Rampage (2018) REVIEW – Transformers With Giant Animals

Rampage summed up: The Rock in a tight shirt and nonsensical action going on around him. Sound pretty familiar? It's still fun, though.

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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson reunites once more with director Brad Peyton, whom he collaborated with on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas, in an adaptation of the classic video game Rampage.

Johnson plays primatologist Davis Okoye. A gorilla he handles, an albino named George, is affected by a pathogen that causes him, as well as a wolf and a crocodile, to grow rapidly in size and become increasingly aggressive. Okoye, along with geneticist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) must find a way to stop these affected animals from wreaking havoc.

Meanwhile, the people in charge of the corporation responsible for this pathogen, called Energyne, devises a plan to neutralise their creation, which just so happen to involve the animals potentially destroying downtown Chicago.

That last part is one of this film’s biggest problems. Who would’ve thought that a movie with giant angry beasts would need such a prominent villainous human presence? Well, this movie obviously does. Energyne is headed by Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman in Melania Trump cosplay) and her brother Brett (a relentlessly overacting Jake Lacy). Brett is the bumbling, panicky half of the duo, which is grating but mostly harmless. It’s Claire that’s the real problem. She’s presented as a conniving, ruthless, and intelligent character, but so much of this is told through dialogue rather than shown, and her character is given very little depth. Akerman does her best, but any actress would struggle to bring anything more than surface-level with how little she has to work with.

And the actors handicapped by their roles extend also to the star of the show. The Rock is one of the most likeable and charismatic actors working today, but his role is that of an antisocial primatologist who much prefers to hang out with his animals compared to other people. This mutes his charm and exposes his weaknesses as an actor. In the few humorous scenes he has, and in the big action set-piece towards the end, he does shine, but aside from those his performance is unusually lifeless.

One of the most entertaining parts of this film is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays a government agent tasked to deal with this situation. There is such a thing as an actor chewing up the scenery, but Morgan straight up ate it. He gets a lot of the movie’s many cheesy lines, but he carries his over the top “cowboy” role with great confidence.

People expecting a big, fun action film will get their fill in the last 15-20 minutes. Seeing giant monsters tear down buildings and smash each other in the face with The Rock in full action hero mode is pretty sweet. But there is well over an hour of movie to get through before then, and it’s mostly just choppy setup. Characters are introduced who have are forgotten by the end of the movie, and characters say and do silly and pointless things. Not fun silly, just silly. For example,when the crocodile arrives in Chicago, and is detected as a presence underwater, the man leading the military response to the monsters say something along the lines of “we don’t have any subs in the area.” Really, Colonel? You don’t have any submarines stationed in Chicago? Thanks for clearing that up, I guess.

It’s a movie with overall poor characterisation, way too much unnecessary setup, and a fun, large scale action scene at the end. It’s quite similar to Michael Bay’s Transformers films, if you take away the female eye candy and most of the awkward sexual humour (notice I said most, not all. It’s there). If you’re a fan of that series, you might want to give this a look. If you’re expecting a big, cheesy fun action film, maybe consider walking into the theatre about 75 minutes late.

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