If ever there was a hero big enough to save a city from a rampaging giant white albino gorilla (accompanied by a super-sized alligator and an enormous flying wolf) Dwayne Johnson is that man. Keeping in line with the current endless rehashing of 80s pop culture, Rampage dug deeper than most to pull out a long forgotten arcade game of the same name. Fans old or geeky enough to recall it remember the entire point of the game was to manoeuvre giant beasts onto buildings before smashing them to a pulp to collect points.
Where there was an opportunity to have some fun with the idea and shift it into ridiculous b-movie territory, director Brad Peyton plays it straight as a bat, drawing on every monster film you can imagine, including King Kong, Godzilla and Jurassic Park, in Rampage, sticking to the kind of story beats that allow you to catch 40 winks and still follow what’s happening.
The Rock plays Dwayne Johnson (or is that the other way round?) as primatologist Davis Okoye, lover of animals but not so friendly with humans. He takes care of the gorillas on his nature reserve and has struck up a particularly strong bond with George, a rare albino silverback gorilla, who he communicates with through sign language.
Late one evening a group of chemical-filled canisters fall to earth (the reasons for which are shown at the start of the film) straight into the reserve. These mysterious toxins leak into the air and are breathed in by a wild wolf, an alligator and poor old big-softy George. Before you can scream Jumanji! the animals are mutating and growing at an unbelievable rate, heading towards Chicago where Davis and scientist Dr. Caldwell (Naomie Harris) must try to stop them destroying the city.
Johnson usually has enough onscreen charisma to turn the dullest affairs into something half watchable. However, in Rampage, he looks like an actor in desperate need of a career-defining role. His work on the Fast and Furious franchise is more Vin Diesel’s gig than his own. Stallone had Rocky, Schwarzenegger Terminator and even Cruise has Mission Impossible.
Here he just looks bored, and unless he can find something a little meatier he will simply remain Dwayne Johnson in every role he plays, rather than any sort of character people will remember in 20 year’s time.
The first hour of Rampage spends a lot of time explaining things to the audience: what was in the canisters, who the bad guys are (all of two people it seems), their evil plans, what has happened to the animals, what the cure is etc. The logic means nothing as everyone expects the final 30 minutes to be the CGI monster fest it becomes which also includes a 9/11-style building collapse.
The effects themselves are competent enough as are the performances, including Jeffrey Dean Morgan enjoying himself as the cowboy-like government agent Russell.
Rampage is a film that will work well with over 12’s and for adults looking to fill up 100 minutes of their evening while gorging on popcorn and a giant soda. But when you wake up in the morning, don’t expect to remember a single thing about it.