By The Nerdling
From start to finish, Rampage is all action with a little breathing room for some, well, they could be called jokes. This formula is not always a bad thing. I went into this movie wanting just that. Monstrous animals wreaking havoc, pithy one-liners, and villains that are so easy to hate. My kind of popcorn flick! Unfortunately, Rampage fails to deliver on anything other than the mass destruction which we have seen done again and again and again…
Dwayne Johnson stars as Davis Okoye, a primatology expert at the San Diego Zoo. He is a bit like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s Newt Scamander, if he came in The Rock flavor and was considerably less interesting. Checkered past, untrusting of humans, only relates to animals, but a lot less of the empathy and authenticity which makes Scamander the more fascinating hero. Davis’s special buddy is George, the last of a rare, albino gorilla species. Davis saved George when he was a baby and brought him to the zoo for safe keeping.
When a space station used by the sinister Wyden Technologies to conduct illegal experiments explodes in Earth’s orbit, canisters of a weaponized, DNA enhancing, something-or-other fall to Earth. The substance is inhaled by a wolf, an alligator, and George. Overnight the three animals start to rapidly grow and become overly aggressive. They also mutate various addons, like being impervious to everything from bullets to bombs, throwing spikes that grow out of the body, or fly. Yup, the wolf, it flies.
Davis teams up with a former Wyden employee who worked on the project (aptly named Rampage), Kate Caldwell (Naomi Harris). Together they endeavor to save George from the effects of Rampage before he brings down the city of Chicago. Help comes in the form of a cloak-and-dagger-government-goon, Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who sports the WORST Texan accent I have heard in recent cinema.
The brother and sister owners of Wyden, Claire (Malin Akerman) and Brett (Jake Lacy) scheme and create more havoc in order to get their hands on the DNA of the three infected animals while looking to place blame on Caldwell. Why does this multi-billion-dollar company need to develop weaponized DNA? What in the hell could that be used for other than cause mass destruction? Why is Claire calling these massive beasts to the third most populated city in the United States to battle it out with the military? Four screenwriters (yes, there were four for this movie) couldn’t standup pull some kind of explanation for these conveniences out of their butts?
Based on the 80’s video game (those ones you find in arcades, not on a console), Rampage should have been on SyFy starring a group of C and D-list actors chewing the scenery while we all judge, laugh, and enjoy collectively on Twitter. It might have been more enjoyable in this format. Sharknado with a gorilla, wolf, and alligator. The attempts at humor fall flat, the characters are don’t resemble actual humans, and while the CGI animals look pretty good, the action is dull.
The casting for this flick has me confused. Johnson I can understand. He loves his brainless action films where he gets to play the no-flaws hero and he enjoys hamming it up. And this movie comes from Brad Peyton, the man who helmed the very successful and strangely entertaining San Andreas. Joe Manganiello (in a way too tiny role), Morgan, and Lacy maybe I could see saying yes if they were in a slump, but all three actors are not hurting for prime roles.
What I really don’t understand is how Harris and Akerman ended up in this. Especially since both women are in such painfully one-note roles which are WAY beneath them. Harris at least takes her flat character and makes her more interesting than everything else in this movie. I actively feel bad for Akerman, she looks as bored as I feel watching Rampage.
Brainless action movies are such fun to behold. There is nothing like kicking back with gratuitous destruction and cheesy dialogue. But there is a difference between brainless and out right dumb. Unfortunately for Rampage, it falls into the out-right dumb category in which the overly talented cast cannot save it.
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.