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Rampage is the number one movie at the box office and it's also doing better with critics than any other movie ever made based on a video game. Why video games have had trouble adapting themselves into successful films is a long conversation that has a lot of different causes. However, it seems clear that Rampage was able to avoid many of them.
Rampage may not qualify as a cinematic masterpiece, but it's a good, fun movie if nothing else. Of course, other video game based films have tried to be just as good and fun, but ultimately failed to do so. Here are some of the reasons Rampage was able to succeed where other such movies did not.
It Had The Freedom To Tell A Story
One of the reasons that video games have become a popular genre for film adaptation is that games themselves are becoming more cinematic. They create characters who have arcs that carry them through a story, just like movies. The problem is that often times these characters and stories lock the movie down into the type of movie it can be. A screenwriter has to figure out how to put all these pieces of the game together and doesn't have the freedom to break out into anything new. Rampage, by virtue of being the simplest of games with barely any story to speak of, could build whatever story it wanted to. As long as three monsters are destroying a city by the end, you've made a Rampage movie. The rest can be whatever it needs to be to make that payoff work.
Two Words: The Rock
To be clear, Dwayne Johnson does not automatically make your movie great, though he might automatically make your movie better than it otherwise would be. And yes, he made Doom, so he doesn't have a magic touch when it comes to video game movies. Having said that, Dwayne Johnson is an incredibly charismatic movie star and he's almost always fun to watch. If you're going to ground your giant monster movie in a single human character who can make you buy into the idea that he has a special connection to an albino gorilla, The Rock is your guy. It's been over a decade since Doom and Johnson has found his stride in action movies. The man has spent his career entertaining crowds; he knows how to do it like nobody else.
It's Not Afraid To Have Fun
While most people probably view video games as a fun and silly pastime, the fact is that in recent years, the games themselves have become awfully serious. The characters tend to be grim, determined heroes, and many of the games are excessively violent and deal with mature themes. This means the movies that are based on them become equally dark and serious. Rampage has a giant alligator pull a fighter jet out of midair with its teeth. The movie takes itself only as seriously as it needs to, and it has fun with the rest. Audiences will frequently forgive a movie's shortcomings if they ultimately had a good time. Rampage is a good time.
It Doesn't Actually Need To Be A Video Game Movie
At the end of the day, the thing that may have made Rampage a successful movie based on a video game is the fact that it would have likely been good if it hadn't been based on a video game. The movie uses so little of the original arcade classic's concept that it really could have been an entirely original movie, and it likely would have still been good. It's impossible to know for sure, of course, but the premise is far from the craziest thing a Hollywood screenwriter has conceived on their own. The video game brand gives the story a recognizable name that is useful in marketing and may have helped the movie be financially successful, but it was a fun theater experience all on its own.