Rampage (2018)
Rampage (2018)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.

Release Date: April 13th, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Brad Peyton Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, P.J. Byrne, Breanne Hill

 


 

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nscrupulous technology company Energyne, helmed by siblings Claire (Malin Akerman) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy), has been conducting illegal genetic editing research at their space station Athena 1. When a test subject breaks free and cripples the facility, the lead scientist attempts to return to Earth, inadvertently releasing three canisters of a dangerous toxin onto an unsuspecting animal population. One container lands in a desert and infects a wolf, while another is consumed by a crocodile at the Everglades Park. The third crashes in the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary, where it is discovered by highly intelligent albino gorilla George.

When the chemical begins altering the simian’s genes, causing a sudden and extreme boost in size, strength, and aggression, SDWS primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) must find out what happened to his friend. Former Energyne biochemist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) offers some answers and a possible cure, but George becomes unstable and flees the park, only to be apprehended by government officials, led by bullheaded man-in-black Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Plotting to reacquire their research, the Wydens set off an aural signal in Chicago that attracts any animal affected by their chemical, prompting George and the other mutated monstrosities to begin a chaotic trek towards the beacon, handily demolishing any resistance they encounter along the way. With time quickly running out, Davis and Kate must devise a plan to reach the beasts’ destination first – and stop them before they level the entire city.

“Rampage” opens in space, setting the stage for a creepy interstellar thriller (like how “The Cloverfield Paradox” should have begun). An unseen alien lurks in the lightless corridors, while a lone survivor struggles to get to an escape hatch before the station explodes. It’s morbid and serious, but it’s merely a cold open that has little to do with the rest of the picture. In fact, it’s a bit jarring when a scene later, Dwayne Johnson shows up, embodying his typical ladykiller and macho man, dishing out jokes and demonstrating a softer side (to an entranced female coworker, who strangely disappears during the rest of the film) as he bonds with wild animals.

“I need that wolf dead or alive!” Most of the introductions are terribly generic, with each role drawn far too broadly. An evil corporation (a multi-billion-dollar company that is oddly run by only two people) conducts inhumane genetic experiments; a good-hearted scientist rebels against the atrocities; a smarmy government agent hands out detailed descriptions of the heroes; and a paramilitary brute, adorned with scars, barks orders and motions with hand signals to his fellow mercenaries as they track their prey. Even the sidekicks are commonplace – from the attractive blonde underling to the nerdy helper to the gutless corporate yes-man. Somehow, the colossal ape at the center of the film doesn’t feel all that original, either.

Oodles of scientific jargon and military commands are spouted (the line, “with all due respect” tends to get gratingly repeated), with equivalent amounts of countermeasures drummed up on the spot, further bogging down a project that largely exists just to exhibit giant monsters attacking mankind. The dialogue alternates alongside the tone, which shifts back and forth between horror movie tropes and snappy one-liners (perhaps an outcome from having four screenwriters); it’s dark and violent one minute, then light and goofy the next. And the story, while flip-flopping from extreme action to chummy repartee, surely bears only a fleeting resemblance to the video game, from which this feature draws inspiration.

Nevertheless, Johnson’s comic relief is genuinely effective (most of the supporting cast is too bland to stand out) and the visual ideas turn “Rampage” into an unqualified blockbuster spectacle (despite its curiously early theatrical release date). And there are numerous references for those familiar with the source material. Most amusingly – and for the first time in a long line of sci-fi disaster movies – the sequences of monster carnage are deftly handled, allowing viewers to sort out all of the mayhem. Rather than resorting to a blur of lights and detonations, the creatures engage in smartly choreographed battles, wherein all of their movements and clashes not only look delightfully destructive, but also remain precise and creative. Oversized beasts may tumble into abandoned buildings aplenty, but they also demonstrate some impressive cinematographic tricks (two of the best involve a behemoth slithering underneath a felled wall, and the wolf gracefully transitioning from a mid-air spill into a smooth flight). The end result is a highly entertaining action/comedy hybrid (the dumb but enjoyable kind), with jaw-dropping melees and citywide devastation as monsters chase people, engage with the military, or grapple with one another – all while Johnson cracks wise. It’s only when humans interact with other humans alone that “Rampage” tends to meander.

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10