Rampage (Movie Review)

Rampage (Movie Review)
6 10

PLOT: When one of his close-knit gorilla subjects is genetically altered for monstrous means, primatologist Davis Okoye (The Rock) must traverse an amorphous war-zone full of giant beasts in order to save his longtime friend.

REVIEW: For all those who were clamoring for a mega-spectacle movie adaptation of a 80s videogame, starring a 90s pro wrestler-cum most bankable superstar de jure – you know what, as silly as it all sounds, Dwayne Johnson’s RAMPAGE may meet and actually exceed your expectations. However, if you think you might be unable to shake what essentially plays as a fun but inferior compendium of JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE and any of the new JURASSIC PARK and PLANET OF THE APES iterations, then perhaps the “Big Meets Bigger” tagline of New Line and Warner Bros.’ new tent-pole may appear comparatively shrunken in your eyes. It did in mine. That said, given the overbroad appeal intended to reach the widest collection of eyeballs possible, despite an overabundance of chintzy CGI, a few flat-falling one-liners and a tinge of melodramatic schmaltz, the movie ultimately lives and dies by the winning charms and wits of its star, The Rock Johnson. Unfortunately, even that kind of magnetic charisma can only stretch so far on its own, and does just enough here. All that considered, while it may not be his best movie to date, RAMPAGE is still a passably enjoyable supersized escapade!

Strangely, we open in outer-space. Poor Marley Shelton is stuck onboard a vessel with a genetically edited rat – edited, not engineered – which means it’s been injected with handpicked DNA from various other species that allows it to continually grow bigger, stronger, faster, more aggressively violent, and have increased regeneration powers. Store that nugget for a bit, because we then whisk down to south Wyoming to meet Davis Okoye, a badass misanthropic primatologist who once served as a Special Ops agent. Unkind to humans but genial to animals, Davis has taken a particular interest in an albino gorilla named George that he rescued from a poaching clan years prior. A great establishing scene shows just how close these two are, how magnificent primates are, and what kind of emotional stakes are to be threatened down the line. THE FX work on George is particularly inspired, and as the protagonist, is given far more care both technically and characteristically than the other mega-monsters in the movie.

Speaking of, soon a meteor carrying genetic samples from Shelton’s spaceship crashes down, you guessed it, right in the wildlife sanctuary George dwells in. He’s contaminated with the DNA and soon grows gargantuan, violently aggressive, and worse, unfriendly to Davis. Worse still is that a nearby wolf has also been infected, swelled to 30 feet in size and begun rabidly ravaging the surrounding land. Davis is built like an Adonis and all, but he can’t squabble with this vulpine behemoth alone. No, he needs help from Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomi Harris), a former employee at a nefarious biotech company called Energyne that not only helped create the DNA, knows how to formulate an antidote. In their way of course is a detestable duo running Energyne, brother Brett (Jake Lacy) and sister Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman). It’s these bastards who sent a sonar beacon beckoning George, the giant wolf and a huge prehistoric reptile to downtown Chicago!

But enough the overtly dumb plot particulars and ludicrous exposition of such. Where this movie shines is not in its story, not in its predictably formulaic three act metronome – the bumps, the dips, the peaks, the valleys – no, where the movie excels most is when Dwayne the Rock Johnson is standing in as the ultra kickass, vicariously heroic everyman we all trust in, ride or die with and know in the end, will deliver us to safety. Director Brad Peyton has recognized this trait better than most, having gold-mined The Rock’s onscreen persona to a tee in JOURNEY 2: MYSTERIOUS ISLAND and SAN ANDREAS. And while the third time isn’t quite as charming (it is far better than Peyton’s INCARNATE though), there’s something about Johnson waltzes through downtown Chicago with machine-guns drawn on a trio of city-marauding beasts that can’t help but yield a wide grin. You know exactly what to expect with a Rock movie, and while this may not be the best example of that expectation, it’s still a pretty amusing piece of big, dumb escapist fun.

Adding to the humor is the painstaking time and length taken to justify how these three humongous animals find themselves at the location we all remember from the videogame. Having four accredited screenwriters never really helps in this regard, but the straight-faced attempt to lure the beasts up the towering skyscraper and the logic for doing it actually seems way more far-fetched than the game itself, as I remember it. It’s so silly in the end, yet presented so seriously in the beginning, that you can’t help but just sit back and marvel at the laboring efforts made by the writers to establish a needlessly credible back-story, only to watch it crumble away in favor of sheer mayhem. It’s a videogame Rock movie after all, just throw the hulking brute into the fire and let him rip from the jump! More amusing yet though is the presence of FBI agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a slick talking southerner who ends up helping Davis and Dr. Caldwell along the way. Morgan and The Rock have stellar comedic chemistry, with foul language used in a way that seems to suggest the MPAA is becoming more lenient.

Yet without The Rock, RAMPAGE would likely come off as a forgettably ho-hum experience. It’s his own supersized persona and huge likeability that elevates what would otherwise be a stock-standard, run of the mill, beat-by-beat action rollercoaster. It’s because of the intangibles he brings, we know he brings, he knows we know he brings, and the properly dialed amount of that part hard-ass, part softy that makes this one work as well as it can. Yes the material is highly derivative, yes most of the FX work rings false (save for George), yes some of the predictable outcomes are hard to look past, as is the dopey dialogue, yes some of the sentimentality wears a bit thin, but in the end, because of the undeniable luminosity of its megastar, RAMPAGE has a pretty good time inflicting its damage!

Extra Tidbit: RAMPAGE opens wide today, Friday the 13th.
Source: AITH.com



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