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‘Rampage’ is all wrong in all the right ways

April 13, 2018

Some of my fondest teenage memories (at least pre-driver’s license memories) involve me and my buddies roaming the streets of small town Minnesota, stopping only occasionally to grab a beverage, sneak a cigarette (procured from someone’s parent’s stash), or drop a quarter into an arcade game.

 

One of our favorites, and a favorite of mine to this day, was the “Rampage” machine that was tucked into the back room of the local Pizza Ranch.

 

So, when I learned that “Rampage” was making its way to the big screen, I was sold. When I found out that Dwayne Johnson was taking the lead, I was 100% in.

Dwayne Johnson as Davis Okoye and Jason Liles as George in New Line Cinema's and ASAP Entertainment's action adventure "Rampage," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures © 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.)

Johnson stars as Davis Okoye, a primatologist, who prefers the company of his animal friends to the people he works with and encounters on a daily basis. He’s particularly fond of an albino gorilla named George.

 

After a mysterious canister lands in George’s habitat (along with others in a Florida swamp and the mountains of Wyoming), his personality changes for the worse and he begins growing at an incredible rate. Soon thereafter, genetic engineer Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) arrives on the scene and lets Davis know that George has been infected with an experimental gas that would likely lead to world destruction.

 

After George escapes, it’s up to Davis and Kate, along with an aggressive federal agent, Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), to stop George, the other mutated animals, and the evil sister-brother duo of Claire (Malin Akerman) and Brett (Jake Lacy) Wyden.

Naomie Harris as Dr. Kate Caldwell, Jason Liles as George and Dwayne Johnson as Davis Okoye in New Line Cinema's and ASAP Entertainment's action adventure "Rampage," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures © 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.)

A lot of the early criticisms I’m heard/read about this movie is that it’s too big, too loud, too stupid, etc. And it really is all of those things – big, loud, and stupid. But it’s also funny, exciting, and engaging.

 

Admittedly, the story is a bit ridiculous, too, but when you walk into a movie about hostile, giant animals that are hell-bent on destroying anything and everything in their path, you should have an idea that you’re going to need to suspend disbelief for a couple of hours.

 

It does stray a bit from its source material (namely animals becoming monsters rather than humans turning into monsters), but it retains enough of the original elements that if you’re familiar with the game and watched the movie without knowing the title, you’d quickly realize what you were watching. This isn’t an adaptation like “Battleship” where the only similar element is the name.

A scene from New Line Cinema's and ASAP Entertainment's action adventure "Rampage," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures © 2018 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.)

 

Sure, there’s things to dislike – no real explanation as to the evil nature of the Wydens, only minor focus on the non-George animals, and some inconsistencies in what can or can’t stop one of these beasts – but, again, it’s a movie about rage-filled, genetically-mutated animals.

 

The thing I find most curious about this movie is its release date. Everything about it screams “SUMMER POPCORN FLICK” – big-name box office draw, action from beginning to end, and virtually no expectations as to quality. Box office flicks don’t need the summer to thrive – “Black Panther,” “Infinity War,” etc. – but this one seems like something that teenage gamers would flock to when forced away from their gaming consoles for a few hours by their parents.

 

End of the day, “Rampage” really isn’t a very good movie, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a helluva good time. And, honestly, that is literally the only thing I wanted it to be.

 

★★★ 1/2 of ★★★★★