1. If you’re making a movie out of the old video game Rampage, which featured a giant alligator, a giant ape and a giant wolf attacking the skyline of a major American city, your only real job is to get the animals to that city. There is nothing else required of your film. We have seen all of those animals before in movies, all of them giant at one point or another; the only ingredient you have to offer is to have the three of them together, destroying the skyline. That’s it. That’s the one thing that requires any thought whatsoever. Just get them there. Everything else, before and after those monsters attack the city, is unimportant and boring. Concentrate your entire effort the money shots. This is pretty simple.
2. I bring this up because in Rampage, that very movie about the (unquestionably fun) ’80s arcade game, they have come up with the most insane reason for those monsters to be attacking a city (in this case Chicago, a fine skyline to destroy indeed) that could possibly be concocted. The monsters of Rampage were created, as many monsters before them, by an evil corporation (with the hilariously lazy evil corporation name of “Energyne”), led by a brother and sister team (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy, neither exactly sure what they’re supposed to be doing). They look on in horror as these monsters, whose abomination of an existence is entirely their doing, march through the countryside, eating people and laying waste to large swaths of this once-fine nation, and decide that they only way they can save their own hides is to—and I hope you are ready here—affix a massive beacon atop of Sears Tower using a frequency that only the monsters can hear that beckons them to Chicago. That’s the plan. (There’s some sort of bank-shot rationale about selling the monsters’ DNA that the actors impressively get through without rolling their eyes.) Of all the possibilities the screenwriters of Rampage could have come up with to get to the signature Rampage moment, the only reason their movie exists, and that’s the one they came up with. I think I would have respected them more if they had just said a wizard did it.
3. That pretty much sums up the amount of thought put into Rampage, which essentially throws The Rock, a few handsome co-stars, a gaggle of semi-competent CGI shots and a bunch of BREAKING NEWS MONSTERS ARE ATTACKING talking heads to provide exposition into a blender, pours out the chunky mix into a bowl and sort of shrugs and says, “eh, eat it, I guess.” The Rock plays a primatologist at the San Diego Zoo who has developed a friendship through sign language with an albino gorilla named George. One night, debris from an exploded space station (don’t ask, though it’s worth noting that the space station explodes in the first scene of the movie, and it’s probably the best scene in the movie) lands near George and the next morning, he has nearly doubled in size and has a severe aggressive streak. And he’s just getting started. Other pieces of debris landed near a wolf and an alligator, which is how they all fit into this; I suppose we should just feel fortunate none landed near a chicken, though that would have made for a much funnier movie.
4. The Rock (and, sorry, he’s always The Rock in these parts) ends up gathering a ragtag group of good-hearted miscreants, from a former Energyne scientist (Naomie Harris) to a rogue federal agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), to help him track down George after he escapes and save Chicago, and of course the world. It is helpful that this primatologist is also a former special forces agent and has the physique of The Rock (though, considering these are giant monsters we’re dealing with, only slightly helpful). They all, finally, end up converging on Chicago, where all sorts of shit goes down, but to be honest, not nearly as wildly as you like it too. This is a ridiculous movie without much desire or energy to get too ridiculous.
5. Here’s the best example of that: There is a scene in which The Rock and Naomi Harris are in a cut-in-half helicopter atop the Sears Tower, along with the aforementioned giant ape and giant alligator and giant wolf, and it becomes clear that the whole skyscraper is going to collapse. Now that’s exciting! The Sears Tower, crashing to the earth, in downtown Chicago, with a giant ape, a giant alligator, a giant wolf and The Rock on top of it. This I gotta see! Except the scene is just sort of … there? It’s uninventive, mostly dull CGI that we’ve seen hundreds of times before, without any sort of wit or scope to it. It’s just a by-the-numbers skyscraper collapse with massive mutant monsters and The Rock riding it down into hell. If that’s by the numbers, imagine what the rest of this is like.
Director: Brad Peyton
Writers: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Dondal, Adam Sztykiel
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Release Date: April 13, 2018
Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.