It took a long time. Many would say too long. But finally, today, in 2018, the careers of The Rock and Jason Statham are intertwining. It started a few years ago with Statham’s appearance in Furious 7 and continued in the franchise’s next film, 2017’s Fate of the Furious, which saw the two develop a camaraderie and on-screen chemistry that was somehow both unexpected and obvious. Why wouldn’t The Rock and Jason Statham be terrific together? We should have known. This is our fault, not theirs. Thankfully, we will right this wrong next year when the two of them star in the franchise’s first spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw.
But that’s not the only way their careers are coming together. Earlier this year, The Rock starred in Rampage, a movie in which he did battle with abnormally large violent beasts who were out to destroy people and property because of a billionaire’s business plan gone awry. Later in the same year, Jason Statham starred in The Meg, a movie in which he did battle with an abnormally large violent beast who was out to destroy people and property because of a billionaire’s business plan gone awry. The Rock and Jason Statham both battled beefy beasts on the big screen this year. I choose to believe this is the universe’s apology to me for canceling Zoo.
Anyway, the question this raises here, because the movies are similar and because I rarely have anything better to do than debate the film careers of The Rock and Jason Statham, is this: Which one did it better? Which star, and which movie, conquered the beefy beasts best?
Let’s dig in. You don’t have anything better to do either.
Rampage: The Rock plays a primatologist and former Special Forces soldier named Davis Okoye whose best friend is an albino gorilla named George who likes making dick jokes via sign language. I very much like everything about this character because, like, imagine if you went to the zoo and one of the dudes working with the gorillas was a former supersoldier who looked like The Rock. Delightful.
The Meg: Jason Statham plays a deep sea rescue diver named Jonas Taylor who had a deep sea rescue dive go bad and then moved to Thailand to fish and get drunk a lot. He is recruited to come back by two people who show up in a helicopter and give him a variation of the “because you were the best, that’s why,” which is easily my favorite framing device for an action movie hero origin. They just replaced “a cabin in the woods” with “a bar in Thailand.” Also at one point, when the megalodon appears, Statham’s character literally says “It’s a megalodon” and I did not realize how important it was to me on a deep personal level to hear Jason Statham say that until that very moment. The only way it could have been better is if he tossed an “innit?” at the end. Still, no contest here.
EDGE: The Meg
Rampage: Rampage is based on an old arcade game that featured three monsters — a giant gorilla, a giant wolf, and a giant crocodile — who just smashed the hell out of buildings and cities. That’s all the game was. You played as one of those three and whomped on buildings and helicopters for a while and then you stopped. It was a simpler time.
The Meg: The Meg was loosely based on a series of novels by Steve Alten and I am very pleased to report that, in one of these novels, a megalodon wreaks havoc on boaters in McCovey Cove — the body of water beyond the right-field fence of the San Francisco Giants’ baseball stadium — after former Philadelphia Phillie Pat Burrell hits a home run to break Barry Bonds’ all-time career record. This is the greatest and funniest thing and if you think I am only including this section of the breakdown to tell you about this then you are not far off, buddy.
EDGE: The Meg
Rampage: The beasts in Rampage are the same as the ones from the game. There’s a gorilla named George, a crocodile named Lizzie, and a wolf named Ralph. In the movie, the animals are transformed into bloodthirsty hell-beasts when canisters full of gene-manipulating pathogens fall from the heavens after a space station owned by an evil billionaire is destroyed by a mutated rat. The wolf can fly and it takes a helicopter right out of the sky. It’s best to just accept all of these things and move on. Nothing good comes of asking questions here.
The Meg: The meg in The Meg is a 75-foot-long prehistoric shark that lives in a previously undiscovered pocket of deep sea ocean under a gooey cloud at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. It hates boats. I should again point out that it’s best to avoid asking too many questions. The most important thing you need to know is that none of the monsters in The Meg are named Ralph and, therefore…
Rampage: The evil billionaire in Rampage is Claire Wyden, the CEO of the gene-mutation company, played by Malin Akerman. Malin Akerman was born to play an evil billionaire. She has those icy blue eyes and that terrifying stare, which is wild because she was also great as a slapstick goofball in Childrens Hospital. I could go on and on but I feel like I can sum up it better with this screencap.
The Meg: The problem is that Rainn Wilson’s character in The Meg isn’t really “evil.” He has a lot in common with Malin Akerman’s character, sure. They’re both shady billionaires who fund the research that leads to the monster attacks and then engage in dubious and illegal methods to attempt to cover it up (and spoilers, end up getting eaten by the monsters they are responsible for releasing). But that’s about where it ends. He just seems like a doofus who got in way over his head. And he never pulled a gun on anyone while wearing a designer dress with a fur coat draped over his shoulders. He didn’t even have a thin mustache to twirl. This one is a runaway.
Severity of the Threat
Rampage: So here’s the thing: The three beasts were on dry land and smashing the everloving hell out of downtown Chicago. Land-based beast attacks are dangerous because humans live on land. Sharks are scary and big sharks are even scarier because they’re basically dinosaurs that were such genetically perfect predators that they could stop evolving millions of years ago, but there could be 5000 megalodons in the sea— there might be, for all we know — and it would not affect my life one tiny bit because I would just never go in the ocean. Bingo bango, problem solved.
The Meg: If we want to play devil’s advocate here, and we do, not everyone can say “Well I’ll just never go in the ocean again.” There are fisherman and people who travel places by boat. We’d be wiping out entire industries and entire kinds of cuisine. And beaches around the world would lose important tourism dollars. There’s a ripple effect here. But I’d rather deal with a few economic hardships than a damn flying giant wolf swooping out of the sky at random and plucking me off the sidewalk while I’m bouncing along to Panera for lunch. No thank you to that.
Acts of Heroism
Rampage: The acts of heroism in Rampage are your basic Rock-based acts of heroism, which I say with no intention of belittling them. He charges into dangerous situations and does battle with beasts and evil capitalists and uses the powers of reason and friendship to convince his giant gorilla friend to fight on the side of good in the battle against the screeching demon hell-croc. It’s all great fun but from a heroism standpoint it’s kind of like San Andreas but with beasts instead of earthquakes.
The Meg: Lord in heaven, does Jason Statham almost get eaten by a shark a lot in this movie. He’s almost always almost getting eaten by a shark. At one point he leaps into the ocean without a cage in an attempt to shoot a megalodon with a tracker and sings “Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo as he paddles out. At another point, he dives in a submersible at wildly unsafe speeds to save a trapped crew. He’s constantly doing lunatic things and never calling for help on the radio and a big part of me kind of expected him to dispose of the gargantuan hell-fish by kicking it square in the sternum. That didn’t happen. But still.
EDGE: The Meg
We appear to have battled to a 3-3 tie, with the two films splitting the categories. The only solution is to go to the tiebreaker. Our tie-breaking category is “Did a muscular mid-20s bro in front of me in the theater gasp ‘Oh SHIT’ when one of the beasts leaped into screen teeth-first, in a way that seemed almost involuntary, like he was honestly frightened for a second, which has me still laughing a little as I type this today?”
The Meg: Yes
The Meg wins by a nose.