By: Hawk Ripjaw (Three Beers) –
There’s not really much of a plot to speak of in Rampage, besides what the movie needs to legally call itself a narrative. Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) and his best bud, an albino gorilla named George, have their friendship tested when a wayward space experiment headed by the spectacularly conniving sibling couple Claire and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) sends some space canisters hurtling down to earth. Upon arrival, one breaks open and causes George to have uncontrollable growth spurts and explosions of aggression. A wolf named Ralph as well as a crocodile in Louisiana (Lizzy, though she’s never named here) are exposed to two more. When George escapes captivity, Davis runs into Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomi Harris), a former employee of the Wydens who knows of their corruption. With her help, he needs to figure out how to save his friend. The three monsters are on a, ahem, rampage towards the Willis Tower in Chicago, where the Wydens have… activated some sort of contraption to call their research back so they can profit off of it no matter the cost of human life?
Yeah, I don’t think the movie really knows, either.
Rampage may come as close as any video game adaptation ever has to accurately replicating the look and feel of the game itself, at least in the final stretch. When the monsters finally start to tear apart Chigaco, it’s as close to the feeling of first playing the game as possible, right down to climbing and tearing apart buildings and eating that woman in the red dress.
The real show-stealer is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a government agent named Harvey, who never for a second forgets what sort of movie he’s in. Apparently having wandered in to film his scenes between takes on The Walking Dead, Morgan is in full-on Negan mode. He drawls, he leans, he’s a dick to literally everyone, and he delivers this amazing line: “When Science shits the bed, I’m the one they call in to change the sheets.” He’s solid gold.
Apart from that last act, Rampage suffers from a curious lack of fun. It’s not dissimilar to Brad Peyton’s previous movies Incarnate and especially San Andreas in that it grazes success as a truly quality piece of silliness, but barely misses. There’s plenty of fun to be had in the last 30 minutes of Rampage, but it comes in only small doses in the aimless hour that comes before it.
It feels restless and bored in its own buildup to the mayhem of the climax, and passes that feeling onto the audience. Even Ralph the Wolf’s main sequence (evocative of the Indominus Rex sequence from Jurassic World and one of many odd similarities to that movie) is surprisingly violent and too grim to be entertaining in the way this sort of movie should be. Luckily, this is mostly reversed and forgiven once that climax arrives.
While the story of Rampage admirably pulls a decent narrative from a video game that barely even makes an attempt at one, the actual screenplay is frustratingly uneven. There’s almost no character development, no arcs, and a general disinterest in everything besides the climax.
The entirety of the important information in Rampage is delivered through expository dialogue. Upon first meeting Davis and Kate, Harvey pulls up their files on a tablet and delivers a monologue outlining each of their backgrounds. The machine directing the monsters to Chicago is described in great detail by Claire Wyden through a monologue. The movie does a lot more telling than it does showing, stalling the plot to show something cool, and then putting the cool back on hold to do more telling.
Individual mileage will vary based on the audience’s tolerance for the dated villain/henchperson interplay between the Wyden siblings. Akerman’s scenery-chomping and Lacy’s helpless idiocy create a black hole of stupid that doesn’t have much to latch on to, so it feels occasionally out of place. As its own piece of the movie, however, it’s one of the more entertaining elements.
Surprisingly, Rampage is a movie that gets a bit better upon reflection, mostly because it gets more innocently stupid. How exactly did Lizzy the Crocodile get from Louisiana to Illinois without anyone noticing? Why did canisters resistant to reentry to Earth’s atmosphere just break open when touched by an animal? Why was there no collateral damage to other animals in the area? The Wyden’s plot still doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
For some reason, it’s difficult to hate the movie for these oversights. It may be because of the way Rampage plays fast and loose with its own logic and lore (in that it has very, very little of either). It may also be because Rampage doesn’t feel as beholden to the source game. In either case, the movie has a bit of a devil-may-care attitude that absolutely cripples it in terms of pacing and narrative but also makes it hard to fault something so casually brainless. It’s fun, but only so much.
Rampage (2018) Movie Drinking Game
Do a Shot: for every reference to the Rampage video game
Take a Drink: for every time someone is violently killed
Do a Shot: every time Harvey does the Negan Lean
Take a Drink: for every direct similarity to Jurassic World
Take a Drink: for every Davis reaction shot