Brad Peyton’s latest pairing with Dwayne Johnson is their most enjoyably dumb collaboration yet. It’s not bad, just stupid, often in a good way and is very likely intentionally so. A big-budget B movie. Rampage doesn’t have to be seen, but I do recommend it to the people who think they’d be into it. And then I’d like to recommend eight movies to watch afterward.
For this week’s list, I’ve teamed up with our resident cheesy monster movie fanatic, Kieran Fisher. I still picked all the titles, some at his suggestion, but I had him write about the four he’s most passionate about us endorsing. Find mostly a mix of giant animal movies, specific to those also featured in Rampage, as well as a documentary and another seriously good movie among our highlights below.
Mighty Joe Young (1949)
Rampage is a buddy movie. The friendship between primatologist Davis (Dwayne Johnson) and the good-natured albino gorilla George is the film’s central theme, and it makes for plenty of humorous and touching moments throughout. So when George finds himself in trouble because of a man-made mistake he has no control over, Davis naturally sets out to defend his primate pal. Mighty Joe Young, which features some of Ray Harryhausen’s earliest special effects work, has a similar set-up. Here, a teenage girl must save her gorilla companion when he’s sentenced to death following a drunken incident that wasn’t his fault. The film was remade in 1998, and like the original version, it’s also a sweet, heart-warming tale about not letting an innocent monkey pay for mankind’s stupidity. – Kieran
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
Another movie with Harryhausen’s effects on display, 20 Million Miles to Earth is about an alien creature from Venus that grows into a giant monster and terrorizes a major city. Ymir (as the beast is named, just not in the actual movie) is from another planet, though his origins are reminiscent of the creatures in Rampage, as both movies start with a mysterious canister crash landing to Earth via human craft and as a result of this incident we get a beast increasing in size. Ymir eventually destructively battles a large animal (a normal-size elephant) in a metropolitan area. Also, he’s not really a monster. He didn’t ask to be here or become what he’s viewed as. Ymir is a victim and just wants to be left alone.
If science fiction has taught us anything, it’s that we should always be wary of science getting out of hand. The anthropomorphized animals in Rampage — a gorilla, an alligator, a wolf — are all products of a corrupt corporation’s destructive serum after all. But it’s not the only movie to feature a genetically-mutated monkey going wild. In Konga, a botanist concocts a potion which turns his adorable chimpanzee into his personal gorilla hitman. That is until his jealous wife-to-be decides to give the poor primate an overdose of the formula anyway, much to the dismay of London’s citizens. Konga is a different kind of dumb fun to Rampage, but both movies feature apes who’ve been injected with serums that were invented by morally questionable people with selfish agendas. – Kieran
Night of the Lepus (1972)
The opening scene of Rampage features a giant rat running amok in a space station. Christopher thought it was a rabbit at first, but after finally agreed that it was most definitely a rat, we still felt a rabbit would have been funnier. Fortunately, though, the supremely entertaining Night of the Lepus has overgrown rabbits terrorizing people, and like the colossal creatures in Rampage, they’re the result of bad science.
For a good giant rat movie, I highly recommend Deadly Eyes. In this slice of delightful schlock, the rodents in question are actually dogs dressed up as rats, but they still make hell for humanity nonetheless. What more do you need? – Kieran
Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World (1973)
There aren’t really any giant wolf movies, at least none that make sense to include here (I already recommended The NeverEnding Story recently anyway). But wolves are canines, and so are dogs. That leads us to Digby, of course. Similar to Ralph, the biggest wolf in the world, in Rampage, this movie’s Old English Sheepdog ingests something that makes him grow to enormous size. But more like George the gorilla, Digby is a human character’s best friend. Unlike George, Digby totally remains a good boy, even if he does accidentally pose a threat — or just barely seems to, given the movie’s chintzy forced-perspective effects — to people and property wherever he roams. Can the giant creature’s human pal get the antidote administered before the military takes matters into their own hands? Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World is basically the much cheaper G-rated British version of the Rampage story.
Koko: A Talking Gorilla (1978)
Apes using sign language are so common in entertainment that the average person likely thinks it’s normal practice. Enough that someday all gorillas will have robotic arms that help translate their ASL for the rest of us. Speaking of which, having Johnson say out loud what he’s signing to George in Rampage is probably all they needed to do in Congo (if not just use subtitles) instead of concocting that dumb tech for Amy. Anyway, Koko is one of the most famous of primates that scientists attempted to teach to sign, and arguably she’s the most successful. This documentary from Barbet Shroeder chronicles Koko’s teachings by psychologist Penny Patterson in the 1970s and is really sort of a starter work for potential fans of the animal. The film was unfortunately made prior to Koko’s obsession with kittens, which she received as pets in the ’80s. Sorry, she doesn’t give the finger or make sexual gestures, though she does have a controversial thing for women’s nipples.
Alligators, crocodiles, and other scaly water-dwelling menaces have been recycled more times than we’ll ever truly know in creature features throughout the years, but I can’t recall any that are as big as the alligator in Peyton’s latest blockbuster. When we meet the beast, it pops out of the water and eats a boat before hitting the streets and toppling Chicago. Alligator, written by Academy Award winner John Sayles, also sees the same breed of reptile make Chi-town its stomping ground, only this toothy terror stalks the streets munching on the citizens like they’re its own personal buffet — and they are. Perhaps this isn’t suitable for the whole family, but as far as angry alligator movies go it remains unsurpassed. – Kieran
Obvious Child (2014)
The greatest monster in Rampage is not any of the enlarge animals, it’s Jake Lacy’s obviously Trump-sons-inspired character, a sycophant sibling of Malin Ackerman’s main villain. He steals the movie even from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who is hamming so hard. Lacy is actually an underrated actor, but I’ve never seen anything like this from him. I associate him more with genuinely good romantic pictures including Carol and this indie comedy where he co-stars as the love interest opposite Jenny Slate. Obvious Child isn’t otherwise an obvious choice for this week’s list, but if you think about it, the movie does deal with a creature growing in size that seems to pose a problem for the main character the larger it gets.
Here are some additional movies (some obvious) worth watching after Rampage: King Kong, The Mighty Peking Man, Mimic, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.