During the mid 2000’s people began throwing around the term: “just another Jason Statham” movie.
Back then, if you needed a big, masculine guy to be your action hero lead in a movie that was sure to bring a lot of his audience to your film, you hired Statham.
It wasn’t long before these movies all started blending into one homogeneous idea in your mind, of a formulaic set of soulless action movies where the lead punches and shoots some bad guys, beats the bad guy, and wins the girl, and each movie just had a different set dressing to accommodate that.
Well here we are in 2018 – The Rock has taken over Statham’s role and the set dressing is giant animals wrecking up the place.
It’s formulaic. It’s cheesy. It’s barely passable as a popcorn flick and you’ll probably forgot most of it a few hours after watching.
Oh, and it’s a videogame movie for some weird reason. Yeah remember that arcade game from way back when? It’s a movie now, kinda.
Rampage kicks off with Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), an implausibly jacked primatologist in the care of a CGI albino gorilla George. One night the international space station blows up because an evil corporation was experimenting with gene editing, and some of their mystery goop falls to earth and infects George along with two other animals.
That’s all you need to go off of, really. The movie does try to insert a bit of extra story into the movie, but it flounders around while doing it. You’re signed up to see a monster movie but it occasionally stops to meander around with characters and subplots that go nowhere.
The silly story is easily forgiven, as it should be in this genre, as the main focus should really be on the acting (like 2014’s Godzilla) or the CGI (say hello to Pacific Rim). Unfortunately both of those are really spotty here.
Let’s start with Johnson, because it looks like he got more screen time than the other actors and monsters combined. It feels like he was phoning this one in, which is a shame considering how much more interesting he was in Jumanji recently.
At one point he witnesses a “tragic” event, and his reaction is just a shade above this infamous scene from Troll 2.
His costars ham it up too. The generic love interest Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) is supposed to have a tragic backstory and a real drive here, but she’s just not compelling enough to make you care.
Big bad Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) may be the least threatening villain we’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s half on the cast here and half on the script, the funniest example of this being another “tragic” scene where an apparent fatal shooting is recovered from in what feels like 60 seconds.
We get it movie, everyone has plot armour, but then don’t waste our time and the cast’s talent hamming it up on emotional scenes.
To make up for this the CGI, for the animals at least, is fantastic. There’s some extended shots here where you get to see monsters play around with tanks and rockets like toys, but it’s nothing special.
Yes, the CGI work to make the monsters look real enough is impressive, but nothing really interesting is done with them. The fights are predictable and samey, and that lack of tension just makes you numb to scene after scene of destruction.
After seeing Pacific Rim Uprising recently, the monsters here feel nonthreatening. Uprising had skyscraper-sized Kaiju, and now we’re looking at a wolf the size of a bus. That’s not really a fault of Rampage, but since both of these titles are vying for your money at the theatres right now, one is a clear winner for destruction porn.
On the other end of the scale for CGI in Rampage is the humans. There’s one or two parts where the cast needed to be inserted digitally and they have the worst cases of rubber face we’ve seen in a while.
To go along with your CGI-heavy monsters you get stock standard music and camera work, so don’t go looking there for anything special.
Rampage really could have been something a bit different. They had an obviously silly premise so they should have gone self-referential which we feel would have made it a much more light-hearted film.
If they did this they could have gone bonkers with the story and the effects, but they instead did everything very seriously.
This could have still gone the right way – xXx: Return of Xander Cage proved that unintentional humour is the best humour – but instead it’s just a lot of people grimacing at knockoff King Kong.
This movie will still probably make bank with kids and Rock fans, but everyone else has better options right now.