Welcome to Dan Glaser’s Movie Podcast: The ONLY Podcast You Have To Read. In each episode I go with a different comedian to see a movie and then we head to the closest coffee shop to chat about it over the internet. Yes it is a podcast, you just have to read it instead of listen to it. As always, you can catch up on all the other episodes here. Even better, consider supporting the podcast by subscribing!
Keaton and I met at the Union Square something or other theater for a matinee showing of Rampage. It was a rainy, Manhattany day and we figured we could wait out the storm in some cushy seats listening to some loud noises. After the film, we strolled up to the Brooklyn Roasting Company on 23rd St to discuss over gchat what had just happened on screen. I got an iced green tea and Keaton got a black coffee.
Dan: Ok Keaton, we did it. We saw Rampage. Full disclosure, before during and after the movie I liked to imagine that it was actually called Rampage, except pronounced “Ramp-idge” like ownage, or steerage. As in, that movie was total Rampage. That gorilla was full of Rampage. So let’s start with the most important question: by the end of the movie, did you learn a lesson?
Keaton: Yeah, I learned that whoever wrote the film (or one of the FOUR old white guys who wrote it) hated the city of Chicago and the Willis Tower (née Sears Tower). This movie basically asked the question, what if 9/11 happened in Chicago, but instead of terrorists in planes attacking, it was gigantic animals (Earth’s natural terrorists).
Dan: I actually did think it was nice that Chicago was getting blown up instead of New York for once. I thought to myself “oh hey, it’s those things!” when the Gorilla knocked over one of those little guard towers on one end of the little street bridge. Iconic! Only in Chicago baby! I wish the Rock or The Rock’s Friend stopped in for some deep dish. As far as homeland security is concerned, this is definitely one of those movies where the “government” and the “army” and “agents” are sort of the bad guys but also sort of not. Everyone is just trying to do “their job” and the “right thing.”
Keaton: Speaking of jobs, did you like how the Rock, the lead primatologist at the San Diego Zoo, also happened to be a former Army Special Forces member? I think it helped justify how he could literally do anything possible. Survive a plane crash, survive a tower crash, survive a gunshot that luckily missed all vital organs, etc. I don’t know what they’re teaching these Special Forces guys, but it seems immortality is in sight.
Speaking of immortality, how’d you like the science in the film? Did you enjoy how a former Head of Genetics at a massive corporation still sleeps with Intro to Genetics textbooks on her bed?
Dan: I’ll get to the science but I want to say that this movie had the most important and classic of all former-special forces-turned-civilian routines: explain to the bad guys exactly how you are going to mess them up if they attack you and then proceed to do it. “If you don’t put that gun down, I’m gonna flip your arm behind your back and make you kick that other guy in the throat. Then you’re gonna beg me to call your momma.” Smash cut to: that.
As far as Naomie Harris’ geneticist is concerned, you have to remember that she went to prison for a long time and there is nothing wrong with brushing up on your genetics basics. Let’s set the stage here a little for people. As a general plot overview, this movie starts in space, where no one can hear you rampage. A space scientist is running away from a turbo rat that is rampaging (I get it now) through the space station. She has to save the samples from her experiment before the evil bosses will let her off the ship. Science everywhere in this setup. Science is all around us, actually.
The “samples” crash land into earth and end up spraying all over 3 of nature’s most deadly predators: The Gorilla. The Wolf. The Rock. No, it’s an Alligator not The Rock but could you imagine? I waited the whole movie for The Rock to Rampage. They make a point of saying that the Rampage pathogen gives you super regeneration abilities. Then the rock gets gutshot. Show me one person in America who doesn’t want to see The Rock fix his gunshot wounds with Rampage juice and I’ll show you a NERD.
Ok you take over, I’m getting too heated.
Keaton: Speaking of nerds, you’d imagine they’d be the people responsible for creating the rampage toxin, right? WRONG! It’s two rich, preppy siblings, Brett and Claire (because the names Don Jr. and Ivanka were already taken), who head up Energyne, a company rich enough to have its own SPACE STATION. And why did they do it? TO MAKE MORE MONEY!!! If the the Rock really wanted to save the world of this movie, he should’ve been protesting at Zuccotti Park, because the real gigantic monster is and always will be capitalism.
The ISS cost $150 BILLION. And they had their own.
