REVIEW: ‘Rampage’ As A Whole Isn’t Saved By Monster Spectacle

There are two aspects with “Rampage,” one is the giant monster battles and the other is everything else. The giant fights are entertaining, the rest is forgettable.

The story behind the giant monsters in “Rampage” starts in space. A shady corporation turns out to be doing biological experiments high above Earth and after something goes wrong, three canisters are dropped from a space station containing genetic altering substances. One of those canisters falls in a San Diego wildlife center, where the protagonist Davis (Dwayne Johnson) works. The canister comes in contact with a gorilla Davis works with, named George, and it ends up making the primate grow to a massive size.

The other canisters land in North America, too, and have the same effect on two other animals. Meanwhile the (basically outright evil) corporation decides to lure the animals to Chicago, meaning it’s up to Davis, a former employee of the corp., Kate (Naomie Harris) and a government agent named Harvey (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to stop them, as Davis has worked with George before.

The plot of “Rampage” is just about getting the characters from point A to point B, so there’s really not much to offer here in the story. Basically, we have the two villains who run their company trying to make the now giant animals go to Chicago so the military will destroy them while the three protagonists follow along to resolve the situation.

On top of having a story that’s more or less paper thin, “Rampage” seems to be somewhat inconsistent when it comes to the tone. Sometimes the film will play itself as being very lighthearted, with slapstick humor and quips from the characters. However, at the same time, some of the violence featured here is quite graphic and dark, which doesn’t exactly go together with some of the more humorous moments. This is because it played itself more as an over-the-top action comedy, rather than a more straightforward action film with some comedy thrown, in such as “Jurassic Park” or “Jurassic World.”

Speaking of “Jurassic World,” this film seemed to retread a lot of what that movie did. In “Rampage,” the main character has to get help from a dangerous animal that he’s helped train/have a good relationship with to stop an even more dangerous creature from wreaking havoc. That was really similar to what happened in “Jurassic World.”

The acting doesn’t do the film many favors either. On top of the dialogue being poor to cringe-worthy at times, Harris and Morgan seem to just be phoning things in. Harris was unconvincing in her role while Morgan was just going through the motions as a caricature.

The worst performances, though, came from Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy, who played the two running that evil company. They chew so much scenery and the acting from them is so hammy that it’s as if these two were trying to play Saturday morning cartoon villains. It’s not just that these are villains that have a sense of humor, either, no. The performers play these two as if they’re total goofs.

Johnson, meanwhile, is kind of hit or miss here. He always has a lot of screen presence thanks to his natural charisma but it’s noticable that the material just doesn’t give him much to work with.

However, as I wrote at the start, the action sequences here do have entertainment value. The battle scenes, especially those in Chicago, are filled with buildings being smashed, a giant gorilla throwing his fists and military weapons being fired. It all leads to plenty of spectacle, so seeing “Rampage” (and hearing it) can be worth, it if it’s viewed at a theater.

That said, despite some good action, some of the filmmaking didn’t work very well. For example, there’s a scene where the characters are parachuting out of an airplane and some of the camera shots are just awkward. Camera work like this just detracted from the overall product.

If you’re looking for a movie with some big explosions that you can watch while munching on popcorn, “Rampage” is maybe worth a matinee trip to the theater. However, because everything besides the action is largely boring, it would make more sense to catch this one on a home rental, if at all. 2 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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