The tween mistakes of Rampage and Truth or Dare

Culture

Basing a movie on a game makes a certain amount of sense. Be it board, video, or party, and old game doesn’t involve a beloved story to be painstakingly adapted; in some cases, a game provides little more than a premise. Really, they’re marketing hooks sharpened by a vaguely comforting sense of nostalgia, which is all that some studios want out of “intellectual property” anyway.

This weekend brings a pair of additions to Game Cinema: Rampage, adapted from the old arcade game about monsters busting up buildings; and Truth or Dare, conceptually riffing off of the non-trademarked party game. Both very much belong to time-honored genres: Rampage is a monster movie as well as a disaster movie; Truth or Dare is a horror movie where a supernatural force stalks a group of young people. But they’re similarly interesting in terms of how the games at their center shape and sometimes gender the material.

Of course, plenty of girls played Rampage at the arcade back in the day. But contrary to any number of statistics, gaming is still stereotyped as a male pursuit, and Rampage leans way into that perception. It’s not just a movie designed for 12-year-old boys but seemingly by 12-year-old boys, aware of grown-up movie standbys like horrific violence and casual swearing but not especially adept at using them effectively.

It’s not surprising that Rampage, in which Dwayne Johnson plays a primatologist whose gorilla bestie George is mutated into a larger, angrier monster and scuffles with a similarly enhanced wolf and crocodile, is a very silly movie. “B-movies with A-movie budgets” has been a much-used description of Hollywood blockbusters for going on two decades, and to an extent it applies here. But like San Andreas, the last movie Johnson made with director Brad Peyton, even the A-movie budget can’t disguise how hollow and insubstantial all of the death and destruction feels, even in action-movie terms.

Some of Rampage is still fun, especially when several of the actors (including Jake Lacy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Malin Akerman) chew up the scenery just before the monsters demolish it. A better movie would make them part of the joke; Rampage feels uncertain about whether there is a joke, or if so, what it should be. One character gets eaten by a gigantic crocodile, and Peyton stages it more or less like a mean grown-up getting pushed into a swimming pool in an old Nickelodeon movie. The movie wants to revel in its absurdity, yet never fully lets go of the idea that it could stumble its way into a superior monster-movie style exercise like Kong: Skull Island. That never happens; it’s unmistakably a kid movie half-grown into its bad language and body count.

Johnson is the ideal figure to maintain this illusion of an all-ages blockbuster, because he’s both a genuine star with clear presence in front of the camera and a barely-adolescent boy’s idea of masculinity: Gigantic, muscular, kind to animals without doling out too many hugs, sweaty and bloodied but essentially bulletproof, and …read more

Source:: The Week – Entertainment

      

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