Written by Ryan Engle & Carlton Cuse & Ryan J. Condal & Adam Sztykiel
Directed by Brad Peyton
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jason Liles, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date: April 13, 2018
Rampage is what happens when you combine the monsters of Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla with the motion-capture effects of the Planet of the Apes franchise, and then add The Rock because why the heck not?! Rampage is exactly the type of movie you you want to watch on a way too cold Spring day. Films like this should be pictured in the dictionary next to the phrase “Popcorn Movie” and this is a perfect way to ignore the stress of life for 2 hours and turn your brain off. This is the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and giant monsters. If you read that and stop to think, you’re already working too hard.
Johnson is Davis Okoye, the world’s largest primatologist, who works in the San Diego Zoo with an albino gorilla named George. George is played by 6’9″ motion-capture actor Jason Liles, who does a phenomenal job as the character could easily slide in alongside with any ape in the previously mentioned Apes franchise. The expository scenes with The Rock and George are fantastic fun as they joke on interns, and use slightly inappropriate sign language. Call me childish, but I cracked up every time I saw an albino gorilla give the finger.
Unfortunately for George a shuttle incoming for Earth explodes sending its cargo of weaponized genetic editing formula crashing to various places on the planet, with one landing in his enclosure. The others end up in mountains of Wyoming and the Everglades, respectfully. The destroyed space shuttle was paid for by the Wyden Family: evil brother and sister billionaire capitalists played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy.
George grows 2 feet and 500 pounds overnight and sees his appetite and aggression begin to spike. A wolf in Wyoming grows exponentially as well and we get a pretty cool Jurassic Park-style scene where the wolf chows down on a group of commandos sent in by the Wydens to clean up their mess. Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) shows up to assist Davis and we find out that she has a dark past with the Wydens and their company. If it’s one fault I have with Rampage it’s the Wydens and their utterly ridiculous “evil corporate” scheme, but I mean, I guess they needed some way to make the animals into gigantic city-crushing monsters. They launch a signal from the top of their corporate office in Chicago’s Hancock Building and I don’t really remember what the purpose was.
Okoye and Caldwell get into it with a government agent played in another scenery-chewing performance by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and their playful banter carries us through to Chicago and the big final act. For those who didn’t know or forgot, Rampage is based on an arcade game of the same name that was popular in the 80s in which people mutated into monsters and fought each other on city buildings. The quarter muncher was harmless fun, but if you’re old enough to have shoved tens of dollars in quarters into a Rampage game, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the last third of the film which perfectly encapsulates the game.
Director Brad Peyton knows how to do Roland Emmerich-style cityscape destruction with the best of them, having previously directed Johnson in 2015’s San Andreas. Watching a Kong-sized ape, wolf, and crocodile ascend and destroy Second City’s skyline is pure popcorn entertainment. At one point you’re essentially waiting for Vince McMahon to come out and announce a tag team brawl with George and The Rock taking on the other monsters.
Some criticize the movie for taking too long to get to the balls to the wall blast ending, but I steadily enjoyed Rampage. Dwayne Johnson is just effortlessly charismatic. His larger than life size should render him unable to pull off realistic characters, but there he is signing with a gorilla and I’m hooked. He carries this movie on his massive shoulders, until the last third with Morgan and Akerman munching as much scenery as the monsters providing entertaining banter throughout.
Not all movies are made for Oscar contention or to be philosophically challenging. Sometimes we just want to put a quarter in the slot and tear a building apart. In that regard, Rampage is a perfectly acceptable quarter muncher of a movie and quite possibly the best video game movie ever, though honestly that isn’t saying much. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and give it 4/5 stars.
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