4K ULTRA HD / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2018; PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief profanity, and crude gestures; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “Not Just a Game Anymore”
IT'S NO longer only a superhero game. The Rock, King Kong, Godzilla and the Big Bad Wolf team up to wreck the big city of Chicago in an action adventure based on an ‘80s arcade game.
I hear you – “Oh, no – not another one of those!” Right, the latest “Tomb Raider” left us wanting, too. But everything works just right here for a change. With its limited storyline, Rampage – which also inspired Disney’s “Wreck It Ralph” – gave the writers room to maneuver.
In the game, players become gigantic monsters earning points for destroying buildings in Pac-Man style. George is a Kong-like gorilla; Ralph, a wolf, and Lizzie, a Godzilla-clone. In the film, they’re the motion capture and CGI stars of “Rampage,” along with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He plays Davis Okoye, primatologist, former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, and member of an anti-poaching team. Johnson chose the name Okoye to honor Nigerian-American football legend Christian Okoye.
“I started to hear pitches from writers,” Producer John Rickard says in “Not Just a Game Anymore,” the intro to a series of making-of featurettes. “Lots of writers came in with lots of different takes including going as true to the game as possible, where it’s actually humans mutating into these monsters. But then there was just this one take that stood out and it was Ryan Engle’s.”
“It was an opportunity to do a bad ass monster movie – to do a love letter to my favorite 1980s monster movies that I grew up with, “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” Engle says. “But then you’ve got to [imagine] how I could do a movie that’s about these animals and tell a story that’s emotional, that’s action-oriented, and where the animals aren’t the heroes.”
Engle (“Commuter,” “Non-Stop”) created the story, then co-wrote the script with Carlton Cuse (“Lost”), Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel. Brad Peyton, who worked with Johnson on “San Andreas” and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” was picked to direct.
The story opens on the Athena-1 space station, owned by the Energyne company, is about to go down in flames. The sole survivor is research scientist Kerry Atkins (Marley Shelton), who escapes with a sample case. Her pod disintegrates upon reentry, with some of the debris landing in the Everglades, a Wyoming forest and the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary, where a croc, a wolf and an albino gorilla, George, find the canisters containing a gene-changing pathogen.
Energyne is led by the Wydens: evil sociopath Claire (Malin Akerman) and her wary brother Brett (Jake Lacy). They should be taken no more seriously than a sibling version of Boris and Natasha. Claire is thrilled to see her “product” in action as social media follows the destruction caused by Ralph and George. Davis, not at all. He’s raised George since he was found as a baby, its mother killed by poachers. The intelligent beast knows how to sign and the bond between the two is unbreakable. Claire sets off a beacon to draw the mutating critters to Chicago, hoping to impress potential weapons dealers.
Davis won’t take this sitting down. Joined by genetic engineer and former Energyne employee, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), and unlikely ally Agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), he takes off to save George. But it becomes a battle to save Chicago and its people. George’s empathy and smarts have been reduced to blind rage.
Armed with muscles, a grin and fast-flying quips, can The Rock save his primate and the day? You know the outcome, but the monsters, effects and laughs keep us riveted.
“Rampage” was initially shot in 4K, but finished in 2K, probably to handle the massive CGI effects. The 4K Ultra Blu-ray provides a generous uptick in visuals, but the 1080p, both in 2.40:1 ratio, looks very good.
“There were three aspects [to] pull together,” Stephen Unterfranz, VFX Onset Supervisor/Sequence Supervisor of Weta, says in “Attack on Chicago.” The first was shooting plates of iconic buildings, then action sequences on backlot sets with Dwayne and the actors against green screen, then creating creature effects, and finally tying that altogether.
Obviously, the big Chicago battle used the most FX and sometimes looks soft on bigger screens – if you’re really looking for it. I have no complaints on either format.
HDR color is excellent throughout, with rich, natural tones. Creatures look as real as the actors. The key to “Rampage” is the monsters. “Even though it’s three giant creatures, [Brad] didn’t want it to be a fantasy movie,” says VFX Supervisor Colin Strause of Weta. The film is very much a sci-fi action adventure saga.
Grime and sweat, light and shadow falling across light-to-dark complexions look realistic. Clothing, rubble, fur and stubble, and the various environments have texture and depth. Black- and white-levels are solid using shadows and highlights to enhance surrounding objects.
Find an eight-channel Dolby Atmos and a default Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks on the 4K and 1080p discs. It’s a balanced presentation all the way around, with good, dynamic immersion, and a solid delivery of dialogue, effects and score.
Andrew Lockington of “San Andreas” composed the orchestral score. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Lockington says he recorded gorillas at a zoo when he learned the primates hum. Unsatisfied with the results, he tried again with the howler monkeys of Costa Rica, running the sound through modular synths. The African Children’s Choir provided choral sections, while percussive structures are based on traditional Polynesian rhythms.
Bonus features are found on the Blu-ray disc. “Not a Game Anymore” opens a series of how-we-did-it extras like “Actors in Action,” with interviews from the creative team and actors including Joe Manganiello, who plays Energyne mercenary leader Burke. It seems most of them played Rampage in the arcade or on Nintendo.
“Me and my generation spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars in quarters on that damn machine, so I’m happy to be here because I feel like I’m actually earning some of that money back that I spent in 1986 … It’s justice.” — Joe Manganiello, actor
“Trio of Destruction” highlights George, Ralph and Lizzie, and “Attack on Chicago” explores how the climax was created and filmed. “Bringing George to Life” gives gymnast/actor/motion capture expert Terry Notary and actor Jason Liles a chance to shine. “I’ve done four [“Planet of the Apes”] films. I’ve done a lot of research with apes. I’ve worked with apes personally,” Notary says. He has also worked on Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” films, “The Cabin in the Woods,” and “The BFG.” He became the best known film gorilla of all time in “Kong: Skull Island.”
“Getting to work with Terry Notary was absolutely amazing because the time we were training, he was King Kong in theaters. So King Kong was teaching me how to be a gorilla.” — Jason Liles, actor
Don’t miss the seven deleted scenes. Some show variations of a scene, and there’s good material there. A gag reel shows the outtakes and bloopers made during filming.
Make no mistake – “Rampage” was made for sheer entertainment, and it delivers. That it has a good heart and message is a bonus. It’s a fun flick from start to finish. Just imagine, Johnson finally gets a co-star bigger than he is.
- Kay Reynolds