By Kevin Thomas
1.5 out 5 stars (one of the worst I’ve seen this year)
Rampage is one of the most bizarrely terrible movies I’ve seen this year. Taking its “story” from the always successful-source of a video game, this film collapses on impact due to insultingly underdeveloped characters, less-than-half-baked ideas, and a cast full of people who look either confused or bored throughout (excluding an appropriately hammy Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who understands the malarkey he’s in). I don’t often leave for the restroom without qualms on missing vital pieces of plot info, but Rampage was an exception. I knew where it was going, and it wasn’t anywhere good.
Dwayne Johnson is Davis Okoye, an ex-military man-turned-primatologist for a nature preserve who prefers animals to humans. His main charge is George (a truly awful bit of CGI), an ape with a quirky sense of humor. However, their lives change when George encounters a piece of scientific technology from space that causes him to grow in size and aggression, leading to the involvement of Government Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), scientist Kate Caldwell (a laughably unconvincing Naomie Harris) , and the worst onscreen military this side of Godzilla 98. Oh yeah, there’s also a generic evil corporation headed by Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) whose experiments also lead to a giant flying wolf and alligator. Now, Okoye and Co. must stop the animals from destroying Chicago and possibly save George in the process, all while dealing with their half-hearted personal dramas that have no actual bearing on this story.
I would normally discuss performances here, except for there isn’t much for me to go into. Dwayne Johnson has never been Lawrence Olivier, but his usual charisma is painfully suppressed here, save for a few out-of-place jokes that go against the needlessly serious tone. Harris and Akerman are completely miscast here, failing to sell a single line of their awful dialogue. The only person to almost salvage the project is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays his over-the-top stereotype to a tee and brought much-needed (if not always unintentional) levity. He’s playing the part like he’s in a Sharknado movie, which is what this should have been, while everyone else can’t decide to play it straight or not. It’s awkward, perplexing, and honestly boring watching these actors try to make ice cream out these cat droppings called a script, and made me hope they all got big pay days.
The action, when it finally arrives, also fails. This is the same kind of wanton destruction we saw in the Pacific Rim and Godzilla movies, but without any of the fun. I tuned out shockingly early, realizing that the action was the only thing the filmmakers cared about, but was amazed when even that underwhelmed (an exception being George’s final move to defeat the giant wolf). What’s more, the movie is executed like a lazy children’s flick, but has dialogue peppered with swear words that most parents wouldn’t want their youngsters repeating. Swearing in films doesn’t bother me most of the time, but its inclusion here is unnecessary. There’s a perfectly solid babysitter movie here, but the 4 screenwriters and 7 executive producers mucked it up.
Lastly, the portrayal of the military in this film is absolutely juvenile, with a general giving the go ahead to bomb Chicago to stop the monsters, despite both his own troops and civilians still being in the area. I know that casualties are often a risk with operations like this, but the general starts shooting at the animals directly after Johnson tells him that doing so will accomplish nothing, which it does. I don’t normally notice the misrepresentation of the military in film, but this particular case left me irritated as I watched our national defense be made into idiots. This makes the Transformers franchise look realistic in comparison.
Rampage is an overlong, boring, and horribly acted mess that fails as a dark action film, a fun summer blockbuster, or a babysitter kids film (the latter of which would have saved it from my disgust). I was bored from beginning to end, mentally counting the minutes until I could leave. It only gets the 1.5 star rating because of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and one cool kill. Besides that, this Rampage is pointless.
Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Violence, Action, and Destruction, Brief Language (surprising, given the amount they swear here), and, pathetically, Some Crude Gestures (one of which, despite getting an honest laugh out of me, was totally inappropriate for children to see). Skip it.
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Image Source: videogamer.com