Director: Brad Peyton
Writers: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condel, Adam Sztykiel
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson) tends to keep people at a distance but shares a close bond with animals – including George, an intelligent and rare albino silverback gorilla whom he rescued from poachers and has kept in his care ever since. However, after a rogue genetic experiment goes awry this once gentle creature along with a wild wolf and crocodile mutate into raging giants. As the three of them rampage across America with Chicago as their target, Davis teams up with a discredited genetic engineer (Harris) to not only stop a global catastrophe but save his friend.
Full credit must go to Dwayne Johnson for the career that he has forged for himself, and he deserves it as there is no denying that he is a very likeable, watchable, charismatic and therefore dependable screen presence. He seems to have accepted his limits and sticks to what he is good at, and there is most certainly a market for that, so everyone is happy.
However, considering its leading star and plot, Rampage should be exactly what it says on the tin, but sadly due to some truly misguided and muddled approaches to the tone of the film, it is nowhere near as fun as it should be. In the final third we get a constant barrage of CGI destruction, and no one has any right to complain about that as that is very much on the ‘tin’ (the tin being a poster featuring giant creatures, destroyed buildings and the words ‘DWAYNE JOHNSON’ in big capital letters). However, for reasons beyond comprehension Rampage actually seems to take itself quite seriously, and this is only to its detriment as it does not have any way near a good enough script (or indeed plot) to have any right to do this.
Indeed, Rampage makes some initial attempts at actual character development of its protagonist and the fact he gets on better with animals than he does people, but this is not very well written and then subsequently almost forgotten about as the CGI takes over. While of course our hero is naturally ex-special forces, and so has all the special skills that the narrative requires – such as knowing how to fly a helicopter etc. Dwayne Johnson throughout is still his usual charismatic, likeable self and manages to keep things just about watchable. He also has a few decent one-liners, but nowhere near enough and the script not only often struggles to play to the strengths of its leading star but seems to not actually want to.
I know this sounds like a pointless criticism, but Rampage is a film littered with flaws, and flaws are far more forgivable if a film is fun. However, due to the fact it tends to take itself quite seriously instead of being the cheesy B-movie with a budget that it should be, Rampage is at times not that much fun, and so these flaws stick out and often make Rampage a far more laborious and slow viewing experience than it should be, despite only being 107 minutes long. It seems that Director Brad Peyton has not only failed to learn from the issues of San Andreas, but instead has gone in the opposite creative direction – though I use the word ‘creative’ very loosely.
So, naturally we have the plot constantly over-explained to us by Malin Akerman’s scheming CEO of the company responsible and Naomie Harris’ geneticist with a grudge against this company (she also has a back story which could have packed a real emotional punch if written better) and a fair few narrative conveniences. Meanwhile the only one that seems to be having any real fun out there is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who delightfully chews scenery as a former-cowboy-turned-Government-agent-type-person (though up until now I was not aware that was actually a thing!). Sadly, he only tends to only turn up when the narrative needs him to and is actually missed when not about.
Once we do get to the final third and the CGI destruction of Chicago (this city does seem to be suffering a lot in blockbuster films these days!), it has not only been a bit of a slog to get there, but then Brad Peyton continues to show total complacency. He seems to think this is enough to keep us entertained, but the constant destruction is extremely repetitive and so never really captures the physical scale or feeling of danger that it should, and this is also not helped by Dwayne Johnson’s character seeming to be indestructible. Meanwhile the film also depicts the destruction of a city and loss of innocent life in way too much of a casual way, despite seemingly going for a more serious tone. Overall, Rampage is just about watchable, but is just nowhere near as fun or engaging as it should be.
A real misfiring film; Rampage does not seem sure what tone it wants to go for, and despite the best efforts of its usually dependable leading star, it is nowhere near as fun as it needs to be to get away with its inevitable flaws.