Film Review: Rampage

The Rock battles genetically modified monsters in a serviceable adventure that could have used a bit more spark.
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Cobbled together from bits and pieces of previous box-office hits, Rampage is a perfectly okay special-effects adventure for the Rock's younger fans: not too gory, not too scary, but sadly not too funny either. It could have been better in any number of ways, but it's not going to hurt Dwayne Johnson's standing as one of the industry's most successful stars.

An experiment in genetically edited mutations destroys a space station and sends canisters of dangerous materials to Wyoming, the Everglades and a wildlife sanctuary near San Diego. Within no time a wolf, a crocodile and an albino gorilla have been transformed into giant, vicious predators.

Primatologist and former special-forces operative Davis Okoye (Johnson) had rescued the gorilla, named George, as a baby after poachers murdered his family. Their bond is tested when George goes on a killing spree that ends after he is tranquilized by cops.

Geneticist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) tries to fill Davis in on what happened to George, but all three are detained by government agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and flown to a secret compound.

Turns out Kate has secrets of her own. A former employee of Energyne, she helped owners Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her brother Brett (Jake Lacy) develop the predator program. Now Claire is summoning the three monsters to her lab in Chicago. Can Davis, a self-described loner, learn to trust Kate? Will Russell defy the military to help them reach the Energyne lab?

Johnson worked with director Brad Peyton and producers Beau Flynn and Hiram Garcia on San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Rampage is more of the same, family-friendly special effects tied to a plot about the value of teamwork, with nods to issues like protecting wildlife.

What's more obvious are the allusions to films like Johnson's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and the Transformers franchise. (Chicago suffers a similar fate here as in Dark of the Moon.) Davis' friendship with George (a motion-capture performance by Jason Liles) shows how last year's Kong: Skull Island could have gone in a different direction.

The big problem with Rampage is that it takes itself too seriously. Johnson, a nimble performer given the chance, has a few good quips, but recedes into the background in the movie's second half while CG creatures knock over skyscrapers. Morgan and Akerman go too far into camp, the former adopting an off-putting cowboy drawl while the latter misplays her character's ruthlessness. It's not a plus for Rampage when a CG gorilla is its most appealing character.

Johnson and the rest of the cast will move on to new projects while Rampage settles comfortably into streaming. The movie might actually be more fun seen in bits and pieces than as a whole. Fans of the 1986 videogame and its sequels are the only ones liable to be upset about what might have been.

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