In 1986, an arcade game called Rampage debuted that featured humans mutated into giant monsters (George, a gorilla; Ralph, a wolf; and Lizzie, an alligator) that then had to battle through a city-scape, causing as much destruction as possible. Why wouldn’t you want to make a movie from that?
In this movie version of Rampage, we start with an astronaut attempting to make it to the escape pods on a space station as one of their ‘experiments’ has gotten loose and killed just about everyone. Her boss down on earth – Claire Wyden – is refusing to allow her into the escape pod unless she brings the samples of the pathogen they were experimenting with. She just barely escapes the experiment, a former rat – current giant scary monster. She gets the samples into the escape pod, but the pod burns up on reentry. Claire tells her brother that’s no big deal, since the canisters were made to withstand that. All they have to do is go pick them up.
We are then introduced to the Rock, or Davis Okoye in this movie. He’s a former US military solider, former anti-poacher specialist, and current San Diego Wildlife Park primatologist (of course he is). He rescued an albino gorilla from poachers, and now cares for him at the park. After a bit of a cutesy scene where we see the close relationship between Davis and George, the gorilla, we cut to the evening and the canisters landing from the space station. In San Diego, George is exposed to one of them – in Wyoming, a wolf is exposed to another – and in Florida, an alligator eats the third – because alligators eat just about anything.
George grows crazy big and gets atypically aggressive. Dr. Kate Caldwell, a genetic engineer who used to work at Energyne for Claire Wyden and her brother, hears about the space station explosion and George’s rapid growth on the news and heads right for Davis (convenient newscast that has all the pertinent information she needs). She explains to him that while at Energyne, she had been working on gene manipulation – compiling traits from various species to find a cure for various diseases. The Wydens weaponized it for profit, and she tried to sabotage her work, but they had her arrested and jailed instead. The Wydens send a team of the most alpha-males dudes they can find out to Wyoming to bring in the wolf. To say they are unsuccessful is an understatement.
Meanwhile, a shady government operative, let’s just call him Negan, shows up to try to take George from Davis for “studying”. The Wydens release a low-frequency signal from the Sears Tower (or Willis Tower, depending on how old you are) in downtown Chicago that will bring the creatures to them, and therefore save them the effort of looking for them. George and the Wolf head to Chicago – but no one counts on the giant alligator also making its way there. Once in Chicago, the three cause insane amounts of destruction as the city is being evacuated until (mild spoiler here) Davis and Kate are able to give George (in a hilarious method of force-feeding) a semi-antidote, and he promptly helps Davis fight the other two in an epically insane creature-destruction climax.
This movie is directed by Brad Peyton, who also worked with the Rock in Journey 2 the Mysterious Island and San Andreas. Rampage is similar, and Peyton has really started to emerge as a guy who can cause CGI damage with the best of them. The movie is complete nonsense, but also manages to be great fun. The Rock is so entertaining to watch, and honestly, his interactions with George are fantastic. The movie feels like a SyFy Saturday night creature feature, just with a bigger budget. Everyone involved seems well aware of the level of silly – and commits to being so genuine they are almost over-the-top, which works well with this type of insanity.
- Dwayne Johnson – The Rock plays the Rock, who for some reason is called Davis Okoye in this movie. He’s charming, he’s fun, he’s lovely to look at, and he’s best in this type of movie that can capitalize on his action-capability as well as his personality.
- Naomie Harris plays Dr. Kate Caldwell, and she stays just on the edge of hysterical as someone who is desperate for redemption after realizing what the Wydens were doing with her research.
- Malin Akerman plays Claire Wyden, and what an exceptional villainess. She’s basically moustache twirling as she strides around her office being far more concerned with optics and profits than with any animal or human life.
- Jake Lacy plays Brett Wyden, Claire’s brother, who is basically there to help reinforce her evil-ness and eat things.
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Negan playing Harvey Russell. Honestly, this movie could play as a Negan backstory as he cowboys his way through it, then saunters off with an infected rat. Negan started the apocalypse.
- Joe Manganiello has maybe two scenes where he attempts to out-badass a group of badass mercenaries (including Matt Gerald and Urijah Faber) as they are sent out to get the wolf, but then promptly gets eaten.
- Will Yun Lee has one scene as Agent Park, who comes to the Wydens’ office to collect their research and inform them they are under investigation. This is not nearly enough Will Yun Lee for me, but it’s about the same amount of Will Yun Lee that was in San Andreas.
Overall, the movie is perfect Saturday afternoon popcorn fare. Be sure not to think too much about it, and just go in ready to be entertained and I think you’ll enjoy it. There are a couple of scenes that are too heavy for the rest of it – Kate’s backstory, George’s backstory, and that can make it a little uneven tone-wise. I really enjoyed the scenes of all three monsters tearing around downtown Chicago, especially the reveal of the giant alligator as it overturns a ferry.
7 out of 10 – Sometimes it is nice to have something that does not pretend to be more than it is!
Bonus - In case you missed San Andreas: