Rampage is directed by Brad Peyton (San Andreas, 2015) and stars Dwayne Johnson in what is a loose adaptation of the 1986 arcade game of the same name. The story follows primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson) and geneticist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) as they work together to put a stop to the destruction being caused by a deadly trio of mutated animals. At its core Rampage is a by the numbers disaster/monster movie with Dwayne Johnson playing the indestructible hero, so you really should know exactly what to expect from the film and it delivers that. It’s nearly 2 hours of dumb explosive fun where you watch Johnson perform all the heroics and giant monsters wreaking havoc… and I’m ok with that. The tone is also quite well established, it takes itself a little seriously but doesn’t lose sight of the fact that this is a story about giant mutated animals destroying buildings. It suffers from some of the usual disaster movie issues and a couple of the characters aren’t well written but it’s still a bunch of fun nonetheless.
Dwayne Johnson has within him the charisma to single handedly carry just about any movie he appears in and that’s the case here. Yes, there are some other roles that are entertaining in here but there’s no denying Johnson is the star and he’s front and centre the entire time. He naturally elevates any movie he’s in just by being in it and here he’s convincing as the ex-military primatologist who is more effective in dealing with the situation at hand than literally anyone else. I was worried about Jeffrey Dean Morgan‘s role in here as one of the government bad guys because I thought he might just devolve into being Negan in a suit. But contrary to what I thought I enjoyed the path his character takes throughout the story and he ended up being one of the many highlights. Naomie Harris has a decent role, on one hand she’s a capable companion to Johnson and they have some good back and forth moments. Then on the other hand, being the geneticist in the story she’s responsible for quite a bit of the exposition and as a result some of her scenes become a little wordy and not as enjoyable. Joe Manganiello is in this movie and I loved his character and the scene his character is central in but he doesn’t really have much of a presence beyond that. I’d have preferred if he had a more central role because it would have been even more fun but the story didn’t really call for it.
As far as the villains go… they’re terrible. Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy play evil siblings Claire and Brett Wyden and I didn’t enjoy watching them nor did I buy them as real people for a single second. They’re cliche, thinly written, and entirely unrealistic bad guys who are so extravagantly evil (and stupid) at some points it just doesn’t work. The writers try to drive some lightly comedic moments through Lacy’s character but it ruins him making it unbelievable that he’d be capable of co-running an international genetic modification company. There’s a couple of other supporting roles in the opening 15 minutes who you think will be recurring participants in the story but are dropped immediately which I’m honestly not complaining about because they weren’t great.
The story itself is fine, it doesn’t hold too many surprises and stuff happens constantly that you just have to buy because it’s a disaster film where spectacle comes first. But it’s easy to follow, you won’t get confused and it runs at a pretty quick and doesn’t stop moving all that often. There’s one sequence at about the half way point where it does slam the breaks for a few minutes, and it is jarring as it’s right after a thrilling action set-piece but it’s an isolated moment. The film does have plenty of great fun action sequences and that’s exactly why you come to see this movie. Each action sequence didn’t feel like a repeat of the last and it kept things entertaining. The introduction to the giant wolf is a sequence that I loved and may be my favourite scene of the entire movie. As seen in the trailers the relationship between George (the giant ape) and Dwayne Johnson is a core story point, and within the story their connection is set up very well and it’s a very effective arc that’s carried through til the end. I really bought their relationship and it contributed to the majority of the successfully comedic moments in here as well. These comedic moments are scarce but when they do hit especially between George and Johnson, it’s great.
So, in the end anyone who has seen a disaster film, or a giant monster film, or a Dwayne Johnson action film should know exactly what to expect from Rampage. It’s not the most original story in the world and progresses about how you’d expect it to but it’s a tonne of fun and watching giant animals destroy shit might be a new favourite past-time for some. Johnson carries much of the film and gets some help from Naomie Harris and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in their scenes. The visuals are actually quite impressive throughout, obviously there is a tonne of CGI work going into the movie and it was all good enough to not pull me out of the action. It won’t be winning any awards but it’s a good one to catch at home and have a bit of fun.