Director: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Ackerman, Jake Lacy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Joe Manganiello, P.J. Byrne
Rampage is pure absurdity, but you already know that going in. You don’t go into a movie like this for high art. In the world of Rampage, advanced science has gotten to the point where genetic editing has officially become a weapon of mass destruction. Maybe that’s why it’s sequestered to outer space as the film opens. Pure lunacy, of course, so just go along with it. A space station carrying samples of genetic coding suffers a freak accident and explodes scattering the canisters containing the samples all over space with some crash landing on Earth. This becomes a PR nightmare for Energyne Industries who is behind these scientific experiments. It’s run by Claire and Brett Wyden, a brother and sister duo played by Malin Ackerman and Jake Lacy, respectively. She’s the rich bitch type, while he’s the dopey frat boy going along for the ride.
Dwayne Johnson stars as Davis, a primatologist at the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary. He works closely with a white albino gorilla named George using a sign language short hand to communicate with him. When the canisters crashed to Earth they were scattered across the U.S. including one near the primate housing at the Sanctuary. George is infected and starts growing in size and strength destroying everything that gets in his way. George isn’t the only animal infected as a wolf and crocodile pop up smashing everything in sight. Davis teams up with genetic engineer Dr. Kate Caldwell (Harris) who claims she can create a cure in order to stop George before he and the other monsters destroy the city of Chicago.
If you didn’t know, Rampage is the latest adaptation of a classic arcade game. I don’t remember ever playing it as my gaming was pretty limited to “Pac-Man”, “Street Fighter”, and “Mortal Kombat”. This lack of gaming experience didn’t get in the way of enjoying this disaster flick. It’s your standard King Kong meets Jurassic Park meets Sharknado approach leaning more towards that final movie than the artistic merits of the first two. There’s an expectation to just leave your brain at the door when seeing Rampage, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The balancing act comes with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and frequent collaborator director Brad Peyton. They tend to make disaster flicks enjoyable for the family, as this is their third movie following San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Dwayne Johnson knows exactly what his audience wants and delivers with the pure fun and action that he’s best known for. He doesn’t mind if you laugh along the way with its ridiculous nature. Let’s just say that George knows a few childish hand gestures. Johnson’s joined by a likable cast with Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Ackerman, Jake Lacy, and Joe Manganiello. Whether it was planned out or not, I appreciated the nuance of having Manganiello’s character chasing the werewolf as he shot to fame by playing a werewolf in HBO’s True Blood. The actors know what movie they’re in and have fun with it. Morgan, Ackerman, and Lacy successfully ride that fine line of playing cartoony villain characters without overacting.
Unlike Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, Rampage doesn’t take itself too seriously. I never felt like Peyton was trying to make the baddest, loudest, most adrenaline filled movie to date. His actions scenes with the monsters ascending onto Chicago are easy to follow along without being edited within an inch of its life. He also knows when it’s appropriate to use the slo-mo action shots to play up the absurdity. Gone are the unnecessary side plots with love interests or family reunions, which helps keep the runtime down to being under two hours, unlike the bloated three hour runtime of the Transformers movies. The dialogue may have some campy one-liners but I wasn’t rolling my eyes with the usual overabundance of powerful declarations often found in these movies. There’s no president character trying to calm the nation ahead of the disaster.
Johnson’s latest movie is not quite the dread you’d expect. Is it a great movie? No. It’s not as inventive or creative as it could be given what we’ve seen with Peter Jackson’s King Kong or the Godzilla reboot from 2014. I was pleasantly surprised that the script allows for some build in the story as we get to understand the friendship between Davis and George first and then escalates to the huge climax, which is what everyone wants to see – the Rock kicking butt with mutated beasts climbing skyscrapers and destroying the city.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Pure popcorn escapism
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS