One of the great appeals of adapting the classic Bally Midway arcade game, Rampage, to the big screen is its simplicity. While more modern games have increasingly layered mythologies that fans will demand be faithfully recreated—much to the apprehension of director Brad Peyton—when New Line Cinema turned Rampage into a star vehicle for Dwayne Johnson, it was easy to get the basics right while making an entirely modern and cinematic action movie starring the Rock. There will be a giant ape, lizard, and wolf, buildings will be destroyed, and we’ll even get that red dress… however there is one major change that departed from the game in a big way: no one will be pulling a Lon Chaney Jr. and transforming into a King Kong-sized monster in this movie.
While on the Rampage set we were obviously curious why, at a certain point, someone must have passed on the idea of the Rock turning into an ape or wolf, and we discovered that almost everyone involved was quick to veto that idea.
“That was a solid no,” director Peyton laughs when that conceit of the game is mentioned. “Let’s just say I said no to Rock-zilla… That sounds really not grounded at all. It’s like a Saturday Night Live skit a little bit, so that’s going to be a hard pass for me.”
Producers Hiram Garcia and John Rickard echoed that sentiment while revealing that they seriously attempted to see if the concept could work—and confirming that the Rock nor any other human will transform in this film.
“I heard lots of different pitches when we started to craft the story, and some of the writers did go down that path,” Rickard says while admitting he was initially curious to see if it would work since it is an aspect of the game. “But every time I heard it, you couldn’t buy it, honestly. It’s too much to buy, and I think at that point I realized [a route] by sci-fi is the best way to go. And I think [audiences can understand] that creatures can grow from what they were and become something else, but from human to animal to—it was just one step too far.”
When pressed whether we could see someone infected with a mutagen derived from CRISPR technology—a real genetic “editing” technique that is used to explain why a pathogen turns animals into monsters in Rampage—Rickard flatly says, “Not in this one, no.” However, that might leave room for a sequel…
Garcia echoed this by noting the animal rights aspect that this change highlighted. Says Garcia, “We wanted to make sure that we’re sensitive to the fact that all the animals are victims in this. And one of the things that we like about in our dynamic and our movie… we’re actually trying to save the monster in our story. It’s essentially a man trying to save his best friend, and ultimately [Johnson] is trying to do everything he can while everyone else is freaking out, and unfortunately these creatures are being forced to rampage out of their control.”
Still, in the large scheme of things, the film is going to stay very true to the spirit of the Rampage game, which was always its central conceit. The director even thinks he may have an advantage over other filmmakers who have tackled more recent, popular game titles.
“Like I play video games and I would be scared shitless to make a Modern Warfare or Assassin’s Creed,” Peyton admits. “Like where this game is so deep in its own mythology, its characters are so defined, there is a lot of pressure when it comes to that and sticking to those things. And for me, you’d have to be a real diehard fan to have a shot at doing that right, you know? So with this, there’s very little mythology that everyone’s aware of. There are a couple little things that I feel like we all think of. [There’s] the three creatures; we think of the woman with the red dress who gets eaten. I’m like, ‘Okay, I can do that, and then I can do all the things I want to do.’”
Those things will happen when Rampage opens on April 13.