Two-part question: what would life be like if your best friend was an albino gorilla named George? And then, if George and a few other animals mutated into giant city-bashing monsters, what would you do?
Dwayne Johnson gets to answer those questions in Rampage, the new film from Johnson’s San Andreas director Brad Peyton. The Rock plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist whose gorilla friend, with a handful of other animals, has been mutated. With the whole world in jeopardy, Okoye has to find a way to save the day and get George back to normal.
Based on an ’80s arcade game, Rampage could be an over-the-top action film in a familiar mode. In reality, this video game adaptation puts a new spin on what we expect from action movies.
A Monstrous Relationship Movie
A lot of action-heavy movies (old and new) fall into the trap of getting lost in their own spectacle. That may not sound bad at first, but more often than not, films that are too focused effects and setpieces feel hollow. There’s nothing for us to be invested in. Rampage put a special focus on its core emotional dynamics.
During an interview with Collider, Dwayne Johnson revealed that Rampage is ultimately about the bond between Davis Okoye and his best friend, George:
“[I] think there’s layers to it. I’m an animal lover […] so the idea with the first part about it was what great relationship with an animal in my life that I could apply to it […] and also the idea amidst the calamity, amidst of science going wrong in the wrong hands, it still comes down to this core relationship […] Because the element and the anchor of the relationship between man and his best friend […] that was the final anchor that sealed the deal for me […] I was thinking, ‘Okay, we have these cool elements, great CGI, a great director who I’ve worked with twice […] but what’s like the anchor, what is the heart?’ And the heart is in this relationship.”
That’s a special thing. On paper, Rampage has everything audiences would want from an action movie. It has excitement, giant monsters, destruction, and a brave hero willing to risk it all to save the world. Ultimately, the action sequences wouldn’t mean much if audiences couldn’t care about Okoye and George. Thankfully, Brad Peyton and Johnson made sure to balance out the movie’s heart-pumping excitement with a heartwarming story about a man doing everything in his power to keep his best friend safe and happy.
Rampage Isn’t Afraid Of Horror
The characters keep Rampage, er, rampaging, but another pivotal aspect helps the movie stand out from a stream of action movies. During an interview with We Got This Covered, Brad Peyton revealed that he used the experience he gained making his 2016 horror film Incarnate to give Rampage a special dynamic:
“With ‘Rampage,’ we are using our love of the original game as our inspiration. Then we’re going to build a movie […] that is really going to surprise people in what it delivers. It’s going to be a lot more emotional, a lot scarier and a lot more real than you’d expect. So you look at that original concept about a lab that affects these animals and makes them rampage, and that’s the nugget. [‘Rampage’ is] a monster film, so the stuff that I did on ‘Incarnate,’ stretching my muscles in the horror space helped. This ‘small, character piece’ with horror in it trained me to get ready for [‘Rampage’]. Obviously, it’s a much bigger movie […] but there [are] still horror elements, there’s still a monster movie at the core.”
Yes, Rampage is a fun, family-friendly adventure, but its plot also centers around giant monsters wreaking havoc around the world. The premise is easily connected to horror – we’d all react with utter terror if we saw one of the movie’s monsters in our city.
One thing is clear: Johnson and Peyton have something unique with Rampage. The creative duo use a simple concept as a launching-off point to craft an unexpected blend of adventure, comedy, drama and horror.
Rampage will be released in theaters on April 13, 2018.