Main cast: Dwayne Johnson (Davis Okoye), Naomie Harris (Dr Kate Caldwell), Malin Åkerman (Claire Wyden), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Harvey Russell), Jake Lacy (Brett Wyden), Joe Manganiello (Burke), Marley Shelton (Dr Kerry Atkins), and Demetrius Grosse (Colonel Blake)
Director: Brad Peyton
Rampage is based on an old video game, although that game would see you playing a human who was turned into a monster due to a nefarious scientific experiment. Of course, Dwayne Johnson will never allow himself to be a monster in a movie, as it won’t do to deprive the world of his mug. It’s not like he has a handful of movies out every year, after all! And I hope you aren’t expecting versatility from him in this movie: he is playing the same character he always plays, right down to the types of one-liners and facial tics.
This time around, he is Davis Okoye, naturally the most capable person on earth. He was former military turned saviors of endangered species to primatologist, who gets all the girls hot for him but he prefers the company of animals (not in that way, eeuw) because poachers kill animals so all humans are bad, bad, bad. His BFF is an albino gorilla, George, whom he rescued from poachers. Then, one day, a space station explodes and remnants of the research conducted there (illegally, of course) fall onto the earth. One of them hits the gorilla enclave in the San Diego wildlife preserve, and George touches it. Ouch.
Elsewhere, wolf also touches another canister, and in the Everglades, a crocodile swallows the remaining canister.
The next day, Davis and his team discover George growing quickly to massive proportions. Also, he is becoming aggressive. What happens is that the research revolves around gene editing, so by touching the specimen case, poor George now has his DNA edited to become larger, stronger, and more aggressive. All part of the plan of Energyne, a corporation run by mad scientist Claire Wyden and her brother Brett. They want to be able to sell their DNA-editing thing to the highest bidder, and this accident doesn’t deter Claire at all. The creatures affected by her research specimen can be triggered by sound waves of a certain frequency, so all she has to do is to activate the sound transmitter in her office building. This will draw the three massive, violent animals to Chicago, where she is certain that the military will kill them all. She will get her people to collect the blood or body parts of these animals, and viola, she will extract the DNA and sell it to the highest bidder!
So now poor George is one of those creatures headed for Chicago, with an army of people with guns and missiles hot on his heels. Fortunately, Davis finds an ally in Dr Kate Caldwell, the researcher who was the primary brainpower behind the DNA editing thing, until she realized that her research was used for unscrupulous purposes and was fired and incarcerated before she could destroy her work. Now, she wants a chance to make things right.
The science is pretty terrible, but that’s probably to be expected of a movie of this sort. Fortunately, there are many scenes of carnage and destruction here to keep me distracted. Sure, Mr Johnson is playing basically the same role he has been playing all this while, but he’s actually not the main star here. The CGI and the explosions as well as destruction are the star attractions here, and naturally, there are plenty to go around.
Do take note that, despite the comedy-action vibe of the entire movie, the violence may be too scary for kids – people get eaten by giant animals, body parts are ripped apart, and the close-ups of the giant crocodile and wolf can be terrifying, for instance – even when the folks carefully make sure that splatters of blood and gore are at a minimal. In fact, that’s my main grouse when it comes to this movie – despite the carnage and wanton destruction, things look too clean and calculated here. Even the tears and dirt on Davis’s muscle top look like they have been carefully applied by the make-up people instead of something that just happens in the heat of the moment. I’d love to see more blood and gore messing up a scene. And, really, the CGI works may be scary, but they are never believable, and some scenes are clearly being filmed in front of a green screen.
Still, as predictable and cheesy as Rampage may be – and believe me, there is plenty of cheese especially in scenes of Davis and George bonding – it’s a pretty fun way to kill some time. I won’t recommend dashing out to the cinema to watch it, but there’s no harm streaming or renting this one. Also, it’s far better than Pacific Rim Uprising as a movie with big things smashing everything, so there’s that.