soldier, that he nail Naomie, and they laugh. Naomie should probably run away.
Kevin: Either way, while The Rock is playing his usual bland, asexual Boy Scout, we at least get more flavor from the supporting roles, including Jeffrey Dean Morgan showing what Negan would be like if he toned down the evilness and got a job with the government (not a surprise that some of his “Walking Dead” character bleeds into his performance here since they were filmed around the same time). Morgan doesn’t steal the movie or anything, but he’s obviously having fun, and is one of those actors like Karl Urban who I am always glad to see in a movie like this. Although I started to wonder if he was supposed to be a ghost or something since he always pops up somewhere at the exact right time, no matter how far away he was previously.
CJ: Yeah, that WAS weird. I also couldn’t help but notice when The Rock and Naomie were trying to steal a helicopter, we suddenly hear a “Hey guys!” off screen as Morgan strolls in. Was he the only person looking out the window when The Rock made his escape move? How bad is the U.S. Army that they don’t notice the Hulk-like linebacker running across the base?
Kevin: Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy also have fun as the villainous brother-sister team who created the virus to sell as a military biological weapon (thus fulfilling the quota of at least one action movie per year in which this is the bad guy’s plan). Unfortunately the last remaining virus samples from the space station spread across the country and were ingested by The Rock’s favorite gorilla George, a wolf in Wyoming, and a crocodile in Florida.
So Akerman decides that the best course of action is to send out a sonic beacon from her company’s headquarters that will attract all three giant monsters to Chicago, whereby the military will kill them and then they will, I don’t know, somehow sneak through and get a sample off the dead bodies. While obviously this plan is a sure-fire winner with no downsides whatsoever, if I were her brother I would have at least suggested they not be in the building the monsters are coming to when they start their attack.
CJ: Yeah this is pretty much how that conversation plays out:
Akerman: “We need the monsters’ blood. Let’s make them come to us.”
Lacy: “Hey, so they can’t think rationally because they are animals AND rage monsters, correct?”
Lacy: “And you want them to come to us, a CEO and PR person?”
Lacey: “Rage monsters?”
Akerman: “Yeah I heard you, I don’t see the problem.”
Kevin: Actually their first line of defense is Joe Manganiello, as the leader of a team of mercenaries who get devoured by the wolf in a sequence that honestly could have been completely cut out without impacting the film in any way. You likened his role CJ to that of Steven Seagal in “Executive Decision,” but at least Seagal’s character was somewhat important to the plot of that film and he interacted with the rest of the cast before biting the dust. Whereas Manganiello’s role could have been played by anyone, and he has like five lines of dialogue, mostly of the “Watch your six!” and “We’re pulling out!” variety.
CJ: I had another problem with Joe and his Seal Team Six guys. They are on a chopper hunting for the now-giant wolf, they spot him, and are all “We see him, okay, let’s land the chopper.” They then run around, and only upon seeing his giant paw print are they like “HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS THING IS HUGE!” No. No no no. How did they not come to this conclusion from the helicopter? Whenever I fly back into NYC and see the Statue of Liberty, I’m not like, “Hey look, a human person.”
Kevin: Now at various times in this movie we see representatives from the police, FBI, Homeland Security, military, and Morgan’s agency, which is so secret it doesn’t have a name, and they are all always organized and on the ball, except for the part about how they let this company develop this potentially world-destroying virus without any oversight whatsoever. I don’t care if the president is the most deregulatory in history, I feel like the government would take a little more interest in what they are doing, especially when the company’s giant space station blows up, killing multiple people and sending dangerous debris hurtling toward the Earth. But apparently the only repercussions this has on the company is that they take a slight hit on their stock in opening trading.
Oh and before I forget, there is a recurring bit throughout the movie with a rat in Akerman’s lab that they make sure to always bring with them while escaping. I think we both expected that this would pay off somehow, possibly in a post-credits scene, but it never did.
CJ: Yeah, they focus way too much energy on this rat, short of them turning to the camera and saying “This rat will eventually rampage out and spread his rampaging genes into millions of other rats, so we will see you in 2020 for ‘Ramage 2: Rampagery.’” Instead, it’s as if they went to the premiere and someone said to the writer “Hey, what about the rat payoff?,” and the writer went “Oh yeah! Whoops!”
