Film in review: “Rampage”


The Winonan’s film reporter rates this 1.5/5 stars.

Blake Gasner, Features Reporter

Hollywood does not have a great track record with video game movies. Want evidence? Let’s open the history books to the last five years, which have featured the likes of “Assassin’s Creed,” “Warcraft” and “Need for Speed.” This year, however, has been much kinder to the genre with the one-two punch of both “Tomb Raider” and “Ready Player One,” setting the stage for a potentially bright showing from 2018’s last video game film of the year, “Rampage.” Based off the video game of the same name, “Rampage” takes the original game’s concept of massive animals destroying cities and brings it to the big screen. Reuniting director Brad Peyton (“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” and “San Andreas”) with leading man Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Fast and Furious franchise, “Jumanji” and “Moana”), “Rampage” continues the duo’s trend of pumping out popcorny, big-budget flicks.

Johnson, charismatic as ever, plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist who shares a deep connection with a rare albino gorilla named George, after he saves the primate from poachers. One night after Okoye has left, a small amount of pathogen-infected debris from an escape pod, which burnt up in re-entry to Earth, lands in George’s habitat, infecting him and causing him to progressively grow larger and more aggressive overnight. This same occurrence also happens to both a crocodile and a wolf in different parts of the United States. Mercenaries hired by the cooperation responsible for this pathogen, as well as the U.S. Government, attempt to interfere with the situation, further unhinging the animal’s aggressive behavior, leading to disastrous destruction and one extremely motivated and resourceful Davis Okoye.

Yes, I know this plot sounds ridiculous, but it is a video game, monster movie so we should probably temper our expectations when questioning the believability of what transpires over the course of “Rampage’s” 107-minute runtime. We do not go to films like “Pacific Rim: Uprising” and “Rampage” to experience an honest, relatable and thought-provoking portrayal of our world through storytelling. We go to a movie like this to watch buildings blow up while monsters fight each other, and “Rampage” has this, but strangely only in restrained quantities. The monsters are extremely underused throughout the entirety of the film, until the ending when we FINALLY get to see them throw-down. This conclusion is fun and effective, but it feels far too long awaited by the time it FINALLY rolls around.

“Rampage” turns much of its attention away from the primary selling point of the film (monsters smashing other monsters), and opts to focus on unnecessary aspects of the story instead. The most evident example of this is the film’s insistent featuring of the extremely hammy, cringe-inducing pair of villains/siblings who caused the release of this pathogen, played by Jake Lacy and Malin Åkerman. They jab their evil prowess at the audience in such an over-the-top fashion that their characters cross the line of corny and silly and shoot towards annoying and exhausting instead. An emphasis away from the monsters, and on the human characters instead could be an interesting approach, especially with a cast that features Johnson, but “Rampage,” in all honesty, really fails here. It creates a world that is so cheesy and unbelievable that it deflates all possible stakes. As close as Johnson is to a real-life superhero, there are nearly nine or ten situations in this film that his character should have no business surviving. It is evident “Rampage” is desperately attempting to duplicate The Fast and Furious Franchise’s balanced formula that successfully bounces between both silly action and pure thrills, a duplication that falls extremely short in this case.

Consensus: If in the mood for a film featuring another charismatic performance from the always crowd-pleasing Dwayne Johnson, as well as few fun thrills that really amount to nothing more than mindless popcorn fare, then “Rampage” is the film for you. 1.5/5