By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
Have you ever seen something so completely awful, so ridiculously stupid and so incompetent that it’s easily the greatest movie ever made? That, in its entire giant monster fighting glory, is RAMPAGE. Dwayne Johnson is known for some ridiculous films, in fact I saw a tweet online recently that hilariously points out that he’s worn the exact same costume in his last five movies, but RAMPAGE is without a doubt the stupidest, most incredible movie of his career. Humanity has hit a high point in life. We’re never going to be able to top this.
We follow the story of Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a primatologist who prefers the company of animals than that of his friends and family. In his years working at the local zoo, Davis has formed a strong bond with a rare albino gorilla known as George (motion capture by Jason Liles). They’re inseparable, but tragedy strikes one night when a secret scientific experiment crash-lands in George’s enclosure. He’s quickly doubled in size, with room for further growth, developing a violent personality that sees him escaping his enclosure and running rampant throughout the city streets. Davis, knowing the most about this creature, teams up with Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and Agent Russell (Jeffery Dean Morgan) to track George down and stop him before he destroys the entire city.
But, of course, it wouldn’t be fun if there were just one giant monster running loose in the city. No, not only does The Rock have to deal with a giant mutant monkey, he’s also got to deal with a giant mutant crocodile and a giant mutant wolf. And it’s every bit as insane as a movie like that sounds. The screenplay by Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel dives head first into the camp and the ridiculousness, making this one hell of a ride, sprinkled throughout with a sense of self-awareness. The semi-dramatic (but still kinda ridiculous) cold open is about the only moment where this film actually takes itself seriously. So don’t be fooled by where we begin, there’s plenty of insanity to come.
And does the insanity deliver? You betcha. Having these three creatures collide delivers on all fronts, crafting some big and disastrous action sequences that define the word ‘fun.’ The RAMPAGE video game is nothing more than these monsters tearing down buildings, and while that’s obviously not enough of a narrative to warrant a feature length adaptation, the film delivers in its faithfulness and yes, buildings are destroyed. There’s a third act showdown that’s relentlessly bonkers in all the right ways, and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a movie so far this year.
In terms of storytelling, however, that’s where things fall apart. This is, for all intents and purposes, a competently made movie. Director Brad Payton (SAN ANDREAS) doesn’t redefine the monster movie genre, nor does he blow things out of the water with skill and visual brilliance, but everything in the film is decent, especially when it comes the visual effects. It’s the story that requires a bit of a stretch of the imagination. One crucial element of the second half that I won’t dare spoil (even though this movie literally goes exactly how you’d expect) simply doesn’t make a lot of sense. It requires a number of characters to rush to a certain location, leading to the third act finale, but the reasons as to why get lost in translation.
As well as that, if you want to get to the monster battles, you’re going to have to put up with an agonising number of scenes involving villainous CEO’s played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacey. While most of this film is so bad it’s good, these scenes are just straight up bad. However, the central story of The Rock (he does have a character name technically but let’s be real, this is the only character The Rock ever plays) and George has enough emotional resonance and heart at its core that, even after having to slog through large portions of the runtime, you’ll leave the theatre with a smile on your face.
Video game movies are far from reputable. You have your TOMB RAIDER’s and your ASSASSIN CREED’s with the thought of them putting a sour taste in your mouth. But with RAMPAGE, given the simplicity of the game and the creative freedom this leads to, they’ve actually found something special. Well, a special kind of special. There are a lot of different words out there that you could use to describe this movie. Some may call it ‘garbage’ but personally, I’d prefer the term ‘classic.’
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