Directed by Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language and crude gestures
1 hr. 47 mins.
I like movies about monkeys, and I’m a big fan of Dwayne Johnson. So put them together and you might have something enjoyable.
Not. The only point to this film is to watch weird wolf and alligator creatures and a 9-foot albino gorilla rip up Chicago.
If you think the city deserves it — say you’re a St. Louis Cardinals or Green Bay Packers fan — then you’ll be in monkey heaven. Otherwise, there are millions of dollars in special effects that go to waste and a performance by Johnson that is subpar. Still, you can’t really blame him. He isn’t given much to do except chase these creatures down.
The movie opens with a spacecraft named Athena-1 owned by a genetics research firm called Energyne. It’s doing genetic mutation experiments with rats, big ones as it turns out. When the experiments go awry, Dr. Kerry Atkins (Marley Shelton) tries to hightail it back to Earth with the lab research in an escape pod.
Unfortunately, the pod explodes upon re-entry and the canisters, filled with some type of green gas, fall to earth — conveniently near animal habitats. Thus, Energyne accidently creates a genetically mutated and extremely enlarged gorilla (George), a giant wolf that looks like a porcupine (Ralph) and the weirdest and largest alligator I’ve ever seen (Lizzie). Yes, they have names. As we all know, you can’t have a pet (or a pet project) without a name.
Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) works at the San Diego Wildlife Preserve. His specialty is primates, and he’s particularly fond of George. When George starts to grow like a bean sprout and kills a grizzly bear, Davis is puzzled.
He’s even more concerned when he gets a call from Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) about Energyne’s dangerous genetic research. Something to do with advancing CRISPR (you’ll have to look this up, it’s a real field of study) as a cure for disease.
The chase is on as George escapes his cage (twice) and wrecks an airplane in the process. He and Ralph and Lizzie head for Chicago based on a radio signal that’s been genetically implanted in their heads. Another Energyne advancement. All you need to know is that no one in the military, the police or the FBI can figure out why you can’t kill these things with guns.
Rampage isn’t about story. It’s about special effects and explosions. Based loosely on a video game of the same name released in 1986, the film is adapted for nothing more meaningful than destroying stuff. Fun if you’re playing the game. Not so fun to watch. Better if we had joysticks.
Director Brad Peyton assembles Rampage in video-game fashion, even embedding his special effects with night vision and long-range shots of Ralph, Lizzie and George tearing the hell out of downtown Chicago.
As for Johnson, he carries the film with a sense of humor that only he can manage, and he does engage in some amusing but crude sign language with George that can only be described as boys being boys.
It all wraps up nicely with a big joke that the director plays on the audience. When you realize you’ve been duped, you can’t help but laugh. It’s on the same level with whoopie cushions. Good one, Brad.
There’s no real reason to see this unless you’re a fan of the game or you just want to watch Chicago being shredded. I did appreciate Lizzie, who I thought stole the show from George for a bit. Maybe a spinoff would be nice. Other than that, Rampage is one for the scrap heap, unless, of course, you like big piles of metal and fire and weird animals plowing over the military. Fun, fun, fun — but pointless. Which I think is the point.