Kevin: Somewhat related, I know it would have been spoiled in the trailers, but did any part of you think that at some point The Rock would save the day by ingesting the virus and taking on the creatures mano-a-monstero? If that had happened I think my opinion of this movie would have gone from 2-and-a-half stars to 23 and two-thirds. Although even then, by killing off Joe Manganiello’s character so early, the movie would have missed a golden opportunity by infecting them both and setting up Monster Rock vs. Mega Manganiello.
CJ: Agree 100%.They mention early on how gorilla George can self-heal, and then later The Rock gets shot. The second that happened I was fully expecting The Rock to get to Chicago, hear someone say “These monsters are huge, mad, fast, and unstoppable!,” followed by The Rock going “You think those things are fast and mad? Well I’m about to get fast … AND FURIOUS!”
Kevin: CJ thanks for reminding me that at one point during the climax The Rock gets shot by Malin Akerman and is left for dead. I totally forgot about that, but who can blame me since both The Rock and the filmmakers seemed to forget that as well. It’s not like they did the thing where The Rock’s Bible stopped the bullet or anything, Akerman just shoots him in the far right of his stomach. She should have known this never actually kills the hero of an action movie, so since his death was what she was trying to go for, why she didn’t aim at, you know, his head or something is a mystery.
Either way The Rock makes one of the least surprising “return from the deads” in film history. Now he makes sure to reassure Naomie Harris that the bullet didn’t hit any arteries or vital organs (not sure exactly how he is so confident of that), but surprisingly he doesn’t do the usual action movie thing where the hero says “it went right though” and thus did absolutely no damage (see Kurt Russell in “Tango & Cash” for an example of this).
In fact while they put some ketchup on the front of his shirt to indicate an entry wound, we don’t see any evidence on the back of an exit wound, which means the bullet is still lodged deep in The Rock’s abdomen. Obviously this would be somewhat of an impediment to most people, but other than the occasional moments when The Rock remembers that he is supposed to be shot and puts his hand over his stomach, this does not affect him in any way, and I’m surprised they didn’t have him brush it off by joking that he is getting some much-needed iron in his diet (and yeah I know bullets are made of lead, but are you gonna argue with him?).
Now why has Chicago become such a punching bag for these movies? The city was destroyed at the end of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” and apparently has just been rebuilt just in time for Optimus and Co. decide to create some new job opportunities for the city’s construction firms in “Age of Extinction.” By comparison the damage inflicted here by three giant creatures looked pretty reasonable until an entire building came down, although I’m not sure why the fuck the military waited until the last second to start the evacuation, and how everyone was completely unaware of what was coming?
CJ: Clearly “Transformers” is a trendsetter, and I am glad you finally acknowledge this.
Kevin: Also, how long is it gonna take The Rock to convince everyone that this giant gorilla who was just destroying buildings and laying waste to the military is now totally cool and chill? “Nah put your missiles down everyone, he’s okay now, he ate an antidote that was in Malin Akerman’s purse; see he’s making the ‘finger-in-the-hole’ innuendo, there’s no way he could have such a great sense of humor if he was still evil.”
CJ: Agreed! In fact, let’s let him roam free. If anything, he will probably just walk around and humorously knock fire hydrants loose.
Kevin: So CJ how do you rank “Rampage” in terms of movies based on video games? I still have a soft spot for Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Street Fighter,” if only because Raul Julia gave it his all in his last performance while even on the verge of death. After that I’d rank “Schindler’s List” a close second.
CJ: I think I’ll always love the original “Mortal Kombat” the most, and the horrible movie version of “Doom” (also starring The Rock) holds a weird spot in my heart as well, probably because it has so very little to do with “Doom.” But “Rampage” was oddly enjoyable even while not being very good. The monsters rage, and they rage hard, buildings get destroyed, and The Rock continues to charm me with his Boy Scout smile and clear desire to want the world to actually think he is Superman. It’s also fun to go into a movie, enjoy it, and then walk out and go “Wait … nothing made sense!”