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Rampage Review – You’d Be Better Off Spending Your Quarters Elsewhere

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Starring Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman

Written by Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Szytkiel

Directed by Brad Peyton


Another year, another video game adaptation. While there are examples of such endeavors done right (I’m looking at you Silent Hill and Mortal Kombat), there are obviously just as many, if not more, that fail to capture the essence of their source material. When it comes to Rampage, which is based on the 1986 arcade game by Bally Midway, it falls into that nebulous middle territory where it has some shining moments but also doesn’t quite know what to make of itself.

The film follows David Okoye (Johnson), a primatologist whose beloved albino gorilla George gets hit with a dose of CRISPR, a chemical gas developed by evil corporation Energyne that alters its DNA and causes it to grow to an almost unbelievable stature. While trying to figure out what’s going on with the help of Dr. Kate Caldwell (Harris), the duo learn about a second infected animal, a giant wolf dubbed Ralph. Assisting OGA agent Harvey Russell (Morgan), they all try to save Chicago from what is about to be a really bad day. Oh, and there’s a third giant monster, a mutated alligator.

Rampage is a blockbuster Hollywood movie that suffers from too much story. Characters have backstories that don’t add to the greater whole, such as Caldwell’s ill brother or the entirely useless character of Energyne co-owner Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy), and the script is far too wordy, resulting in a movie that should’ve been a lean 90 minutes clocking in at nearly 110. The first two acts of the film are focused on developing characters that feel flat and uninteresting. The third act is where we finally get to see the three gargantuan beasts do their thing but that’s intercut with so much of Okoye, Caldwell, and Russell’s actions that the rhythm feels completely off.

For a movie based on a game where the point is to cause as much destruction as possible, there’s a surprising lack of rubble. At one point, George and Ralph are shown as following a straight path towards the heart of Chicago. This presented the perfect opportunity for the creatures to plow through a few smaller towns and cities before reaching the Windy City, a nod to the progression of the games. However, Chicago is the only city that suffers any serious damage, which upends the premise of the game that the film is based upon. The shots of Ralph, Lizzie, and George wreaking havoc are relegated more to the streets of Chicago than the buildings as the creatures focus their attacks on the army’s tanks, humvees, and helicopters. That being said, when they lay waste to various structures, it gets pretty fun.

Too many questions arise that go unexplained to go unnoticed. If Ralph and Lizzie, the giant alligator, have mutations that do not fit their original form – such as Ralph’s ability to glide or Lizzie’s warthog-esque tusks – then why does George remain the same? How does Okoye not only survive a gunshot to the stomach but then go on to pilot a helicopter, run through the streets of Chicago, help battle Lizzie, and be your standard All-American hero?

With the star power of Johnson behind the film, Rampage is surely going to draw in audiences. Harris gives Caldwell as much gusto as she can muster while Morgan seemingly forgot to leave Negan at the door. Akerman as Claire Wyden serves as a perfectly acceptable villainess and her demise is a delightful nod to the game series. But the movie’s true star is actually George, whose CG is outdone only by the performance of Jason Liles, who brings humor, emotion, and life to the gorilla.

While there are some moments of greatness, Rampage ultimately tries to bring too much ham-fisted emotion into an overly long movie that should’ve been little more than exhilarating popcorn fare about monsters destroying one city after another before being obliterated themselves.

  • Rampage
2.0

Summary

Between spending $10 bucks on a ticket for Rampage or getting that money changed into quarters for your local arcade, I’d recommend the latter.

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