Hollywood has recently revitalized the monster movie genre. While these films gained some prominence in the ‘90s by mixing giant creatures with disaster films, the past few years have seen these blockbusters return to the big screen.
With the likes of 2014’s “Godzilla,” “Pacific Rim” and “Kong: Skull Island” dominating the box office, there was bound to be an adaptation of the 1986 arcade game “Rampage,” in which players destroyed buildings and ward off the military as mutated monsters. That day has arrived, and while director Brad Peyton tries to bring some emotion and depth to the simplistic plot, it’s too inconsistent to make a worthwhile product.
“Rampage” starts strong by focusing on the friendship between Dwayne Johnson’s Davis Okoye and motion-captured albino gorilla George. Johnson sells the pair’s bond and camaraderie with his charisma alone. The film even does a good job at making George sympathetic, having him clearly express his fear and doubt after being infected by a pathogen.
Yet, once the larger plot is revealed and Davis and George are seperated, the film begins to suffer.
The main villains are the heads of a genetics company who performed DNA editing experiments secretly in space. The fruits of their labor crash-land on Earth, changing George, a wolf and a crocodile into gigantic, rage-fueled monsters.
The heads of the genetics company are insufferable, played so cartoonishly they seem to be part of a different film altogether. Malin Akerman is cold, callous and dull, while Jake Lacy is a bumbling idiot seemingly transplanted from an Adam Sandler comedy.
The humor in general is equally annoying, switching between one-liners and self-aware jabs. At other times, “Rampage” tries too hard to be serious, giving Dwayne Johnson’s sidekick, a geneticist, an overly tragic backstory that clashes with the b-movie tone the film inhabits the majority of the time.
The only character who brings any energy to the dull middle portion is Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Harvey Russell, whose southern drawl and comedic sayings prove to be a highlight. Yet, he also feels out of place, coming in during seemingly intense moments and breaking the drama with his caricaturish performance.
By the time “Rampage” reaches its finale, when the mutated creatures begin to destroy a city, the film finally rediscovers its footing and becomes a fun blockbuster. The action is put on a massive scale, with entire buildings crumpling and George eventually teaming up with Johnson to stop the other monsters from causing anymore damage.
While this may sound fun on paper, the result is oddly boring and predictable. The finale could have been elevated if the film had spent more time with its strongest aspect: Davis’ and George’s friendship. There could have been some real stakes and intense moments, but we are instead left with another disaster movie full of implausible setpieces and cookie-cutter plots and characters.
“Rampage” feels like a lazy effort from Hollywood to cash in on video game adaptations and the recent surge in monster movies. What it misses is the opportunity to make the film more than its source material, leading to a film that has its moments of fun, but as a disjointed whole isn’t worth anyone’s time.
Sam Goodrich Staff Writer