Wherefore art thou, Magilla Gorilla?

If ‘Rampage’ got made, no ape should be left behind

This would-be B-movie takes too long to get to the part where a giant gorilla fights a giant wolf and a giant crocodile. Also, somebody buy The Rock one properly fitting shirt.

San Andreas and Jurassic Park III were provided abstinence-only education, didn’t use intellectual property protection and had an illegitimate Rampage baby. Oh yeah, while you weren’t looking, they made a whole movie based on a video game in which big animals punch buildings. Literally everything will one day be turned into a movie. What’s near you right now? A box of cereal? “Director Martin Scorsese brings you Robert DeNiro as Grape and Leo DiCaprio as Nuts. This fall, get ready for some loose bowels!”

Point is, if they’re willing to spend $120 million making a movie where The Rock plays a primatologist who yells “George!” at an albino monkey who makes a penetrative sex joke, we better get a goddamn mega-budgeted Magilla Gorilla movie with Daniel Day-Lewis coming out of retirement to method act the titular voice-over role. I’m standing firm on this one.

Rampage pitches a tent in the uncanny valley between Mount Schlocky Good Time and Mount Gritty Disaster. The Rock plays Davis Okoye, a man whose ongoing feud with all clothing manufacturers on the planet means he will never wear a shirt in which his nipples aren’t more visible than airplane landing beacons. He’s a former Special Forces dude who now makes the same single gesture in sign language at a gorilla a thousand billion times.

An evil corporation put genetic editing tech into cans on a space station, which crashes. George the poorly pigmented primate, a wolf and a crocodile all get exposed to the bad science juju and become impossibly large and quasi-unkillable. For some fantastically nonsensical reason, the mustache-twirling CEOs of the Megadick Corporation use the former Sears Tower to broadcast a frequency that attracts the monsters. Then, just like in every third movie, Chicago gets treated like an artery after horking down one of its signature hot dogs. Whatever this city did to Hollywood to warrant it’s repeated Blagojevich-ing on screen, it was likely Rahm Emmanuel’s fault.

When the film finally gets to the part where the big animals punch buildings, which was again the entire concept of the movie, it’s fine. Although, the only thing that pleasures VFX folks more than sodomizing Chicago is apparently having a big ape fight a big lizard. There’s nothing new here, other than The Rock sweating a lot in the general vicinity.

The big problem is that the movie has the audacity to both attempt character development and to let Jeffrey Dean Morgan refer to himself as a “cowboy” in every single line of dialogue. Making a quality B-movie is actually quite hard, and Rampage sure feels like nobody told director Brad Peyton what it was he was making. I’ll tell you what he wasn’t making: the Magilla Gorilla movie this broken world so desperately needs.

Listen, we are damned to live in an era where studios feel more comfortable tying their fortunes to semi-recognizable creative content than experimenting with original fare. Fine. Can we at least pick fun, semi-recognizable, creative content? And can we at least ditch the labored, gritty attempts to “ground” fantastical bullshit in some silly measure of realness? Embrace a goofy tone, take a unique angle and choose the right properties. Put a talking gorilla in a bow tie and top hat, and in doing so, liberate us all from the sad oppression of reality! 

This review previously appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Nebraska.