Dan's Review: "Rampage" is nothing to get excited about
Apr 13, 2018 12:05PM
● By Dan Metcalf
Dwayne Johnson in Rampage - © 2018 Warner Bros.
Rampage (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Åkerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, P. J. Byrne, Demetrius Grosse, Jack Quaid, Breanne Hill, Matt Gerald, Will Yun Lee, Urijah Faber, Bruce Blackshear, Jason Liles.
Written by Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel and Ryan Engle, based on the video game by Midway Games.
Directed by Brad Peyton.
Bigger isn’t always better. Paraphrasing Dr. Malcolm in the original Jurassic Park, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Now that the technology behind computerized special effects has been streamlined to allow for grand showcases in shorter amounts of time, bigger-than-life stories can be mass-produced. It’s commonplace to see more than one special-effects-driven film released in the same week, whereas 30 years ago, you’d see one or two per summer. In the past 30 days, we’ve had Ready Player One, Pacific Rim: Uprising and Tomb Raider come to theaters. This week we have Rampage, Brad Peyton’s adaptation of a really old video game starring Dwayne Johnson, a movie that features huge animals reaping destruction on mankind.
Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a former Special Forces soldier who is employed as a “primatologist” for a San Diego wildlife refuge. His main duty is to watch over the park’s gorillas, especially an albino named George (motion capture provided by Jason Liles), who communicates with his human pal via sign language. When a part of a genetic space experiment crashes into George’s enclosure, he is exposed to a gas that alters his metabolism, causing rapid growth and increased aggression. George breaks free and is captured, but not before Okoye intervenes to stop police from killing him. Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) a scientist who used to work for the genetics research corporation responsible for the failed space experiment also shows up to explain all the scientific background. A secret government agent named Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tries to tranport George via airplane to a more secure location, but the growing gorilla goes on a rampage, causing crash. Agent Russell, Okoye and Dr. Caldwell survive the crash, but George gets away. The evil duo genetics firm owners are siblings Claire and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy), who run the company from Chicago’s Sears Tower. Two other canisters of the genetic gas also crashed in Wyoming and the Florida Everglades, where a wolf and an alligator go through the same alterations. When the Wydens figure out what’s going on, they broadcast a signal from the top of the Sears Tower that draws the three gigantic animals to them, where the hope the military will destroy them and cover up their experiment gone awry. All three monstrous animals converge on Chicago, wreaking havoc and destruction. Okoye must try to snap George out of his aggressive state and help fight the giant wolf and alligator to save mankind.
Rampage is a mostly forgettable movie that relies heavily on cheap laughs, masculine bravado and the aforementioned special effects. Sometimes those elements can be crafted into a fun movie experience, but Rampage isn’t much fun to watch. The villains are especially weak, offering noting more than an obligatory placeholder for conflict. Oh yeah, they are greedy, rich corporate people who are willing to crush most of Chicago to get what they want, damn the public consequences. A convincing villain is one that is usually motivated by some sort of lust for power, but who is also able to justify their actions – at least in their own minds. Akerman gives us a moustache-twirling caricature, while Lacy is noting more than her dimwitted toadie. There are also lame attempts at a little campiness, but most of it is relegated to quips from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who is constantly sharing “my grandpappy used to say” nuggets of wisdom in a southern drawl.
While the special effects are impressive in Rampage, the rest of the movie lacks any semblance of character or fun. I can understand the appeal of cinematic “junk food,” but if you’re going to indulge, it might as well taste good. Rampage does not. It’s a movie that dulls the senses and leaves you with little satisfaction.