12 April 2018 (released)
17 April 2018
Dwayne Johnson is Hollywood's biggest box office draw, and it’s not hard to see why. He makes event movies, that are bigger and better than everyone else’s, which have more cars, explosions and, on this occasion, a giant gorilla.
Johnson tries to usurp movie icon King Kong with his new pal, the plainly named George in Rampage, which is loosely based on the video game series of the same name by Midway Games.
The wrestler-turned-actor stars as a primatologist named Davis Okoye, albeit a military trained one, who finds out his beloved albino silverback gorilla friend has been infected in a mysterious experiment that turns him into a giant beast.
The pair are close as he rescued the albino ape when he was only two years old and has since taught him sign language. But it isn’t just George he needs to worry about, a grey wolf named Ralph and an American crocodile named Lizzie have been infected too.
With the help of a discredited genetic engineer named Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), Okoye has his work cut out trying to save George, stop Ralph and Lizzie from destroying America, and find out who mutated the animals. Phew!
Malin Akerman plays ruthless businesswoman Claire Wyden, and Jake Lacy her creepy brother Brett, the owners of the CRISPR programme which created the serum responsible for George’s monstrous transformation after it was blasted into his wildlife sanctuary from space.
Johnson’s star power means the special effects in the Brad Peyton directed film are top notch as we get to see the monsters chewing on aeroplanes and helicopters like snacks and knocking down armies like skittles.
And while it’s full of spectacle, Rampage is ultimately as empty as a sugary treat.
Johnson’s leading lady Harris, an Oscar-nominated actress role for her role in 2017 film Moonlight, seems out of place in this throwaway, popcorn movie, but top marks to her for staying in character throughout the cheesy lines as she tries to break down to the other characters and the audience how the growth serum works.
The Walking Dead star Jeffrey Dean Morgan hams it up in his role as special agent Harvey Russell, savouring lines such as: “When science sh**s the bed, I'm the guy they call to change the sheets."
The leading man doesn’t stray from his carefully cultivated action star lane and seems remarkably unbothered by the death and destruction unfolding around him. But he does show some emotion when he recalls the horrors visited on his ape buddy whose mother was killed by poachers in Africa in front of him.
“They cut off her hands so they could sell them as ashtrays,” Johnson says.
In the end, Rampage does what it says on the tin. It’s fun, popcorn entertainment, packed with action, explosions, and buildings being crushed. It’s aimed at an undemanding kids’ audience, but it’s sugary content won’t keep them full for long.