‘Rampage’ is a seriously dumb movie. It is based on the 80’s arcade game of the same name where all you did was control oversized monsters to destroy buildings. That was it, the entire premise of the game, which was at least dumb fun. So how to extend that to 110 minutes? By using pseudo science! And throwing all logic right out the window! Because that’s fun to watch, right? Right?
Dwayne Johnson stars as Davis, a primatologist in San Diego. We know he’s good at his job because he can walk into the ape pen in the middle of a male ape trying to woo two female apes without any fear the male ape is going to rip him to shreds. His main charge is George, an albino ape he rescued back when he was with Army Special Forces. I think. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the two are buddies, speak in sign language, and joke with each other. You know, like Jane Goodall used to do.
Meanwhile up in space, illegal science experiments are going on. We know the people behind them are evil because as the space lab is being destroyed by a giant mutant rat, the surviving astronaut/scientist tries to use the escape pod but the people on the other end of coms won’t open the door until she gets the test samples. What humanitarians. She gets them, but then the escape pod explodes. Guess what survives reentry though? The test samples! One lands in Florida, one in Wyoming, and the last one in San Diego. Crazy how spread out that debris is, huh? Even more amazing is that despite surviving final impact, the things spring leaks as soon as any old wild animal touches it, like an alligator, a wolf, and George the albino ape.
To this point, I recognized the stupidity but also was willing to forgive quite a bit as the movie established the rules of its world. However, things started going south real quick as a group of mercs hunt the now 30 foot long wolf. That can fly sorta. These guys function just about as well as the 30 minutes of military training the actors got before filming the scene would be expected. Kids in ROTC would have done better.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Dr Kate sees news report on the TV and recognizes this is related to research she at one time did. Next thing you know, she’s in San Diego conveniently with answers in the right spot at exactly the wrong time. George gets big, mean, and captured by Negan, I mean Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Kate and Davis get arrested too for some reason. All are thrown on a plane bound for who knows where, because what’s due process? And guess what, the evil people that were on the other end of the space comm wanting their research? They see news footage of everybody loading onto the plane and recognize Kate! Uh,oh.
If there’s one thing I hate it’s a movie that relies on coincidence to further plot and or action. This movie is stuffed to the gills with it. It happens over and over to the point it is downright laughable. At one point Davis tells Kate to “take the humvee, find a sat phone, and get in contact with (not) Negan to stop the airstrike”. There is destruction everywhere, they’re in Chicago, and the military is in shambles. Cut to Kate pulling up to military tents, first soldier she sees has a sat phone, and (not) Negan walks up with all the surprise of ‘fancy meeting you here’. Just absurd. And why Chicago? I’m guessing because they needed a city next to a large waterway so the alligator could get there. How convenient.
Even more absurd is the super powers of Dwayne Johnson. Yes, I know Ah-nold used to do this sort of thing all the time, but his movies had a certain charm as they nodded and winked at the audience. Dwayne snaps zip tie cuffs off like they were made of licorice, gets shot in the stomach but recovers so well the only way you know he even got shot was he holds his hand to the wound a lot, and jumps out a 3 story window with building chunks the size of boulders flying all about but not only doesn’t brake his legs, he only has dust fall near him!
Essentially the reason this ‘Rampage’ is so incredibly dumb is because it only concerns itself with 30 second moments that look cool. Characters do things that make no sense unless they happened to have read the script to know the future. The movie also takes itself way too seriously, despite being based on a completely goofy concept. The game was a non licensed excuse to have fun with King Kong and Godzilla. The fun of it was destroying buildings and eating helicopters. We’ve seen plenty of movies with tragic destruction, so embrace the opposite! One last thing that defied reason was both the alligator and wolf had other animal properties in their mutation. George was just big, no other mutant DNA. Any reason for that other than you gotta keep the hero looking good? Probably not.
‘Rampage’ was directed by the same guy that did ‘San Andreas’, which also starred Dwayne. That movie had all the same absurdities as this one did, so no big surprise. Giant monster movies are always going to be B-Movies (do current generations even understand where that term comes from?) but they don’t have to be dumb. Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island proved that. Pacific Rim and this however show the opposite end of the spectrum. You might find yourself watching this anyways, and all I can say is checking your brain at the door may not be enough.