Film reviews

Rampage – Film Review

The Rock in the Yellow hat and his pal George smash loudly into theaters in Rampage this weekend. Dwayne Johnson portrays Davis Okoye, a primatologist who is fonder of animals than he is of people. His best friend in the world is a rare albino gorilla, named George, that he has raised since rescuing him from poachers as an infant.

Trouble erupts when a nefarious company loses control of their secret genetic research; research that quite literally augments the DNA of animals at a rapid pace. The pathogen they’ve created infects George and two other animals, who proceed to destroy everything in their path on their way to the company’s headquarters in Chicago. Naomie Harris joins Johnson’s character as a geneticist interested in stopping the activities of her devious former employers at said genetics company.

Brad Peyton, whose last project San Andreas also starred The Rock, was not a surprise pick to direct this movie. He does not diverge from his usual grand and jolting action direction, and his pacing in Rampage is just as well done as in his previous films. Peyton’s frequent musical collaborator Andrew Lockington contributed another jarringly thick and imposing score that aids in the epic tone the duo were aspiring towards for the film.

The film’s ‘prologue’ scene is very good, and came as a complete surprise as a progression from where Rampage’s trailers made it seem the film was going to go. The exposition of the research that causes these animals to become extremely large was much more creative than I expected it to be. The consequences of creating the pathogen are very real and are felt shockingly and immediately. This gives Rampage a bit of a serious tone at the introduction, but the film noticeably deviates from that as it progresses.

Vast action scenes and weighty, technical dialogue are intermittent with scenes that move a little too fast to enjoy and some unnecessary humor that just doesn’t mix well with the initially serious tone. The mood shifts back and forth between comical, action-packed, and heavily serious. While the pacing between these is expert, there are instances in which the audience might find the occasional lack of a steady rationale a bit distracting from the perceived epic tone of the film.

The head of the genetics company serves as Rampage’s comical, flimsy villain as the film tries still to hold on to its serious tone. To be honest, Malin Åkerman and Jack Lacy’s portrayals of these villains are the weakest of any performance in the film. They are evil, yet too shaky to be fully effective. However, their characters do meet a shockingly satisfying end, and Naomie Harris’ line in that particular scene is truly outstanding.

Rampage suffers a bit from what I’d call “video-game-movie syndrome”, or in other terms, a small deficiency in the explanation and development department. While Rampage does exposit plot information more than your normal video-game movie, it certainly could have done a slightly better job of it. Many scenes feel a bit like a video game cutscene, scripted to try and give background information to the more exciting scenes in the film. These moments are very well-written, they are just not long enough in my opinion. If they’d been drawn out and allowed to develop just a bit more, they could have added some serious depth to the overall film.

In spite of these minor, in my opinion, flaws, the things that make Rampage a good movie truly shine over its runtime: Fantastic, enthralling action sequences and marvelous special effects pair to dazzle the audience. The creature designs and the reveals of the gigantic beasts are very well done. If you played the video game this film is loosely based on and/or enjoy watching monsters destroy a city, I recommend seeing this film, and in IMAX, for that matter. The film’s moments of unneeded humor are tantamount to a few humorous moments that work well.

The Rock is very good, and I dare say he gets a little better in every film he is in. He is seriously on a roll currently. Rampage is an all around good character for his career, complete with a special forces background (is The Rock ever in a film where his character doesn’t have that?), beating folks up, and smashing through things to the rescue. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character is overtly flamboyant and unique, and often steals the show a bit. The chemistry between Johnson and Harris and Morgan hits the spot. The three should be cast together more often.

Johnson, Harris, and Morgan run alongside humongous animals-turned-science experiments for a massively entertaining, popcorn-munching, city-smashing affair. I enjoyed the film and in the end I was charmed. But, what can I say? I’m a huge fan of giant monster movies! Rampage makes for a worthy trip to the cinema and good film overall.

Rampage is on wide release in UK cinemas now.

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