Why Dwayne Johnson’s “Rampage” Probably Won’t Save Video Game Movies

Matthew Loffhagen
Warner Bros
(Photo: Warner Bros)

Help us, Dwayne Johnson, you’re our only hope.

As “Tomb Raider” appears to have received a less than enthusiastic reaction from more fans, attention has been turning to “Rampage”, the next video game movie on the horizon.

Despite the fact that video game movies have never been any good, people are really invested in seeing one of these films land successfully. To that end, there’s been a rallying cry around “Rampage”, as many fans declare this to be the genre’s savior.

If anyone can save video game movies, it’s Dwayne Johnson.

“Doom” was a long time ago, you guys, it doesn’t count anymore.

It’s pretty frustrating by this point that we need to keep having this discussion surrounding video game movies. In theory, one could work, but decades of films have proven that the formula is difficult because playing games is more fun than watching a movie.

As this debate continues to rage, it’s worth emphasizing that “Rampage” is almost certainly not going to be the movie that finally gets the formula right.

Even if, by some utter miracle, this film is actually enjoyable, it won’t matter. Professional bean counters are estimating that “Rampage” is going to make just $35 million in its opening weekend, which Variety describes as “solid rather than spectacular”.

In other words, this movie is going to do okay at the box office, but unless it’s so incredibly good that word of mouth can keep people coming to see it, the film isn’t going to have a big enough audience to make much of a dent in popular culture.

Dwayne Rampage Johnson
Source: Warner Bros

Apparently, it’s a bad idea to base a movie on an incredibly obscure arcade game that nobody under the age of forty has ever heard of. Who could have guessed?

If Dwayne Johnson makes a great video game movie, but nobody actually sees it, very little is actually gained for the genre as a whole.

Not that “Rampage” is going to be a masterpiece in its own right. Giant monkey movies are a dime a dozen, and few if any of them have actually made much of an impact since the original “King Kong”. The formula here feels too derivative to be worthwhile – especially when you consider that the movie is being directed by Brad Peyton, who did “San Andreas”.

This isn’t to say that a director of a bad movie can’t make a good film, but come on – this is “San Andreas”. There isn’t enough original thought in that movie to fill a trailer, and from the looks of “Rampage”, it’s working on a very similar formula. Dwayne Johnson runs around being stoic while a big scary disaster rips through a city. “Rampage” might as well be a sequel to “San Andreas”.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the ongoing debate surrounding video game movies is the fact that there are good ones; they’re just not based on any game in particular.

“Wreck-It-Ralph” is a well built character piece that’s strong enough to allow audiences to overlook the token game references and the myriad painful candy puns.

“Scott Pilgrim vs The World” is pretty much the greatest exploration of gamer culture that’s ever been committed to film (and then summarily ignored by its target audience at the box office).

Dwayne Johnson in Jumanji
Source: Sony Pictures

Heck, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, also starring Dwayne Johnson, is a decent video game movie in its own right.

As a culture, we’re better at translating the signs, memes, and feeling of video games into movies, than we are at adapting a game’s story and characters for the big screen.

This is possibly because video game stories, by and large, are either utterly nonexistent, or so complex and large that they don’t fit in a single film.

Don’t expect “Rampage” to save video game movies.

If that bums you out, why not relax by just playing a video game instead? It’s probably a better use of your time than attempting to sit through the “Super Mario Bros” movie.