Review – Even the star power of The Rock can’t save ‘Rampage’ from its big, dumb self

Poster for 2018 action blockbuster Rampage

Genre: Action
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 13th April 2018
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Brad Peyton
Writer: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J Condal, Adam Sztykiel
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Åkerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello
Synopsis: Scientists lose control of experimental material used for genetic editing, which leads to a gorilla growing to enormous size and displaying aggression that he has never shown before.

 

 

Dwayne Johnson is the coolest man in the world. In Rampage, based on an 80s arcade game, he is best mates with an albino gorilla, which he fist-bumps on a semi-regular basis. Within half an hour of the film starting, that gorilla has doubled in size and is tearing a plane to pieces. So far, there’s nothing in the mix to suggest that this movie is anything other than awesome, particularly as it comes from Brad Peyton, who last worked with Johnson for the joyously silly San Andreas. However, there’s something very wrong about the movie, which is actually a little dull, despite all of the noise and carnage.

Johnson plays primatologist Davis Okoye, who swaggers around San Diego Wildlife Reserve schooling minions in how to be on fist-bump terms with the apes. Jane Goodall is good, but she’s no Rock. Meanwhile, shady science siblings Claire (Malin Åkerman) and Brett (Jake Lacy) are fretting about gene modification experiments that have fallen from space and landed somewhere on Earth. One of them landed in dangerous proximity to George – Okoye’s best bud – and he has torn a grizzly bear to pieces, while growing to increasingly enormous size. It’s at this time that Okoye is joined by gene expert Kate (Naomie Harris), who used to work for the siblings and claims she can help George.

Rampage should, above all else, deliver on spectacle. For the most part, it manages this and the CGI is largely solid – a definite step up from San Andreas for Peyton. There are a few ropey moments, however, and there’s a nagging sense that this level of gargantuan carnage has been done way better by everything from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the Godzilla and King Kong shared franchise, and even Pacific Rim: Uprising. Many of the most impressive money shots were blown in the trailer, and this leaves the finished film rather light on surprises, slashing its chances of blowing the audience’s minds with its imagery.

It’s not much of a shock that there isn’t a great deal of room for character in Rampage, but the film’s climax leans heavily on emotion and it’s impossible to feel that, given how little groundwork the story has laid in that respect. Naomie Harris, in particular, is given absolutely nothing to do, playing a distant second fiddle to Johnson and the creatures, despite being the most intelligent character in the room for most of the movie.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as a slimy intelligence agent, is the standout performer, getting many of the film’s best quips in a script far lighter on humour than it should have been. Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy also deserve credit for their villainous turns. They’re absolutely aware of the movie they’re in, and camp things up accordingly, with Lacy delivering a goofy comedic performance that is very effective and Åkerman showcasing icy cool as the woman calculating everything behind the scenes.

Given the blockbuster premise of Rampage, the one thing it shouldn’t be is boring. And yet, there are huge stretches of this movie where Peyton finds his story lacking in energy, not least during a sequence on a plane in the second act that seems to stretch on eternally without ever raising the pulse. There’s no doubt that Dwayne Johnson is the most bankable and charismatic movie star on the planet, but he’s unable to rescue Rampage, which is a massive disappointment that lacks any amount of the fun factor expected from a movie that features a giant gorilla and a massive wolf with wings.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

It says a lot for a movie’s problems when Dwayne Johnson can’t rescue it, but that’s the case with Rampage. There are some memorable moments and impressive third act spectacle, as well as some camp performances that collide with the often overly serious tone and endless, blandly staged action sequences. It’s not a complete waste of time, but it’s not even the best video game movie of the year.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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