Why “Rampage” Hasn’t Really Beaten the Video Game Movie Curse

Matthew Loffhagen
Warner Bros
(Photo: Warner Bros)

Dwayne Johnson is in a good mood at the moment. Triumphantly, the wrestler-turned actor has announced, far and wide, that his latest movie, “Rampage”, has beaten the video game movie curse.

53% on Rotten Tomatoes! Read it and weep!

Do you know what? I do feel like weeping. If 50% on Rotten Tomatoes (the movie has subsequently fallen a few points) is the benchmark for success with this genre of movies, then I can’t help but feel incredibly depressed about the state of movies in general.

For the record, “Rampage” has an average critic rating of 5.3/10, which is the more important metric – the Tomatometer only measures general positivity, and it’s hard for anyone to be negative in a review when The Rock is paying such close attention to what they’re writing.

Dwayne Johnson Rampage
Source: Warner Bros

For the record, “Rampage” has barely scored higher than the last movie to feature Johnson and director Brad Peyton’s joint efforts – “San Andreas” scored 50% on the Tomatometer and a 5.2/10 average score, and nobody actually liked that movie at all when all was said and done.

The Curse Has Lifted?

Let’s have a think about Johnson’s claim that the video game curse has finally been broken.

Generally, the idea behind the curse is that nobody has ever successfully made a good video game movie, and Johnson now insists that “Rampage” is not utterly terrible, so it’s naturally a triumph.

Except, of course, an incredibly average movie is not the same as a good movie. Johnson and Peyton have still failed to make something that’s anything more than barely watchable.

“Prince of Persia” was the previous best of the bunch with regards to video game movies, and it had a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 36%. If we delve a little deeper, though, we can see that this movie had an average critic score of an even 5/10.

In other words, “Rampage” isn’t significantly better than what has come before; it’s marginally more enjoyable, but critics and fans alike are going much easier on it.

Tomb Raider Trailer
Source: Warner Bros

Here’s the real kicker, though: this year’s “Tomb Raider” scores a Tomatometer score of 49%, meaning that at first glance, “Rampage” is a more well received movie.

In reality, though, “Tomb Raider” has an average critic score of 5.4/10.

Yes, that’s right. “Tomb Raider” reviewed better than “Rampage”.

It’s funny how numbers work, isn’t it? Math doesn’t lie.

Defining Video Game Movies

Let’s talk now about the second problem with The Rock’s claims. After all, critic reviews are only part of the story.

According to Dwayne Johnson, “Rampage” is the best video game movie ever made. This, though, only holds true if we include a very narrow definition of video game movies.

What is a video game movie? Is it a movie based on a video game? Or a movie about a video game?

While direct adaptations of video games have proven (and still prove) to be incredibly difficult, moviemakers have been crafting fantastic pieces of film fiction about games for years.

The solution seems to be not to try and make a game that’s all about a single gaming franchise, but rather to make a movie that feels like playing a video game.

Whenever someone says that we’ve never had a good video game movie, I can’t help but point one pudgy, Cheeto-encrusted finger at “Wreck-it-Ralph”. This movie is a story about “Donkey Kong” in all but namesake, and it deserves more credit for making all video game bad guys, even Dr Robotnik (yes, that’s his name!) feel human and relatable.

Scott Pilgrim
Source: Universal

Then, there’s “Scott Pilgrim vs the World”, which is one of the more visually stunning creations ever to come from Edgar Wright. Yes, it’s based on a comic book series, but both the comic, and the film, are based on video game tropes.

If you need another example, look no further than “Ready Player One”. Steven Spielberg insists that it’s not a video game movie, but then, nobody is quite sure whether he actually knows what a video game is. He thought the “E.T.” game on the Atari 2600 was a work of “genius”.

Better Than Nothing

So when Dwayne Johnson brags about the success of his latest film, and how he finally broke the video game curse, bear in mind that there have been oh, so many video game movies before that have reviewed better, and won the hearts and minds of a wider audience.

If you like “Rampage”, then good for you, but I’m tired of settling for mediocrity with my video game movies. I want a genuinely great film, and I won’t settle for anything less, no matter how big Dwayne Johnson’s arms might be.