Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Director: Brad Peyton
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson), a man who keeps people at a distance, shares an unshakable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent, silverback gorilla who has been in his care since birth. But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry mutates this gentle ape into a raging creature of enormous size. To make matters worse, it’s soon discovered there are other similarly altered animals. As these newly created alpha predators tear across North America, destroying everything in their path, Okoye teams with a discredited genetic engineer to secure an antidote, fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield, not only to halt a global catastrophe but to save the fearsome creature that was once his friend.
Rampage is exactly the movie you think it is going to be. If you want to see Dwayne Johnson escape from falling buildings as giant genetically-altered animals fight around him, then this might be your all-time favorite movie. This movie knows exactly what it is and does what it is supposed to do best. Elevated by yet another charismatic performance from Johnson, Rampage is the CGI fight fest that we usually see in the summer with every problem that big action movies like this usually have.
The film follows primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson), as he takes cares of an albino gorilla named George in a wildlife reserve in San Diego. After a meteor containing genetic-altering chemicals crashes down on Earth and infects George, Davis finds his job to be much harder than it was the day before. After multiple animals are infected by similar chemicals, all three cause chaos and destruction across the country and it is up to Davis and genetic engineer Dr. Kate Caldwell (Harris) to find a way to end all the violence while making sure George does not die in the process. If you have seen previous films by Brad Peyton, then you know exactly the formula that this film follows. The, “Johnson fights big things and does crazy stunts,” formula has been working for these two for years now and it once again on full display. The one thing I will give the film credit for is stepping away from the video game it is adapted from and becoming its own entity. I have no emotional attachment to a video game that I never played, but I know that while the main story is borrowed, many of the characters and ideas are original, which is a nice change of pace for a video game adaptation. Outside of that, this is a very violent, brutal film, especially for a PG-13 movie. Seeing people get ruthlessly slaughtered on-screen is something that is usually toned down for these types of movies, but it adds a sort of realism as to what would happen if these animals attacked Chicago in real life. Speaking of the violence, I was stunned with how good the CGI looked throughout the movie. There are not too many scenes where I can tell that these were filmed on a green screen and many of the destruction scenes are smooth and well designed, which is always a pleasant surprise when compared to many other films in the genre that are not as ironed out.
The film’s main problem however exist in the story. The two villains Claire Wyden (Akerman) and her brother Ben (Jake Lacy) have no real motivation to do what they do. These are your typical, “we are bad guys because we love money and power and will do whatever it takes to get it,” villains which we have seen hundreds of times before and rarely is it original. At least Akerman is somewhat captivating in her role, but Lacy was borderline inept and distractingly bad as the incompetent one of the duo. Sticking with the story, Davis must be superhero, because no regular human being would be able to survive the things that he did. During the entire fight, he gets seriously wounded multiple times and tries stunts that would clearly never work, but he is magically ok after everything. When Kate asks Davis for an explanation as to how he is ok, he just kind of walks it off without any reasoning. It is almost as if the film is telling us that they do not have a reason why he is ok, but he is and we need to move on with the story. This is pretty lazy and an easier way around these things is either show how he can survive these obstacles or do not include them at all. Finally, I did not care for the way most of the film was shot. Most of the action sequences had the camera bouncing all over the place to help instill a feeling of panic to the audience. You know what already does that? The 50 foot gorilla, wolf, and alligator destroying Chicago. I do not need the camerawork to tell us how to feel, because the plot and environment should already do that. Combine this with some unnecessary product placement (Seriously? Smashing a Dave & Buster’s and eating Pop Tarts is not going to make me go to Dave & Buster’s or eat Pop Tarts) and you have a movie that does exactly what you expected it to from start to finish.
Overall, as long as Dwayne Johnson is as likable as he is and his movies make the money they do, this is the formula of things to come. Johnson continues his path of being one of the last true stars where people go to see a movie specifically because he is in it. Johnson was a strong supporting cast on his side, specifically Morgan as a semi-likable anti-hero cowboy who captivates every scene he is in. While the aforementioned problems and an odd reliance on crude sign language humor weigh the film down, it is not bad enough to distract from an otherwise fun film.
Overall Score: 5/10