As someone who has been closely following Dwayne Johnson (we still call him “The Rock” in our household, but I’ll keep it professional here and use his given name) and his media-transcending career for about two full decades now, I’ll go ahead and admit my bias up front: I adore him endlessly and can (and will) watch him in anything. The reason I’m mentioning all of this now is because going into Brad Peyton’s Rampage, I was purely into it simply to watch The People’s Champ layeth the smacketh down on some oversized monsters, and for the most part, the film delivers just that. Sure, it has a handful of script and logic issues, but overall Rampage delivers a gargantuan amount of fun and is perpetually saved by Johnson and his engaging and heartfelt relationship with his primate co-star, George (performed by Jason Liles via mo-cap), who somehow find an emotional core to an otherwise thinly plotted film.
The brunt of Rampage’s story boils down to a gene-altering biological agent known as CRISPR gets released into several areas in the US, transforming three lucky animals—a wolf, a crocodile, and the aforementioned gorilla named George—into colossal monstrosities that eventually find their way to the city of Chicago to wreak all sorts of destruction and havoc. The one man who has a fighting chance to help stop the oversized beasties is primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson), whose interests mainly lie with making sure his gorilla buddy can somehow make it out of all of this alive. There are some other story elements and characters we are introduced to in Rampage, including a villainous sister/brother team (played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy, respectively) who run the corporation Engergyne (the company behind CRISPR), a disgraced geneticist (Naomie Harris) who wants to help save the world alongside Davis, a hired gun named Burke (Joe Manganiello) tasked with handling the “giant wolf situation,” as well as a mysterious government agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) whose job it is to clean up the monstrous mess that the events of Rampage leave behind.
Considering the source material—a 1980s video game from Midway that was essentially giant monsters trying to thwart militaristic forces as they topple various cities, and not much else—it’s pretty admirable just how much story Peyton tries to work into his big screen adaptation of the world of Rampage. It really is. What’s tough to overlook, though, is that most of the script never really feels like it wholly gels, and it ends up feeling like an amalgam of some really cool set pieces and awesome monster action, but not a whole heck of a lot else that makes a lick of sense in the grand scheme of things.
One example would be the storyline of Claire Wyden (Akerman), whose pursuit of dominance over the creatures in Rampage has her choosing to emit a radio signal from the top of the Sears Tower (I know it’s called something else these days, but to this former Illinoisan, it’ll always be the Sears Tower), essentially calling these three freakish monsters home to maintain “her property.” On paper, it makes sense, but at no point does Claire ever try to enact any sort of contingency plan for their arrival (not even a security detail or team of scientists), and pretty much is ready to bail once Chicago starts taking its beating. Don’t get me wrong, I know this moment in particular is just one of Peyton’s hat tips to the original game, so I really do appreciate it on that level, but that’s just one of a few head-scratchers we see in Rampage that left me wondering if there was a lot more to this narrative that didn’t get nipped and left on the cutting room floor (so to speak) along the way.
But the thing of it is, regardless of how I feel about the script, I still had a blast at Rampage, although I wouldn’t fault anyone who feels otherwise. There’s a fair amount of silliness to be found during the film’s entire running time, but because I was immediately hooked on the relationship of Davis and George (as well as Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s scene-stealing snark), it didn’t really bog down my overall enjoyment of Rampage. Again, I’m sure there are probably less forgiving folks than myself out there, but I pretty much got everything I wanted out of Rampage and I left the theater more or less a happy camper who would easily watch Johnson’s character Davis and his primate pal George in further adventures.
Movie Score: 3/5