So we’re introduced to Naomie [Keaton is referring to the character Dr. Kate Caldwell here — ed.] when she receives a phone call from someone (A boss? Who knows. It’s never addressed again and we have to assume the person died in a helicopter explosion since basically everyone else in the film does) that wakes her up. She then sees a news story about the Rampaging animals and knows what she has to: go to the zoo and meet her favorite actor, The Rock.
The zoo has some of the film’s greatest characters. Hot girl, hot guy, guy who looks like a fat version of a Big Bang Theory character. It’s a shame that after 30 minutes of these characters we never see or hear from them again, but you know the old adage, “There’s no such thing as a small role, except in Rampage (2018).”
Fat Big Bang Theory guy does have one of the film’s best lines. After The Rock turns down the attractive blonde to go home and play with his dogs (never shown due to them blowing their dog budget on the giant wolf) and then drives off, Fat Big Bang guy mutters, “Girls like him. I need to shave my head.”
This is hilarious because obviously girls don’t like him because of his shaved head, they like him because he’s the main character.
Dan: I’ll add that The Rock is good friends with all animals, but mostly the albino Gorilla from the poster, George. They share jokes and sign language and probably T-Shirts (the rock has big muscles). People in this movie are constantly asking The Rock why he hates people so much. We are never actually shown this people hating, but we are told it. Although actually I guess we are shown it via other people telling it. Show other characters telling, don’t tell. Classic filmmaking trick. George the Gorilla obviously gets infected with Rampage toxin and the rest of the movie is The Rock, The Rock’s Friend and Cowboy Agent (we’ll get to him, maybe) trying to…stop…the…Rampage? The evil corporation has installed bat sonar on the Rampage animals and they are all drawn to Chicago for the aforementioned 9/11 2 final showdown. Most of the movie is spent getting to that final showdown.
I do like the idea of a giant monster movie where there monster slowly grows over the course of the movie. I was a little confused at the scale of things by the end though. You have a Gorilla, normally pretty big. A wolf, normally pretty small. And an alligator, normally pretty big. By the end, the Gorilla is like, a big gorilla. The Wolf is city bus size. The alligator is effectively an aircraft carrier. Keaton, they all huffed the same Rampage juice, what gives???
Keaton: Well, Dan, you have to understand, the Gorilla only breathed in a little of it. The wolf breathed in a little more of it. And the alligator ate the entire capsule.
Dan: Science wins again.
Keaton: As Cowboy Agent once said, “When science shits the bed, I clean the sheets.” Which, I guess, is a job he wants? Is that what the job posting was? On Monster.com?
Speaking of Monster.com, these giant animals should be on that!
Dan what government agency do you think the Cowboy worked for? I’m guessing Treasury, because that guy was MONEY.
Dan: That was a good line. The cowboy agent had a lot of good lines. To your point, they never actually reveal what his deal was, authority wise. I like to imagine that after the credits roll, Cowboy agent gets on his sat-phone to dial home base and the camera zooms in to reveal it’s actually one of those clear plastic cell phones filled with candy that you give to kids. Cowboy agent doesn’t work for the government and the gun on his holster, WHICH HE NEVER USES?, is also full of candy.
Keaton: He also just happens to carry around the keys to an Army medical helicopter at all times, which lead us to a delightfully humorous moment in the film where the Rock assures his friend he can fly a helicopter, but he can only kinda fly a helicopter, until he then can fly a helicopter.
Again, there were more helicopters in this movie than there were people of color. Even the gorilla was white.
Dan: I mean, yes. That’s true. But the leads were both POC and the evil corporate twins were white so I guess baby steps. The corporate twins got killed pretty good, too. The Doofy Breakfast Brother (main character trait: holding breakfast items in every scene) got a piece of a building smashed onto his head while running away. The Evil Sister With The Corner Office got…eaten…by George. I suppose that is satisfying to someone but it just made me wonder when George started eating people. I guess that must have happened offscreen.
Keaton: When in Chicago there are two must eats: deep dish and sisters with corner offices.
Dan: In the end, they find an antidote to the Rampage juice that does not shrink you back to normal size but it does make it so you can be friends with The Rock again. George and The Rock reunite and beat up the other animals. THE END.
Did we miss anything?
Keaton: We barely touched on the symbolism of America’s armed forces being completely useless to save the country.
Dan: Oh my god. This is something that our good friend Nick Guercio brought up to me once and I think about it all the time. He was talking specifically about the sci-fi action toy thriller movie series Transformers.
Keaton: Ah, you mean Rampage with Robots?
