While Jane Goodall would be horrified, fans of “Pacific Rim,” “Kong” and any collaborative mash-up of monsters and building-bashing-hell will be thrilled by the latest video-game-that-didn’t-need-to-become-film, “Rampage.”
The film opens with an impressive scene: Some disposable astronaut is running from a gigantic rat on-board a space shuttle. She radios for help and the villainous corporation, Energyne, tells her to go back and grab their weaponized-DNA-altering gas or she can kiss her return flight goodbye. Things don’t go well and the DNA-altering gas containers fall to Earth. The gas taints a gorilla, crocodile and wolf, who grow to gargantuan proportions. The behemoth trio stomps through Chicago and Okoye and friends must save George, the gorilla, before the military nukes the neighborhood.
Note, we are supposed to care about the gorilla because he was raised by the ever-squinting, Dwayne Johnson – I mean –Davis Okoye. While a typical, brilliant primatologist simply would not do, Dwayne’s Okoye is a United Nations Anti-Poaching Task Force veteran and Navy Seal or some secret Black ops-type because those are the hot credentials at zoos nowadays. Meanwhile, ambitious Energyne exec, Claire Wyden (Malin Åkerman), wants to gather DNA from the beasts to salvage her lost-in-space weapons technology while Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) has a bone to pick with Claire, who stole her research for nefarious purposes. Rounding out the cast is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who – armed with a monstrous phallic symbol of a sidearm – is a quick-witted, Southern-accented G-man who works for … well we don’t know who he works for and who cares when there is a gigantic flying wolf to distract you from that lazy plot hole?
Fans of Dwayne Johnson and “San Andreas” will enjoy Johnson’s charisma, Colgate-clean smile and brute strength that saves the day. Johnson relishes every role no matter how hackneyed and takes full ownership of his performance. His compassion for this CGI gorilla tugs at the heart strings because he’s giving way more than the script demands. It’s enjoyable to see an actor who still appreciates the blessing of stardom and multi-million-dollar paychecks. The remaining cast – well-known in TV and film – seem to enjoy the campy nature of their roles, delivering their lines with tongue-in-cheek charm. The action is boisterous and terrifically laughable for a visually-raucous popcorn-flick.
Action Fans this film is scathingly predictable to the point of boredom. Your mind may wander off to the many films that did it better. The rampaging-beast-CGI is deplorable in the third act (“Pacific Rim” did it better) and while George and Johnson exchange gabby jokes in sign language (Amy did it better in “Congo”), the jokes are humdrum and too mundane to sustain anything beyond a dry giggle. The actors are self-aware and seem to be having fun with the material but the extent of character development is when Johnson and Harris exchange back stories of George’s salvation and her brother’s demise. Snooze.
Sci-Fi fans, while this is loosely based on a videogame (not really), there are enough big-beast tropes to elicit a few nods and chuckles. Of course, Kong – I mean, George – climbs the building and snatches up a lady, rips off an antenna and smacks a chopper. The military nearly annihilates a major city while YouTubers affectionately name the colossal beasts that are killing their neighbors. Who could ask for anything more? We can and “Planet of the Apes” did it better.
Folks who want a free-minded popcorn flick – 3 out of 4
Folks who love mutated animals, Dwayne Johnson and campy punchlines – 4 out of 4
Folks who need a rational plot, crisp CGI and responsible action – 1 out of 4.
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