Human casualties be damned.
Maybe Isle of Dogs doesn’t really look like your kind of movie and Wes Anderson is just a bit too out there for you. Never fear, Hollywood heard these pleas and gave you something else to see in theaters this weekend — Rampage.
That’s right, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is back and this time he’s not stuck in a board game or driving a bunch of sports cards; instead, he’s fighting 500-foot gorillas, crocodiles and wolves (oh my).
Re-teaming with director Brad Peyton after 2015’s San Andreas and 2012’s Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (neither of which I actually saw), Dwayne Johnson is playing an ex-militarist turned primatologist named Davis this time around. You know, because when we all see Johnson the first thing we think is ‘animal lover’ and not ‘oh my god this guy could snap me in half like a toothpick.’
Either way, Davis works at a wildlife preserve in San Diego. This is also where George — one of the last albino gorillas still alive — lives. Davis and George share a special kind of relationship: they speak through sign-language and often laugh and joke together. Basically, they’re the best of buds.
Which is why Davis is so conflicted when he comes into work one day and finds that George has grown to the size of a skyscraper and is now putting innocent people in danger.
To be fair, it isn’t really George’s fault. Some weird chemical serum fell from the sky one night that infected George, turning him into this massive beast. It’s not just the size that’s the problem either — it’s the fact that the serum also causes extreme aggression, making George go on an all out (wait for it…) RAMPAGE.
To stop George and find out what caused all of this, Davis teams up with a scientist named Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and a military cowboy-like figure named Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
The only problem is, George isn’t the only creature who’s been infected. Two other animals — a crocodile and a wolf — went through the same process and are now tearing up different parts of the country, basically causing a mass hysteria. Yet, for some reason or another, all three of these animals seem to be headed to the same place: Chicago.
Oh yeah, there’s also this subplot involving two corporate business people played by Jake Lacy and Malin Akerman that feels so out of place. Despite this being a movie about giant gorillas throwing cars, they still manage to feel too over-the-top, as they basically are coming straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon.
Balancing the tone is a reoccurring problem Rampage has — at sometimes it wants to be taken seriously and actually have some dramatic moments, at other times it’s just a popcorn flick in which you see cities get completely leveled. I wasn’t kidding about the human causalities part either; there’s probably close to a good 5,000 who are killed as collateral damage throughout the film.
The problem with the notion of all of that is Brad Peyton isn’t a director who really knows how to direct compelling drama. He can make a dumb, fun blockbuster all he wants, but when it comes to actual character development or anything of that nature it winds up falling completely flat.
No one is really here for that, though, as audiences are going to go see Rampage because they want to see a bunch of giant monsters fight. And, to Peyton’s credit, he can deliver on that.
He can also manage to fill all those moments with a bunch of tired action movie clichés — like the whole T-minus 2 minute until a military strike wipes out an entire city and even though it’s actually going to last way longer than two minutes the hero is going to manage to call it off just in time.
There are fun moments to be had in Rampage. During the first act of the movie, I found myself actually caring, as the relationship between Davis and George is well defined. The Rock’s chemistry goes a long way in this one and if it was anyone else in the movie I would care a whole lot less. Granted, some of his jokes fall flat as this isn’t nearly as funny as something like Jumanji was, but Johnson still knows how to sell a movie.
It’s all the other stuff that Rampage is cluttered with that really brings this movie down. I’m reminded of 2014’s Godzilla, which had a lot of set-up that all lead to this big showdown in the end. In my mind, that worked well because the story was compelling and the final battle paid off. Rampage tries to do the same thing, only Peyton doesn’t know how to make an interesting enough movie to actually get us there. Yes, the end is fun, but everything else leading up to that is such a mess.
That’s not even to mention the fact that you have to completely leave any ideas of physics or basic realism at the door when entering Rampage. I’m not stupid, I know this is a movie about wolves fighting crocodiles, I’m not expecting this movie to be grounded in science or anything like that. But there’s one part where Johnson’s character literally gets shot in the stomach and then five minutes later he’s jumping from building to building while punching walls, saying that it’s fine just because “it didn’t hit any vital organs.” Come on.
Anyways, Rampage is the movie that we all probably expected it would be from the trailer — a big dumb mess that still can’t break that video-game adaptation curse.
Watch the trailer for Rampage here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the movie.
'Rampage' review: There's a monkey destroying things and this time it's not named Caesar4