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RAMPAGE: Dwayne Johnson & Monkey Movies

At the risk of suffering from over-exposure, former rock and roll wrestler turned competent actor, turned top Hollywood box office drawcard, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, has appeared in eight feature films within the last couple of years. And there are several more on the way including a Big Trouble in Little China remake alongside an inevitable Jumanji sequel.

Playing a primatologist in his latest would-be blockbuster Rampage, it’s essentially a creature feature of grandiose high impact following his close bond with a gorilla since birth. After lethal genetics, the ape turns massively proportioned joining other animal kingdom mega-sized friends on the attack.

Altered monkeys on film has occurred in all shapes, sizes and aggressions. Dozens of King Kong or Tarzan movies aside, primates make an impact in cinema more than you may think and I don’t mean under the care of Dr. Dolittle.

Space Chimps (2008) and the Matthew Broderick tearjerker Project X (1987) took monkeys into the galaxy. While Ed (1996) has one protecting third base in minor league baseball.

Icon Clint Eastwood had two of his biggest hits sideling up to a beer-drinking Ourangutan named Clyde in Every Which Way But Loose (1970), Every Which Way You Can (1980), and Dunston Checks In (1996) had a primate living in a luxury hotel. Horror simians are remembered fondly in classic ‘80s shockers Monkey Shines and underappreciated schlock Blue Monkey where the critters lust blood instead of bananas.

Planet of the Apes (1968) took the lemur revolution to the next level spawning multiple sequels, a television show and reboots including the brilliant recent state of the art trilogy and the 2001 Mark Wahlberg flop which I happened to like.

Interspecies romance with a beautiful human woman (Charlotte Rampling) breaking her marriage up to be with Max from the local zoo and supposed ancestor gets a controversial look in, you won’t believe.

Talking apes have never done anything for me although gruff Nick Nolte, Zookeeper (2011), and sardonic John Cleese, George of the Jungle (1997), were upbeat hilarious. Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins acts like a ferocious primate during Instinct (1999) after being lost in the African wild and an even less intelligent storyline was green lit for Congo (1995) where a gorilla talks by pressing a kids toy slung around its neck.

The dawn of man conveyed shows apes discovering disregarded bones as weapons before discovering the ‘monolith’ in an extended opening scene of one of the greatest films of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey, while at the other end of the spectrum, actor Seth Green is held closer than comfortable by a furry friend when inside a cage during the questionable Disney family flick Old Dogs (2009). In 1954, the popularity of 3D sucked in huge audiences to be terrified by Gorrilla at Large and Robot Monster.

The list goes on and proving anthropoids of all kinds make for somewhat unique, often weird, but mostly always entertaining fodder. Time will tell if Rampage can capture the imagination once more, although the recent Kong Skull Island didn’t have a biceped Rock fighting off a slew of lashing oversized beasts spouting regulation quips in the thick of pulsating adventure.

RAMPAGE (Rated M – 107 min).
IN CINEMAS NOW

Shane A. Bassett

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