Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is now one of the biggest movie stars in the world, but his prior life as a professional wrestler will always be some part of his public persona and core being — after all, his wrestling monicker lives right smack in the middle of the credit that tops the theater marquee and movie billboards.
There's a meta aspect to all of his acting roles — we call it Rockness here at SYFY WIRE — that rings through each of his films, to the point that no matter what character he's playing, he's always kind of The Rock. That he hasn't strayed far away from his wrestling roots in his movies, more often than not laying the smack down in blockbuster event films, only further recalls his days letting loose on the candy asses of the WWE. The fact that he's actually the tiny underdog in his latest rock-em sock-em flick, director Brad Peyton's Rampage, didn't stop the movie's VFX crew and animators from having fun with Johnson's legacy as The Rock, even if he left most of the actual wrestling to a giant gorilla and wolf.
"As a nod to Dwayne in the final battle, George the gorilla has to attack Lizzie in the background as Dwayne's character Davis is running by, and so as a bit of background action, we had George do the People's Elbow to Lizzie," animation supervisor Dave Clayton tells SYFY WIRE, explaining how the giant monkey delivers The Rock's signature wrestling move on a humongous nasty crocodile. "Davis is running towards the Apache and Lizzie is really going to work on George. As Davis runs towards the camera and hops into that Apache and starts lighting up Lizzie [with its guns]. In that moment you see George in the background giving the elbow."
The movie, which has made nearly $300 million worldwide in just a few weeks, is filled with all kinds of little nods to both Johnson's career and the Rampage arcade game, which has been satisfying gamers' anarchic and animalistic instincts for well over two decades. The actual arcade cabinet plays a prominent role in the movie, with placement in the villains' corporate headquarters, and more subtle nods can be found throughout the rest of the film.
"We knew it had to be photo-real monsters crushing the city, but that's fine, that's sort of a day at the office here," he said, laughing at the excitement his team at WETA felt when they got their hands on the production plates. "So we tried to put in our own little nods to the arcade game wherever we could. There's an expression that Ralph does sometimes, so we said let's sneak that into this show. Where George is in the background smashing that building, let's have him reach in and pull out a guy just like he does in the game."
It may take a few viewings to see all these tributes to the game, given how much is happening on screen, but you'll eventually see everything that The Rock — and WETA — were cooking.