By Daniel Howat
Final Score: 4/10
After surviving catastrophic destruction in 2015’s “San Andreas,” Dwayne Johnson reunites with director Brad Peyton to survive more catastrophic destruction in “Rampage.” This new film is loosely based on the arcade game of the same name, in which gigantic monsters try to destroy a city while outrunning the military. That’s a pretty simple premise. Let’s give credit where it’s due: this film delivers plenty of monsters destroying cities.
The film opens with a horror-movie-esque scene in a space station where something just escaped. As the only living astronaut attempts to flee in an escape pod, she doesn’t make it, instead sending genetic experiments crashing back to Earth. One of these samples lands in the San Diego Wildlife Center. Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist at the center who is best friends with a very rare albino silverback gorilla named George. Naturally, George discovers this genetic sample and begins to grow, and fast. As George, and other mutated animals, become dangerous, Okoye seems to be the only man who can stop them.
Disaster movies can be great. I was a fan of “San Andreas,” which I found to be fun and somewhat thrilling, despite being a really light film. A great deal of that enjoyment comes from, yes, mindlessly watching cities destroyed. Big explosions and crazy setpieces can be visceral. But lots of movies have those things. A good disaster movie will also feel ever-so-slightly real. Maybe this could really happen if things went really wrong. The Day After Tomorrow, San Andreas, heck, even Armageddon felt like it had just a hint of reality in there somewhere.
But alas. Here we have a giant gorilla teaming up with a winged wolf-porcupine to fulfill their goal of destroying a building in Chicago. And then a crocodile-fish-dinosaur joins the fun. And for some reason, The Rock is there too.
I can accept a story that nonsense as long as it’s interesting, unique, or memorable. This is none of those things. “Rampage” has nothing more to offer than destruction. The characters are cliche and poorly drawn. The villainous plot is silly and boring. The climax of the film, while filled with spectacle, is laughable in execution.
Johnson is one of the most charismatic and charming people in Hollywood, but here we’re told he’s not much of a “people person.” He supposedly doesn’t get along with humans, rather preferring animals because “they get me. You always know where you stand.” He’s a good actor, but he unfortunately can’t hide his likable personality. Our villains, played by Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacey, are truly boring. They mostly stay in one single room for the film looking at screens and explaining to the audience why they’re evil. Within the first thirty seconds of their first scene, Lacey literally says their genetic experiments “weren’t exactly for the benefit of humanity.” It’s all bland and forgettable.
Don’t misunderstand me either: this film isn’t horrible. It’s simply empty. This a film in which you can shut your brain down and enjoy explosions. I have to admit that there’s something enthralling about watching a giant gorilla and wolf strategically demolish a city while throwing tanks at helicopters and smashing through buildings. It helps that the visual effects are mostly well executed as well. Visual effects companies have really seemed to nail animating monkeys for some reason.
If chaos and destruction are enough to capture your attention for an hour and 47 minutes, and if you love Dwayne Johnson as much as the rest of the world, you can do worse than “Rampage.” If you’re hoping for an interesting story along with that chaos, you’ll be sorely disappointed. While the film held my attention just fine, this is a movie I won’t remember in a month.