The 1986 arcade game Rampage was an adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasy about ordinary people turning into giant monsters and destroying cities. The 2018 film Rampage is an adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasy about The Rock and his San Andreas director Brad Peyton destroying movies. This is a film so loud, so dumb and so fixated on its own excess that it somehow manages to tell too much story while simultaneously forgetting to include any character development, pathos or dramatic tension. Peyton and a small army of screenwriters have taken a game that was stupid but fun and turned it into a movie that transcends stupidity, attaining unimaginable heights of unjustifiable self-seriousness in the service of a story so profoundly idiotic that even the 13-year-olds it’s aimed at will likely scoff with incredulity.
And the credits attributed to that army of screenwriters should give some indication of what’s in store for you with Rampage. The team of five writers has under its belt Dwayne Johnson’s regrettable Hercules, the aforementioned San Andreas, the forgotten Patrick Dempsy rom-com Made of Honor, a Diary of a Wimpy Kid sequel and the only film I’ve ever screened during which high school kids were having sex in the theater, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. Are your expectations sufficiently tempered? Just wait, it gets worse.
Rampage is stuffed with unnecessary exposition, featuring cartoonish villains (Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy) fostering some absurd plot to create hyperaggressive soldiers using recombinant animal DNA. Or something like that. I stopped paying attention after a while. When their experiments go wrong in an overblown prelude set on a space station, the villains’ research materials crash-land on Earth, giving three animals superpowers. That’s where Johnson comes in (obviously) as an ex-Special Forces zookeeper — because that’s a thing, right? — whose albino gorilla pal George is one of the afflicted creatures. This leads to an insipid series of set pieces in which Johnson spars with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the only performer present who seems to realize this film is ridiculous and acts accordingly.
Why the gorilla had to be whitewashed is never addressed, and literally the sole defining mechanism of the game — I can’t stress that enough, this was a game that only consisted of giant animals smashing buildings and eating people — doesn’t come up until the final reel. While Johnson’s last foray into gamecentric tween blockbusters, Jumanji, was actually pretty fun, Rampage has none of the wit and twice the tedium. The only good things I can say about this film are that it moves along at a brisk pace and The Rock drives an awesome Bronco concept car that I really hope Ford puts into production. If I were a giant gorilla, I’d be on my way to smash up the studio responsible for this dreck right about now. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures.
Now Playing at AMC River Hills Classic 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.