When a movie is based on an ’80s video game and stars The Rock, you expect it to be big, dumb, fun. Unfortunately, all we get out of director Brad Peyton’s (San Andreas) Rampage is just big and dumb. Being a child of the ’80s, I was super excited to see my favorite Midway Games’ humanoid monsters wreaking havoc with Dwayne Johnson leading the human brigade to stop them. Rampage is another shining example — the other Pacific Rim Uprising — of how horribly things go awry when you spend too much time on characters before getting to the goods.
After the explosion of space station Athena1, Project: Rampage proves it works by infecting a grey wolf named Ralph, a crocodile named Lizzie, and primatologist Davis Okoye’s (Johnson) beloved albino gorilla friend George, with a mutagenic serum. Now, the three animals are growing bigger, and more aggressive, and only Davis — along with Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) — can stop the genetically edited creatures from destroying the world. Militant Burke (Joe Manganiello) fails to take down Ralph. This is much to the chagrin of Claire and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy), the brother/sister responsible for Project: Rampage’s “success.”
I was pretty pumped to witness the monster carnage unfold while Johnson went along for the ride quipping one-liners. What I didn’t expect was a film filled with cartoon villains — Lacy is usually very likable but shows off his worst acting here. And a gorilla fist pumps, flips the bird, and throws sexually explicit sign language around. It feels like Peyton has fallen prey to the Michael Bay School of Directing, right alongside Pacific Rim Uprising’s Steven S. DeKnight. It took four writers (Ryan Engle, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel, and somehow Carlton Cuse) to cobble together something that resembles a storyline. But the actors — especially Johnson — look super exhausted being constantly overshadowed by the CGI.
At least one silver lining helps it stand above PRU in that it doesn’t take 80 minutes to get to the rampage. By the finale it sinks into the same trappings where they believe more is better. Less doesn’t always have to be more, but it helps to care one iota about at least one character in a movie filled with giant creatures smashing buildings. Usually Johnson is more than enough to be that character, but when even he looks like he’s about to fall asleep from Peyton’s slow as molasses pacing, you’ve got bigger problems. Rampage is strictly made for today’s gamers where everything needs to be fast and shiny. Fans of the original can save their quarters and move along to something else.