Movie Review – Rampage (2018)
This is a loose adaptation of the 1980’s arcade game of the same name. It’s a loose adaptation in that the premise of the game is to control huge monsters and intentionally destroy cities, as well as attack military and police. Given we’re now living in a post 9/11 world and the backlash of people protesting police, the idea of a movie where the goal is to destroy cities and attack police doesn’t seem like a way to go. The point is to rage against evil scientists who use people as test subjects of experiments. That’s not exactly the case here. The evil scientists are evil or at least the company in charge of the scientists is evil, but the company isn’t experimenting on humans.
An accident in space unleashes horrible results. Humans aren’t transformed. It’s instead three random animals. The writers here avoid the political murkiness of having military or particularly the police as the target. It would have been interesting to have the titular emotion directed at these law-enforcement institutions and have it be a reflection of topical issues like Black Lives Matter or the military industrial complex, much like War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), but this movie falls back to the trope of evil scientists and evil corporations.
Dwayne Johnson (Fast Five and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) stars as Davis Okoye, a primatologist at the San Diego Zoo. He’s in charge and takes care of the apes and gorillas, as well as other primates there in southern California. Of course, because he’s The Rock, a muscle-bound WWE star, his character has to have some kind of explanation of why he’s muscle-bound. That explanation doesn’t matter. When action breaks out, it’s obvious that Davis can handle it. The only quality about him that does matter is the fact that Davis cares about animals more than humans, a factoid that doesn’t really weigh too much on the character overall.
Naomie Harris (Moonlight and Skyfall) co-stars as Kate Caldwell, a geneticist who worked for the evil company. She got out of it when she realized it was evil. Now, she wants to expose them, as well as stop the huge monsters that have been unleashed because of the evil company. We’re more endeared to her because of a dead family member, but she’s not much more than a Girl Friday, a pretty companion initially there to deliver exposition and then later be someone on screen to marvel at Davis’ abilities or occasionally be the audience surrogate.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead and The Good Wife) also co-stars as Harvey Russell, a government agent who is the first to respond when the huge monsters start terrorizing various places. He also brings a level of sarcasm but with charm and the right amount of sass. He brings a good chunk of the humor. This movie isn’t as much of a comedy as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle where there were jokes in every scene. This movie is more action and shots of comedy come by way of Morgan.
Director Brad Peyton leans more on the action, which he proves in an extended sequence early on involving Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike XXL and True Blood) as a black ops soldier who ends up fighting one of the monsters in a scene that feels more like a horror scene than anything else. In that regard, the movie comes across as Kong: Skull Island (2017) but set in Chicago. It’s Transformers (2007) but instead of large robots battling and tearing up the city, it’s large animals. It’s Jurassic World (2015) but instead of dinosaurs, it’s a gorilla, a wolf and a crocodile.
Rated PG-13 for violence, action, destruction, brief language and rude gestures.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 47 mins.