Justice League may have underperformed in our universe, but in Rampage it apparently left quite an impact. Dwayne Johnson's latest is a crazy monster movie, although the weirdest aspect may be one strange DCEU Easter Egg.
Based on the popular arcade game, Rampage has the Rock playing the character of Davis Okoye, a primatologist and best friend to an albino gorilla named George. After George is infected by a genetic enhancer and exponentially grows in size, a secret government organization led by the menacing Agent Russell (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is tasked to take down the animal. It is here where a rather compelling Justice League reference is made by Naomie Harris’s character, Dr. Kate Caldwell.
Related: Our Rampage Movie Review
In Kate’s attempt to figure out who Russell works for, she mentions the Justice League after falsely guessing the FBI and the NSA. It's a wry joke, of course, trying to build up the mystique around Mogan's character and possibly nodding at the fact he played Thomas Wayne in Batman v Superman (a character who actually becomes Batman in the Flashpoint timeline). However, considering how disastrous last year’s Justice League was, it stands out more; for Kate to reference the team in 2018 seems to infer the team is popular, indicating a different outcome for Zack Snyder's team-up.
This is quite obviously synergized cross-promotion on Warner Bros. part, similar to the heavy use of WB-owned properties in Ready Player One. This practice is fairly common in big studio movies - look at how Illumination teased their Winter 2018 release The Grinch back in Summer 2017's Despicable Me 3 - and usually is pretty innocuous. Unfortunately, in this case, it's one that's both obvious and has dated badly.
Early in Rampage’s production, Justice League was coming together fairly promisingly. The Dwayne Johnson film started production in April 2017, and while it's since been alleged Snyder had already been fired, Justice League was expected to be a success, with Joss Whedon heading up reshoots intended to bring the film in-line with the studio's vision. Sneaking in a sly reference, then, feels fitting; it rides the wave of hype. Of course, in reality Justice League underperformed, taking in a mere $657.9 million at the worldwide box office - a hefty sum but not enough to cover costs that included a rumored $300 million budget.
Putting aside real-world concerns and treating it literally, this implies Rampage takes place in an alternate timeline where - along with genetic recoding being a thing - Justice League succeeded to the point a disgraced scientist would reference it when kidnapped by the government. It's a humorous, obviously tongue-in-cheek take on a very self-aware movie, but bizarre all the same.
Justice League may have been a box office failure, but Warner Bros. has had strong fortunes otherwise, with Rampage expected to be a hit. Its opening is currently tracking similar to Johnson's mammoth hit Jumanji, and all being well this could be a super franchise of its own.
- Rampage (2018) release date: Apr 13, 2018