Where The Wild Things Are
Rampage is directed by Brad Peyton and is loosely based on the video game series of the same name. The movie stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
A movie combining Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and giant monsters speaks for itself probably better than any other possible pairing of a famous actor and a concept. Seriously, you only need to look at the poster to get a good idea of the kind of movie that Rampage is. One of the world's most charismatic actors, standing alongside a giant albino gorilla, among the wreckage of a destroyed city? The tagline: Big Meets Bigger? If your guess is that Rampage is the hearty equivalent of a dumb monster action film, then I say to you, congratulations! You have just become the new Captain Obvious!
Rampage is loosely based on the Midway video game series of the same name, in which the player controls a human that has transformed into a giant monster and is now rampaging throughout large cities while fending off police and military forces. Video game movie is a phrase that deflates hope so fast that movie theaters should just save people the trouble and put an "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" sign right outside any and all theaters that are showing Rampage or any other video game movie adaptation. Video game movies have never worked before. Why would they start now with Rampage? The ghastly depths that video game movies frequently sink to brings up the question of why would anyone bother to release video game films in theaters, as they're probably better off testing their luck on straight-to-DVD sales?
In the case of Rampage, anything short of a wide theatrical release would be unacceptable. What bigger draw do you need than Dwayne Johnson going toe-to-toe with giant monsters? For someone like myself who has personal affection for dumb monster movies, there was simply no way I could resist the opportunity to go and see Rampage in theaters. There are no surprises to be had. Rampage is exactly what you think it will be going in, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It is guilty pleasure fun from start to finish, with all of the glaring flaws that I would not allow to get in the way of me having a good time.
Here's what we have plot-wise: Dwayne Johnson plays primatologist Davis Okoye, who works at a San Diego wildlife preserve. Davis is friends with a rare albino gorilla at the preserve named George, whom he had saved from poachers years ago. One night, a meteor crash lands not far from George's habitat, and when George goes to see what crash landed, he finds not a meteor, but a canister that exposes him to a strange pathogen. Two other canisters containing the same pathogen crash land as well: one in a Wyoming forest that gets exposed to a wolf, the other in the Everglades, where the canister is consumed by an American crocodile. The pathogens and canisters belong to a gene manipulation company called Energyne, who had been conducting research in outer space. One of Energyne's space stations exploded after a lab rat mutated and destroyed everything, and the surviving crew member, Dr. Kerry Atkins (Marley Shelton), managed to get away in an escape pod with a few of the canisters, until the pod burns up upon re-entry, resulting in the canisters being sent towards Earth.
Shortly after being exposed, George grows larger and displays much more aggressive behavior. Davis is contacted by Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), who tells him she used to work for Energyne, until she was fired for attempting to expose Energyne for using the pathogen as a biological weapon. Caldwell further explains that she had been working on a cure, meaning it may be possible for her to help bring George back to normal. Meanwhile, George's increasingly aggressive behavior gets the best of him, and he goes berserk. George eventually makes his way to Chicago, where a battle with the exposed giant wolf and the also exposed giant crocodile will go down.
That all may sound like a lot of plot, but I assure you, the monsters wreaking havoc on the city and eventually beating the crap out of each other is all that your brain needs to soak in. And right away, Rampage shows that even though it is based on the video game series of the same name, there's hardly anything of substance to tell you that the movie is being faithful to the game. To start with, no human being in this movie is turned into one of the giant monsters. How much cooler would Rampage be if Dwayne Johnson was turned into a giant monster? Did Brad Peyton and screenwriters Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, and Adam Sztykiel not see this golden opportunity right in front of their freaking faces?! We're not asking for any kind of cinematic masterpiece here; we want to have ourselves a jolly good ol' time with monsters smashing a city to smithereens, and you're telling me they did not at least entertain the thought of Dwayne The Rock Johnson becoming a rampaging creature of destruction?
- The monster bashing finally goes down in the film's last 20 some minutes, and it is everything you'd hope it would be. The monsters smash, crash, and thrash, destroying everything in their path and never letting the movie reduce to boredom while doing it. While everything with the characters prior to the monster mash might seem like time-wasting nonsense, there's enough of George or the mega wolf (given the nickname Ralph) devouring hapless soldiers to pass you over until the final showdown. As for the mega crocodile, well, he doesn't decide to show up until all the monsters converge on Chicago (and how all the monsters get to Chicago is not worth discussing), so sorry for anyone who may be hoping to get some major gator action early on. The movie's finale is what you came to see, and Rampage delivers the goods in all of its delightfully stupid glory.
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays government agent Harvey Russell, who gets involved with everything going on with the monsters after he attempts to put George into captivity. Morgan is the only actor who is making a clear effort to go right along with the movie's campy nature, parading a grin that tells us he is having way too much fun with all of this. Everyone else, on the other hand, struts around with a serious business mentality while trying to convince us otherwise by frequently cracking jokes. Luckily, there's not quite enough of Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the movie for him to become annoying, and oh how I wish everyone else would follow his lead.
- Not surprisingly, Rampage suffers from mediocre writing, with cheesy dialogue and plot conveniences out the wazoo. I lost count as to how many times Johnson and Harris find themselves in a tough situation, only for them to think up a solution with little to no effort. Anytime the two happen to be in a dangerous situation, there's always something conveniently placed nearby to help them come away unscathed. And as for the movie's villains, Energyne CEO Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her paranoid brother Brett (Jake Lacy), they constantly speak dialogue that screams, "we are doing all of this for money", but what else would you expect from a movie that centers on giant monsters brawling with one another? In scenes where Claire and Brett are talking in their office, you can easily spot a Rampage video arcade game console sitting in a corner, in what I guess is supposed to be a nod to the original Rampage game series. The console isn't ever in focus, but you can still see it clear as day.
The glaring flaws you typically expect from a video game movie are there: awful writing, cheesy dialogue, and shallow characters to name a few. But to fully enjoy a movie like Rampage is to accept these flaws and focus on what the movie intends to be: a fun monster romp that doesn't require an IQ above 15 to understand. It has absolutely zero surprises: no plot twists, no unexpected deaths, nothing that would shock you in any way. For some, the stupidity of it all will be too much to overcome. But for others, Rampage is a smashing good time that requires the largest container of popcorn and the largest soda drink you can buy. You may not remember any of it long afterwards, but for the time you're there, let your brain fall asleep and immerse yourself in the enjoyable nonsense.
Recommend? Yes, but only if you're in the mood of a brainless blockbuster
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: