Rampage (***1/2) shouldn’t be this good

rampageRampage – 2018

Director Brad Peyton
Screenplay Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel
Starring  Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Åkerman, Jake Lacy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Almost as constant than the changing of the seasons. One of them is Dwayne Johnson on screen in another movie. He’s in quite a few movies. He’s not in a lot of good ones, though. The odds go considerably down when Brad Peyton is behind the lens. Their prior two engagements. Journey 2 The Mysterious Island and San Andreas. I hated the first one and stopped watching the second when they started rescuing people from high risers in boats.

Rampage is one of the few arcade games I played when I was a kid. It was easy enough to where sometimes I could even clear a screen or two before my quarter was gone. I only ever played as George, though. He’s the only one who seemed to naturally belong on the top of a building.

That they’d try to make a movie out of this game should be absurd, but when you’ve made a movie from the Battleship game and two based on the Ouija game (which I didn’t know was a game until the movie) who’s to say it wouldn’t work?

The premise: big company, doing evil genetic research in space, lose control of the experiment and the satellite falls into earth, creating unwitting new test subjects where the pieces land. Now it’s up to one of the friends of the big gorilla to keep him from wreaking havoc or dying or both.

The great thing about this film is how it’s at once absurd, cool, stupid and glorious. The things they get right are plenty:

  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is an absolute superstar. No one in acting is able to combine the charisma of George Clooney, the self-aware brawn of Arnold and the humility of Keanu Reeves. Johnson is on his game here and he is the glue that holds this whole film together. Whether he’s gently talking someone to sleep with his big bicep
  • George – the albino gorilla. The effects, especially the eyes and mannerisms are spot on. They didn’t have to go this far to make a busload of cash. That they do go so far to show the relationship between Johnson’s Davis Okoye and the gentle beast is the benefit of the story. They spend the most time forming the story around George and Davis, and this goes a long way towards bringing us past the absurdity of the rest of the film.
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan – He’s straight up Negan here, and it doesn’t bother me as much as it should. And just like Negan, Harvey Russell is a layered character. His antagonism seems offhanded at first, but there is a purpose to it. He and Johnson have a real chemistry and it shows.
  • Naomie Harris is every bit the intellectual counterpart to pull off the mumbo jumbo science talk to get the plot rolling. Her beauty augments the intellect and she’s got the guile that she possessed as Moneypenny in the recent Bond films.

There are problems, of course. Anyone watching the trailer could tell you that.

  • One of the early trailers has Johnson saying “I was thinking the only thing missing right now is a giant crocodile” This is changed in later ads to “Of course the wolf flies.” The reason for pointing out the distinction is the humor intended by the advert is intended to anticipate the viewer’s jaded response to viewing any of this stuff. Neither of the animals are nearly as interesting as George.
  • Why does the wolf have so many oddities? George is just big. The croc / alligator isn’t all that odd either. Don’t worry, Harris’ scientist Kate Caldwell will explain most of the plot points as we see them.
  • The brother and sister owners of Energyne, Claire and Brett Wyden almost belong in another film. Played by Akerman and Lacy respectively, they are both crueller and more stupid than the rest of the characters in the film. They make little sense, outside of creating the purpose for all of the monsters to converge.

Can you do without this film? Surely. In the age of Moviepass, why should you?  It’s really a fun waste of time with effects that make it worth your time, up until they start blowing stuff up and tearing it down. If you’re not worn out by the senseless and consequence-less destruction of major metropolitan areas, and you like Johnson, give this a shot. You definitely could do worse.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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