Action Adventure

Film Review: 'Rampage' is a Straightforward Exercise in Giant Monster Mayhem

April 13, 2018Ben MK

The epic 21st century showdown between Godzilla and King Kong may still be a couple years off, but in the meantime we have Rampage, a movie that pits a giant ape against a giant reptile (not to mention, a giant wolf), with results that ought to tide moviegoers over in the meantime.

In this film adaptation of the classic '80s arcade game, Dwayne Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a former special forces soldier turned primatologist, whose best friend happens to be a 7-foot tall albino gorilla named George. Rescued from African poachers by Davis when he was young and brought to the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary, where he now resides, George shares a special bond with Davis. However, their friendship is challenged when pieces of the Athena 1 space station come crashing to earth, bringing with it an experimental pathogen capable of doubling the size of any creature exposed to it overnight.

Of course, George isn't the only one to be exposed to the pathogen. So too are a crocodile in the Florida Everglades and a wolf in Southern Wyoming. Meanwhile, the scheming Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her brother Brett (Jake Lacy), who run Energyne Industries, the corporation responsible for the illegal genetic experiments aboard the Athena 1, scramble to cover their own butts by dispatching their hired muscle to take down one of the animals. But when their goons too are — ahem — dispatched, it then falls on Davis to try to find a way to stop the creatures, who are growing bigger, stronger and more destructive with each passing moment.

Teaming up with geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), Davis must make his way from San Diego to Energyne's headquarters in Chicago, where the radio towers atop the Willis Tower have been configured to broadcast a low-frequency signal, drawing George, the giant wolf and the giant crocodile to the Windy City. Luckily, the pair will also have a little help from an "Other Government Agency" agent named Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who's introduced as a potential adversary to Davis, but who soon comes around to seeing things from Davis' point of view.

Directed by Brad Peyton, who previously collaborated with Johnson on the earthquake disaster movie San Andreas, Rampage is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of film. The movie promises no shortage of monster-on-monster mayhem, and that's exactly what it delivers, culminating in a free-for-all third-act melee that sees buildings toppled and then stomped upon some more until the rubble is virtually smashed into dust. At times, it can literally be exhausting just to sit and bear witness to the sound and fury of it all, but the mere fact that Rampage lives up to its title is reason enough to withhold any such complaints.

That said, even though the film has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, it could still benefit from an added dose of humor. Essentially, all of Rampage's funny bits can be found in its trailer, and while that doesn't necessarily diminish the movie's entertainment value, it is something of a letdown, especially considering Johnson's gift for comedic timing. As it stands, this is still a spectacle worth seeing on the big screen — and in keeping with the overarching theme of the film, the bigger the screen you can see it on the better.

Rampage releases April 13th, 2018 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures. Its runtime is 1 hr. 47 min.

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