When my friend and I saw The Hurricane Heist last month, we were treated to back to back trailers for Rampage and Skyscraper, both new blockbuster films starring The Rock. After the second trailer, my friend leaned over to me and whispered, “So, is The Rock the new Arnold Schwarzenegger now?” Well, with his charismatic on-screen presence, gigantic figure, and propensity to star in practically anything, I’d say my friend’s assessment is correct. The thing we need to keep in mind, though, is that a majority of Schwarzenegger’s movies weren’t any good. A vast majority. 

Ex-US soldier Davis Okoye (The Rock) is a primatologist who works at a San Diego wildlife preserve. Caring more for animals than he does humans, Davis’ best friend is George (Jason Liles), an intelligent albino gorilla. They won’t stay friends for long, as an explosive catastrophe on a space station causes numerous canisters to land back on planet Earth. The containers contain a gas, one of which George breathes in, altering his genetic code to make him grow far past his normal size and become much more aggressive. With the government wanting to capture George to study him, a wolf and an alligator also find themselves exposed to the gas, causing a giant monster Rampage through the country. What ever will we do? 

As I’ve said in other reviews, I love movies that feature giant monsters destroying building and chowing down on people, and director Brad Peyton definitely knows how to deliver that action. The last act is incredibly fun, featuring some of the best gigantic monster carnage to grace the big screen in a long time. Peyton has no problem showing people get eaten, or hurled hundreds of feet in the air to their deaths. It’s exactly how a giant monster film should be. It helps that the visual effects are absolutely outstanding, especially with the gorilla George, who looks nearly as good as the apes you see in the recent Planet of the Apes films. There was never a time where I thought he, the giant wolf, or giant alligator looked phony, even when they’re grotesquely evolving, growing spiked appendages and whatnot. There’s an excellent shot showing the three monsters climbing to the top of a skyscraper, really showing off the sheer scale and weight of these creatures. If there’s anything that was done right, it was all of the destruction. 

But that’s just the last half hour of the film. The rest of it doesn’t work and the biggest reason why is because it mostly takes itself far too seriously. Rampage is based off an old arcade game from the 80’s, and like pretty much every other arcade game, it was very light on story. The entire concept revolves around playing as one of the monsters and destroying cities. That’s about it. Peyton and the screenwriters try to give the source material a story by focusing on the relationship between Davis and George, but with Davis being such a bland, undeveloped character and George just being a gorilla makes it all fall flat. Davis’ entire characterization is he doesn’t like people due to things like poaching and he’s forced to work with other people to save the day. The other people he works with, consisting of Naomie Harris and Jeffrey Dean Morgan not knowing what accents they should speak in, are just as bland as he is. The only entertaining thing is how comically bad the performances are, especially from Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy as your typical vapid corporate villains, who had me giggling in every scene. The Rock does the best he can, but he’s given pretty much nothing to work with. One of his “one-liners” is literally, “That sucks.” That’s it. Just, “That sucks.” It felt like there was no thought at all put into the script.

You ever see a movie and feel like it’s 20 years old, yet you’re currently inside a theater watching it? Well, aside from the outstanding visual effects, that’s exactly how I felt while watching Rampage. A bland protagonist with hardly any characterization? Check. Silly source material that takes itself far too seriously? Check. Hilariously cheesy, corporate villains with silly motivations? Double check. It has everything to love about a monster movie, but the waiting a whole hour to get to that point is mostly boring, but with occasional moments of laughter. I mean, who seriously thought it was a good idea to have an actual Rampage arcade cabinet in the villain’s office? That’s the kind of stuff you’d see in a Syfy Channel movie, but hey, that’s kind of what this already is. Just one with a bigger budget.


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