Dan: And how in those movies, giant transforming robots are rampaging (I get it) through the world. Other friendly giant transforming robots are smashing them up and blasting them hard. The US ARMY, or the MARINES or someone also show up and feature prominently in the movie. Except they don’t really do anything except run towards the robots and fire guns uselessly. Why do they keep doing that? It won’t work. Bullets are expensive.
Keaton: The American way.
Dan: I guess we do have good gear. And actually that’s what I want to mention next. An insane amount of what I can only describe of as tactical backpacks. Just tons of tactical backpacks on display. Lots of zippers and elastic straps to hang stuff off of. I have never seen so many tactical backpacks in one film! Joe Manganiello and his team of PMCs all have tactical backpacks. Even The Rock’s nerd friend at the zoo has a tactical backpack. I need one I think, and that is the purpose of this film.
Keaton: Well JanSport did fund it. Another big product placement: Dave and Buster’s. George literally smashes up a Dave and Buster’s storefront and I guess Dave or Buster thought that was a good idea for their company?
“Hey, want to be in a movie where we show customers of yours being killed?”
“Can I get a free tactical backpack out of it?”
“Go for it.”
Dan: “But first let me check with Buster.”
Keaton: “But doctor, I am Buster.”
Dan: Ok I have a few final questions. First, I want to know your three favorite things about this movie. For me, they are in no particular order:
1.) The fact that you can tell how far along in the movie you are by how dirty and torn up The Rock’s T-shirt is.
2.) That the message of this movie is that…poachers are bad.
3.) The only thing that can stop a bad rampaging monster is a good rampaging monster with a spear.
Keaton: For me:
1.) When after surviving the collapse of the Willis Tower in a broken helicopter, and breathing in the dust and shattered construction materials that gave 9/11 first responders terrible cancer, the Rock says, “I could really use a drink.” At no other point in this movie is alcohol mentioned, and it makes absolutely no sense for his character, but I think the Rock has a stipulation in his contract where he gets one free line to say whatever he wants and they have to use it, and that was it.
2.) They didn’t use the easy joke of having the wolf lift its leg and piss on Wrigley Field. I would’ve laughed sure, but enough movies already have that exact same scene.
3.) That the video game that the movie is based off of also EXISTS IN THE WORLD OF THE MOVIE. The rich twins have two arcade cabinets of the game. So if the game exists in that world, how come NOBODY is like, “Wow, this sure is a lot like that game?” Also, did the rich twins get the idea for the toxin from the game? It’s called the RAMPAGE PATHOGEN, so I have to assume, yes? What was their next plan to make the Pac Man Particle? The Space Invaders Serum? The Joust Juice?
Dan: Dig Dug Drug. Ok next question: if you could change one thing about the movie what would it be?
Keaton: I would add a scene where another of the canisters full of the rampage pathogen lands inside Deadpool’s apartment. He breathes in the green fumes, stares into camera, and says, “It’s 420 somewhere.” Then a helicopter crashes into his apartment and he dies. Never throughout the rest of the film is it explained why this scene happens.
Dan: I don’t know if this movie exists in the Marvel cinematic universe, but there is definitely a Justice League reference at one point. For me, I would like to have seen some additional animal genes added to some of the rampage monsters. They give the wolf porcupine quills and bat wings. I think the alligator gets….boar tusks, and maybe some kind of dinosaur style clubbed tail? Why can’t George get cat eyes. Or like that corkscrew dick that all the ducks have? Is that too much to ask? I guess I got a bad case of sequelitis because I’m ready to see where this goes.
Keaton: Or I’d tie the film into the Jumanji franchise. This would be easy to do since the Rock is in both films. He could just say, “This is just like when I played Jumanji.” Then the film could have references to Robin Williams, the man whose death Rampaged all of our hearts.
Dan: Ok last one, you get a chance to rename this movie, what do you call it?
Keaton: Pixels 2
Dan: I’m going with either Free Willy: Gorilla Edition, or 9/11 2: Rampaging Dr Rock. I guess all that’s left is to say thanks for joining me Keaton, and ask if you have any words to sum up your thoughts?
Keaton: I’m going to go home and kiss my helicopter. This film made me realize, you never know how long you have with them.
Keaton: And actually, how about we call it Pixels 2: Apemaggedon? Maybe that’s better.
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Keaton Patti is a writer and comedian who has contributed to the New Yorker, the Onion, and other places with “the” in front of them. You may remember him from the previous sentence.