Rampage is a 1986 arcade game in which you take control of one of three giant monsters as they climb buildings, smash helicopters and suplex one another into tanks. It’s a curious choice of source material for a Dwayne Johnson powered blockbuster, given that, besides an introductory two-sentence justification for how the monsters got so damn big, it doesn’t actually have a plot. But then again, we live in the timeline where Tetris is being turned into an epic science-fiction trilogy, so it would seem there’s no limit to the kind of nonsense we can adapt to film.
In Rampage the movie, walking stack of friendly neighbourhood beef Johnson is a special forces dude turned hunky zoo caretaker, whose best friend is an albino gorilla called George. When a top secret science experiment in space goes all wrong, canisters of a spooky, green gene-editing gas fall from orbit and are scattered all around San Diego. An innocent wolf sniffs up a dirty lungful. So does an alligator and Johnson’s white-haired monkey buddy, turning all three into super-sized super-mutants with an insatiable thirst for urban destruction, because why not?
It’s stupid, silly fun, schlocky as heck and with a cliché-heavy, B-movie script that’s just self-aware enough to laugh along with.
As an aside, this isn’t how it happens in the arcade game, which has human beings transforming into the monsters after taking some dodgy vitamins. Director Brad Peyton dismissed this idea as too implausible, preferring instead to go with his green gas from space idea.
Can Johnson get his escaped ape back on side and save the world? Of course he can, but not before the big monkey does some real property damage in downtown Chicago with his similarly enlarged mates. And what spectacular damage they do, in extended scenes of carnage that Johnson initially witnesses from aboard a somehow-constantly-in-a-state-of-crashing helicopter. Later, he gets stuck in himself using a grenade launcher he finds on the floor. It’s stupid, silly fun, schlocky as heck and with a cliché-heavy, B-movie script that’s just self-aware enough to laugh along with.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (from The Walking Dead) plays a government agent with a bunch of really good lines that he must have had to fight the urge not to say straight into the camera. “When science shits the bed,” he drawls, “I’m the one they call to change the sheets”. Naomie Harris is a clever science-woman and the brainy sidekick to Johnson’s raw brawn. And Malin Akerman and Jake Lacey play entertainingly evil corporate villains, a pair of bickering siblings lifted straight from 90s Saturday morning cartoons.
All of this CGI destruction looks a little rough-edged at times, but if the sight of a slightly uncanny gorilla is what pricks your suspension of disbelief, then you’ll have bigger problems with this gaudy action blockbuster. Rampage is as dumb, pointless and entertaining as the arcade game that spawned it.