Rampage is based on an arcade game with a basic premise: destroy a city by reducing all buildings on screen to rubble and kill the military trying to defend it. You can play as a Kong type monkey, a Godzilla like lizard or a huge wolf named Ralph. Basic, but tons of fun. A true quarter muncher, Rampage was in damn near every arcade I ever walked into growing up as a kid in Germany. It remained in arcades when I came to the United States as well, so bringing it to the silver screen does not surprise me at all. A feature film adaptation of this nature should be a low-key kaiju creature bonanza with jaw dropping visuals that is very straightforward.
Of course, what the team behind Rampage tries to disguise as fun comes off as the same old exposition dumps and one-liners, where characters speak only about the plot like champions. The game itself has zero story, so why go through all the heavy lifting of adding sci-fi gobbledygook mixed with cliched melodrama to keep us hooked? Setting up the funhouse quickly and go nuts right away would have made more sense, only Rampage’s funhouse gets stuck a few times before stepping off the ride. It has terrific creature SFX and design work, The Rock (who plays Charismatic Monster Man), and shit blows up nice; so why is it good forgettable fun, instead of highly memorable popcorn sugar rush madness?
Dwayne Johnson needs to take 5 years off. Before the film began they played a video message where he gave a quick speech thanking the audience for coming out. The always on huckster just had to charm up place before the monsters ran amok. Like running for a Presidency or training for one, he's in front of everything and just needs you to know he’s stoked you’re there.
Look, I love the guy a lot. His moniker gave me years of torment as well as good jokes. Plus if we are being real about it, he is very charming in all of his roles and makes for a perfect action-adventure leading man. Extremely funny when needed as well (see Southland Tales), he has chops. It’s just he needs to pump the brakes a little and let the work speak for itself. He seems to not know HOW to stop, and I hope it never gets out of hand.
Oh yeah, this Rampage movie. Here, The Rock plays Davis, who after his run in the military became a dude that loves and saves animals. His best pal is an albino ape named George. He and George care for one another very much, sharing jokes and action sequences together doing a damn fine job selling the scale of it all. It’s going for a man-and-his-dog vibe only this dog destroys whole platoons and eats people out of buildings. I just found it funny that they still shoot for the 'We Love George' angle, when he is technically a mass murderer. To George’s credit he was possessed by Rampage McGuffin and was not in control of his actions.
Rampage will make a ton of kids happy. Hell, it will make several adults happy, most of whom would tell me I’m full of it and need to lighten up. My audience had a great time too, laughing throughout and clapping once the credits rolled. I stand by the creature designs and the Chicago sequence, solid SFX in broad daylight selling weight and scale splendidly. I like whatever the fuck Jeffrey Dean Morgan was doing with Cowboy Man, the guy you call when “Science shits the bed” because he is the one who changes the sheets. Cowboy Man also believes that "assholes need to stick together", so much so he says it twice. Morgan is pure ham and cheese here, the only actor that seems to understand the film he is in. He stands out because The Rock can’t stop being The Rock.
Rampage can be both fun and frustrating, making for an experience that basically cancels itself out. You just want to see gargantuan monsters doing tons of city damage, but you have to listen to a brother and sister plot and scheme their way to riches, watch a wasted Naomie Harris fight for her brother who got sick and died or something, and smell what The Rock is cooking with helicopters because this was directed by the guy who did San Andreas. A weird experience that should have a 85 minute barnburner.