In the opening moments of Rampage we witness a preppy blonde astronaut (Marley Shelton) frantically floating through zero gravity in a bid to escape the clutches of an oversized rodent of sorts. Severed limbs and lifeless corpses float around her, highlighting a surprisingly dark tone that skims throughout the brisk running time of this ultimately ridiculous film. On the tail end, after we have witnessed large, mutated, aggressive animals rip through cities and cast members, Dwayne Johnson’s hulking and resourceful primatologist shares a sexually charged joke with a gorilla (one of the aforementioned animals that only moments before was casually destroying civilians) regarding his potential bedroom antics with Naomie Harris’s equally resourceful scientist. Horror and humour indeed go hand-in-hand under the direction of Brad Peyton, and your appreciation of the supreme B-movie cheese that is Rampage will depend on how much you let yourself surrender to it.
Rampage was never going to be a movie one would take seriously, and director Peyton and the unstoppable charisma that is the Johnson know their brand and how to work it accordingly. We can’t help but like big Dwayne, so it makes sense that screenwriters Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, and Adam Sztykiel have flipped the module of Bally Midway’s 1986 arcade game of the same name to have the trio of creatures that were originally the protagonists now be the adversaries to Johnson’s inherently likable Davis Okoye; though, apart from Johnson, Harris as pseudo-love interest Kate Caldwell, and a scene-chewing Jeffrey Dean Morgan as an other government agency operative who can’t help but want to bro-out with the Johnson (don’t we all?), there’s very few people given prominence on-screen that we root for – least of all a 100% committed, scene-devouring Malin Ackerman as Claire Wyden, a fabulously-attired, corporate she-devil who is responsible for the mutation of the creatures we so patiently wait on to make her one of their meals.
“Genetic auditing” is the phrase so casually thrown around as to explain just what has caused a gorilla, a wolf, and an alligator to become so monstrous in size and agility (hey, that wolf can fly too!) and honestly we don’t really care that it’s barely explained beyond that, because we’re only here for corn and carnage, and Rampage has that in spades! Is this a good movie? Not at all, but to its credit it’s not pretending to be, so why not just go along with it? Granted, it could’ve been much funnier had it truly embraced itself, but by the time Johnson, glistening in a dirty tee, straps on a machine gun in his bid to take down these mutated forces, you’ve either completely submitted to the nonsense or you’re utterly defiant against it.
Pleasantly not overstaying its welcome, Rampage is exactly the type of film you think it will be, so I suggest going forth accordingly. You may enjoy the CGI-mess ahead or you’ll be baffled that it didn’t exceed expectations, either way it’s The Rock and a giant gorilla…take it as you will.