Film Review – Rampage (2018)

A movie based on a game.  If those words make your heart sink, nobody’s going to blame you.  After all, they don’t have the most stellar of track records.  Last month saw Hollywood’s second attempt at bringing Lara Croft to the big screen: Alicia Vikander was a good choice as the Tomb Raider, but as for the rest of it …..  Remember Warcraft?  It sank without trace.  So did Assassin’s Creed, but with even louder howls of anguish from fans of the game.  But Rampage has The Rock and he can do no wrong.  Or can he?

It seems not, even if this time he’s playing it straight as Davis, a primatologist.  No ordinary one, of course: one with a past and with an unusually close bond with George, a highly intelligent albino gorilla.  He’s looked after the ape since rescuing him from poachers as a baby and the two communicate with their own version of sign language.  But their friendship – and a whole lot more – is threatened by a genetic experiment.  It turns gentle George, and several other animals, into raging monsters which start destroying Chicago.  So it’s down to Davis to find the antidote so he can save his friend and the world.

That Rampage is based on a game isn’t difficult to see, but for once the joins aren’t overly conspicuous and the result actually looks like a proper movie in its own right. The story stands up quite happily on its own, with George being joined by a giant wolf and an even more humungous crocodile.  Not that Johnson is a stranger to fantastic creatures – think Jumanji:Welcome To The Jungle – and this time he’s back with San Andreas director, Brad Peyton, for another slice of all-action adventure and one, for all its imperfections, that knows exactly what it wants to be. Fun.

It does have its failings.  It plays fast and loose with a couple of cinematic favourites.  An alternative, albeit lengthier, title could be The Rock Monkeys Around With Jurassic Park.  At the same time, it’s also a riff on King Kong, so you long to see George climbing to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago and giving the helicopters a hard time.  Except that the tower isn’t quite as iconic as the Empire State Building.  Some of the early CGI isn’t exactly of highest order and, despite being repeatedly told that George is growing rapidly, his mammoth proportions aren’t really apparent until the later stages of the film.  Oh, and the plot is just a wee bit preposterous.

Not that the entertainment value suffers.  The “conversations” between George and Johnson produce plenty of smiles.  The ape is full of mischief, knowing far too much about what goes on between male and female humans and having at least one gesture in his repertoire that isn’t really sign language.  While Johnson is never in danger of being overshadowed by the gorilla, there are times when he comes perilously close to losing his thunder to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as the self-styled cowboy of a government agent.  His almost constant grin shows that taking things seriously has never entered his mind.  Nor should it, as he’s given the lion’s share of the clunking lines in the film, even thanking Johnson for “saving the world” towards the end.  But he’s also blessed with other little gems, especially his introduction.  “When science sh*ts the bed, I’m the guy they call in to clean the sheets.”

Rampage moves along at a brisk pace.  It’s big and brash and loud, piling one action sequence on top of another and some of them are pretty darn good – the giant wolf throwing itself at the airborne helicopter for one.  It all adds up to a great ride, full of excitement and laughs, an action adventure at full throttle.  Has a game been turned into a decent movie at long last?  It looks very much that way …..

Freda Cooper |

Action, Adventure | 12A | UK, 11 April (2018) | Warner Brothers | Dir. Brad Peyton| Dwayne Johnson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy.

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