Rampage is one of those films I was intially in two minds about seeing. I was caught in the middle of “Well, if I see it, I may as well do so on the big screen as it’ll look better” and “It’s just junk with Dwayne Johnson taking over from Arnie in the role of – as Barry Norman called him – ‘the human special effect'”
It didn’t help at this point that it was another movie based on a videogame and the only ones I can think of that entertained me, in that respect, were the Resident Evil series.
So, there I was in the cinema. I thought – at least it can’t be any worse than Tomb Raider – a collection of everything we’d seen in every other action film, and a complete lack of humour, plus the lamest ever ‘catchphrase’, “I’m not that kind of Croft”. Still, at least Alicia Vikander looked fantastic, and that was the only aspect worth watching.
And in the case of this film, we have Naomie Harris for the eye-candy.
Some will opt for Dwayne Johnson as primatologist (yes, that’s a thing) Davis Okeye, who can talk to the animals and even perform sign language with them, particularly George of the jungle, a placid gorilla (for now, until events change in the film).
All I remember about the videogame Rampage is taking on the role of a gorilla, or a mutated wolf or alligator, climbing buildings, eating people, smashing helicopters, all until the buildings fell down. Then move onto the next level and do it all again, and rinse and repeat. This film takes the basic idea from that and weaves it into the plot, briefly, as a giant George, a flying wolf and an angry alligator make their way to a particular building in Chicago (for reasons you’ll discover), simply smashing it up to stop something irritating happening (a sequel planning meeting at Baywatch movie HQ, perhaps? Oh, I can dream. That WAS a failure of a movie!)
The story to Rampage – or, Honey I Blew Up The Gorilla – could fit on the back of a postage stamp, as thanks to experiments in space, a gorilla, a wolf and an alligator are made huge thanks to genetic editing getting in their way, courtesy of a company called Energyne, run by smart-ass Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her hapless brother, Brett (Jake Lacy). They engineer a situation where George and the Wolf are on their way to Chicago, and as you’ve seen in the trailer, everything centres around a big, dumb, balding North American ape… with no chin… but enough about The Rock.
OVer the course of 107 minutes, I was very pleasantly surprised. It had a good few bellylaughs, such as when Davis and Kate are in a ‘do or die’ situation as all hell breaks loose around them, and she tells him, “Swing me!”, so she can get from one end of their location to the other in order to solve the problem.
This is what 2014’s Godzilla should’ve been. It has a LOT of humour – which is what is missed by a lot of modern action movies, these days – although it is short on originality, so you know what while Rock and Naomie will know exactly what needs to be done to resolve the situation, they’ll be thwarted by idiotic army bods who want to bump off the baddies with conventional weapons… which don’t even make a dent in them, as shown several times by that point.
Plus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan wisecracks nicely as Harvey Russell, a shouty Texan nob-end, who’s this film’s main US government representative, and who (in this most formulaic of plots) you know will be the arrogant one who knows they need to be left alone to get on with things and don’t need government interference, plus of the many jokes in the film, one which cracked me up in this situation was when Dwayne asked him who he works for, to which comes the reply, “Sir, I work for the American people”. Naomie then adds: “Homeland? CIA? …. Justice League(?)”
Even Dwayne’s team at work are as predictable as possible, with the token blonde hottie, Amy (Breanne Hill), who wants to bed Dwayne, while there’s also the nerdy, podgy bloke, Nelson (PJ Byrne) (cue another humourous line – and I’ll make this my last one, but there are loads in there – as Nelson mutters to himself, “Girls love him. I should shave my head(!)”, but once the action begins, they’re out of the picture, never to return. Don’t worry about them, though, as it’s all about the two leads, with occasional interjections from Russell.
At another point, someone suggests solving the onscreen issues with “Call 911!” Oh yeah, the police will solve it? Maybe they can make a start next week if you prise their fat snouts out from their boxes of donuts!
Yes, there’s a bit too much crash/bash/smash with the monsters and the buildings in the final act, but at least it didn’t go on for an age like in Man of Steel!
I will say, to its detriment, that Rampage is very sweary (a lot of ‘s-word’ and ‘a-hole’, as well as a ‘mother…’ just to ensure a 12-certificate), all of which is quite unnecessary. However, with both the director from San Andreas, Brad Peyton, as well as its screenplay writer, Carlton Cuse, and with the former working again together with The Rock (since Peyton directed him in 2012’s Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – a film I haven’t seen, but now realise I should check out), it’s definitely a good team. Given Peyton and Cuse’s disaster movie credentials, perhaps they should be hired for next year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters! So far, neither of them are involved.
I saw this film in 2D and I’d recommend doing the same. It wasn’t filmed in 3D. It was filmed in 2D, so the 3D is yet another post-conversion job, and since the film is mostly fast-cutting when there’s action going on, your eyes won’t register the 3D well enough to make it worth the bother.
Oh, and I seemed to have my once a year treat, where the auditorium lights stayed OFF during the end credits completely, and no cleaning staff came in during that time! Bonus! …of course, I was still looking over my shoulder just in case, on a regular basis, as I couldn’t believe my luck!
Also available is the The Art and Making of Rampage – Hardback book.
Running time: 107 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros
Format: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K) (6.5K)), (Anamorphic Panavision)
Released: April 11th 2018
Director: Brad Peyton
Producers: Beau Flynn, Hiram Garcia, Brad Peyton, John Rickard
Screenplay: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J Condal, Adam Sztykiel
Music: Andrew Lockington
Davis Okoye: Dwayne Johnson
Dr. Kate Caldwell: Naomie Harris
Claire Wyden: Malin Akerman
Harvey Russell: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Brett Wyden: Jake Lacy
Burke: Joe Manganiello
Dr. Kerry Atkins: Marley Shelton
Nelson: PJ Byrne
Colonel Blake: Demetrius Grosse
Connor: Jack Quaid
Amy: Breanne Hill
Zammit: Matt Gerald
Agent Park: Will Yun Lee
Garrick: Urijah Faber
Taylor: Bruce Blackshear
George: Jason Liles
Female Gorilla 1: Skye Notary
Female Gorilla 2: Willow Notary
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.