Blu-ray Review: Rampage - (2018)

When CG-monster/animals attack.

By , Contributor
Maybe ten years ago Rampage, the new Dwayne Johnson-starring action film, would've been a must-see blockbuster. But honestly how many times are studios planning to serve up the same mega-budget, CG-dominated creature features? Though it probably made enough overseas to qualify as a solid recouper, domestic audiences did not flock to Rampage during its spring 2018 theatrical release. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment issues the genetically-modified monster-animal bash on Blu-ray (also 4K UltraHD) July 17, 2018 in order to rope in a wider audience.

But despite the always likeable Dwayne Johnson—one of the action genre's sincerest and most amiable personalities ever—Rampage never overcomes the "been there, done that" curse. Actually, what's specifically harmful for this one is that not only have we been there and done that, it has been better in movies like Kong: Skull Island, Peter Jackson's King Kong, Godzilla (2014), and the rebooted Planet of the Apes series. Heck, even the Pacific Rim movies share some similarities in terms of city-based destruction by monstrous CG creatures.

Rampage takes its inspiration from a series of video games of the same name and unfortunately doesn't ramp up the narrative depth enough. There's a big ol' backstory concerning the evil, profit-driven doings of Energyne, a corporation whose interests involve gene splicing. In fact, the Gravity- and Life (2017)-inspired outer space opening sequence is among Rampage's best moments. It's pivotal to the plot too, as the dangerous pathogens being researched aboard a doomed space station make it to Earth. Exposure to said pathogens will supersize any living creature. So we wind up with a mega-alligator, a mega-winged-wolf, and a mega-albino-gorilla.

The latter is an ASL-fluent beast with a heart of gold, held at the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary. Davis (Johnson) is George's best friend and handler. When George balloons up to gargantuan proportions, Davis demands to know "what happened to my friend." We see lots of corporate-office conniving between Energyne CEO Claire (Malin Ã…kerman) and her lackey Brett (Jake Lacy). These are the most one-dimensional of villains, essentially sociopaths willing to risk countless lives for the possibility of generating massive profits (even if it risks landing them in jail).

Ultimately, Rampage boils down to the spectacle of watching CG monsters smash up skyscrapers. No prize if you can guess which of these beasties is the last standing by the time the demolition derby wraps up. Though it clocks in at a reasonable 107 minutes, Rampage—under the direction of regular Dwayne Johnson-collaborator Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, San Andreas)—wears out its welcome quickly. Maybe part of the problem, besides simply not offering enough new concepts, is that any film that puts animals in peril runs the risk of alienating a significant portion of its potential audience. Even though the super-wolf, super-gator, and super-gorilla are all computer-animated fantasy creations, with only the gorilla possessing a discernible "personality," they are all essentially innocent animals being put in deadly situations for us to cheer on. It's less fun than it might sound.

Warner Bros. Blu-ray edition includes deleted scenes (including a cameo from Alexandra Daddario, Johnson's daughter in San Andreas), a gag reel, and five production featurettes. Only one of these featurettes, "Not a Game Anymore" (which deals with the process of adapting the film from the original video game), is found on the standard DVD, leaving the majority of the extras as Blu-ray (and 4K UltraHD) exclusives).

Rampage BD.jpg

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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