Filmmaker Uwe Boll threatened to sue if Warner Bros. if they did not change the name of the movie, as he also had a video game based film on the same name. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
At its worst, “Rampage” should have been just another silly yet generic action movie for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to put on his resume. Somehow, though, it managed to shoot way below that already low bar.
After a space station where experiments involving genetic mutation is destroyed, several canisters of the mutagen fall to Earth. Upon landfall, the mutagen infects multiple animals, including an albino gorilla named George, turning them into gigantic and aggressive genetic hybrids.
It should come as no shock that a movie like “Rampage” is dumb. It is based off of an arcade game from 1986 where giant animal monsters destroy buildings. The shocking element of “Rampage,” though, is that the giant animals destroying buildings aspect of the movie is the least dumb thing in it.
A movie like “Rampage” has a lot of room to demand that the audience just accepts certain things, but the number of dumb moments and character actions in the film make that impossible. The audience can accept and believe that there is a mutagen that turns animals into monsters. It is impossible to accept, however, a character that is shot in the abdomen can just be completely fine one scene later, or that the main villain’s plan of creating animal monsters to sell as weapons would even be a good idea, or that no one would notice a 100 foot crocodile until it showed up in downtown Chicago. These are just a few examples, but there is at least one dumb idea like that every five minutes.
These dumb plot details all start to make sense when one starts to realize how much it feels like the first draft of the script was used for the final product. All of those aforementioned dumb moments feel like things that would be in a first draft when the story is being crafted, then either cut out or reworked so that they made sense. Only that step never happened.
Then there is the dialogue, which is all so basic and cliche. It is the kind of dialogue that a writer writes when they are just trying to figure out where the story goes and do not want to get too bogged down with exactly what the characters are saying, so they write over-used lines as a placeholder to come back to. “Rampage” never came back to it. Due to that, the audience is left there to listen to cliche lines like, “I never got to say goodbye,” or, “Not all of us are like that.” Yeah, it is that bad.
Even if “Rampage” were not so dumb and cliché, it would still be an abomination due to its failure at fundamental story-telling and film making. For instance, the three-act structure is a complete mess. The first act of the movie feels rushed, and it is hard to pinpoint at what point the second act ends and the third act begins as it never feels like the characters reach their lowest point or anything like that which would help dictate where the acts changed. When it comes to the failure in terms of the film making, the two most obvious issues to point to are the action set pieces and the acting.
When the final action sequence finally begins as the three monstrous animals wreak havoc on Chicago, there is always a feeling of distance to it. The movie never feels like it is putting the audience in the action scene, and instead just giving them a bird’s eye view of everything, even when the audience is close up with the characters on the ground. Due to this, the action pieces lack tension.
In terms of the acting, everyone is horrible. Johnson and his co-star Naomie Harris are okay until any genuine reaction shots are needed, and then they are just awful and unbelievable. Among the other poor performances throughout the movie are Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy as the two main villains, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, despite being the most entertaining aspect of the entire film, is just give atrocious character direction, as he speaks his lines like a stereotypical cowboy would.
All of the characters are severely underdeveloped, as are their relationships with one another. Most movies try to have an emotional core to them, and in the case of “Rampage” it is the relationship between George the gorilla and Johnson’s character, Davis Okoye. Okoye saved George in the wild and befriended him, but the only basis the audience has of this is from one scene at the beginning of the movie and a flashback later on. Okoye shows concern for George throughout the movie, but with only five minutes devoted to showing their friendship, the concern feels unearned and the emotion to it superficial.
“Rampage” is not painful to watch or annoying to get through, but the first draft quality to the writing and the failures in terms of the filmmaking are simply unforgivable and worthy of scorn.
Final Grade: F