Dwayne Johnson continues his efforts to appear in a full half of Hollywood’s yearly output by starring in this week’s big special-effects action film Rampage, based on the classic video game of the same name. Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist at a zoo who shares a special bond with a gorilla named George, who he rescued at a young age.
One night George gets out of his enclosure and is exposed to a chemical being released from a strange object that had fallen from the sky. The next day the gorilla is twice his normal size and just keeps getting bigger. That draws the attention of the feds, who want to know what’s happening, as does Okoye. Soon everyone realizes George wasn’t the only animal feeling the effects of the chemical, leading to a climactic showdown in the streets of Chicago between a massive gorilla, wolf and alligator.
There’s not much subtlety or anything happening on the posters. Each one presents Johnson and the massive gorilla set against the background of the city, the gorilla’s face or body usually obscured to reinforce just how huge it is, as if the frame cannot contain it. One does pull the camera back a bit to show Johnson walking toward the viewer, offering a better look at George and showing one of the other genetically-modified beasts that they’ll be fighting. Each one uses the “Big meets bigger” copy as if this were a meeting of titans.
Another poster surprisingly obscures Johnson, who’s seen only in the shadow of the hulking George that towers above him. This one features a more artistic look and feel, with lots of green DNA strands shooting out all over the place while the other overgrown monsters howl in the background. This is also the first one to not feature the tagline that’s graced all the previous posters.
An IMAX poster tried really hard to ape (sorry) the look and feel of Mondo’s popular line of alternative one-sheets with artwork placing Johnson, gun in hand, at the center of the image and the supporting cast of humans and animals around him. In a nice touch, the tagline that’s been used on the other posters gets tweaked a bit here to read “Big gets bigger” to promote the format’s (usually) oversized screens.
The first trailer introduces us to Okoye and explains how he’s better with animals than people. He’s specially bonded with George, a gorilla at the zoo he rescued at a young age. One day something strange falls from the sky and is found by George. Whatever it is releasing a gas that begins to transform the ape into something massive and hostile. He eventually escapes and it becomes clear other animals have been changed as well. A shady government industry steps in to “help” but of course things go wrong and it’s up to Okoye and others to save the day and rescue Chicago from being totally destroyed by the rampaging creatures.
It’s fine. It promises the audience a massive CGI action movie featuring a giant crocodile and more, all accompanied by Johnson’s usual wit. The biggest problem I have here is what zoo the story takes place at. Is it one in Chicago? Because there’s nothing here that features the kind of habitats shown. I’m hoping the zoo is somewhere else, despite the establishing shot at the beginning of the trailer seeming to show that the whole thing takes place in and around Chicago.
While the second trailer has many of the same beats we do get a bit more information about the source of the chemicals that transform George and the other animals. There’s also a good-sized helping of meta humor, with Johnson’s Okoye often making comments on behalf of the audience about what’s happening around him.
Online and Social
After you close the trailer that kicks off the official website you are able to access a decent amount of material.
That starts off, using the menu at the top, with “Trailers,” which has both trailers, and continues in “Synopsis,” which has a brief story recap and other details. The “Gallery” just has one of the posters along with two stills.
Skipping over “Get Tickets,” “Get the App” takes you to where you can download “Rampage – AR Unleashed,” which offers an AR experience allowing you to put some of the monsters from the movie on the streets of the city you’re in. That was tied to a contest awarding the creator of the most inventive video using the app a chance to join Johnson on part of his promotional tour, the details of which are shared in the “Tour” section of the site.
“Partners” has links to the companies that offered their own promotional support for the movie and “Comic” takes you to a DC Comics-hosted webcomic that told a prequel story to what people will see in theaters.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A TV spot acts as a slightly-condensed version of the trailer, starting out by establishing the relationship between Okoye and George before the gorilla is mutated into something massive. From there on out it’s primarily about selling the big monsters that will be fighting as well as Johnson’s dry wit in the face of danger, both of which are what the audience really wants to see.
Another video that was used as an ad on various platforms interspersed clips from the movie with Johnson, seen shooting a video of himself from inside a gym, talking about how “badass” the movie is.
Johnson hosted an episode of the popular HQ Trivia app-based show to promote the movie in what seems to have been the latest example of that show attracting movie studio sponsorship dollars.
Promotional partners for the movie included:
- Dave & Busters, which offered a promotion giving you five free games when you reloaded your card.
- Monster Jam, where movie-branded trucks – one for each monster – were part of a recent event that was introduced by Johnson and which included footage from the film.
- Tillys, which ran a sweepstakes awarding the winner a trip to the movie’s premiere.
Media and Publicity
A new photo from the film appeared in EW after the trailer was released. Much later (he was promoting Jumanji in that period) on Johnson showed up on “Conan” to engage in some hijinks centered around the idea that – brace yourselves – the two have very different body types.
As usual with the lead actor, the closer we got to release the more feature profiles like this came out, allowing Johnson to talk about his personal issues, be charming and self-effacing in addition to promoting his movie.
As is almost always the case, the movie is being sold on a mix between two things:
- Johnson’s preternatural charm and charisma. If anything, this campaign takes it to the next level by having him provide commentary on the action that’s like what the audience is going to be muttering under its breath. That makes him even more relatable than he already is, his humor setting everyone at ease around a man who could bench press any 10 members of the audience combined.
- Going all-in on the premise and not even trying to hide the ridiculousness of the action, which is presented as massive on a Transformers-like scale.
This combination of charm and complete seriousness about what’s being sold will probably help the movie dominate the box-office this weekend, getting in a quick hit that hopefully sustains at least one more weekend before Avengers comes in and burns everything around it down.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.