THE CAN’T MAKE A GOOD MOVIE FROM A VIDEO GAME STREAK CONTINUES
Movie Review – Rampage
Rampage, the latest blockbuster vehicle for Dwayne Johnson, is suuuuuuuuuper stupid. I love giving movies a chance, and Rampage didn’t look good, so seeing it really was me doing the movie a solid. I was coming off some personal loss that had me in the mood to just watch monsters destroy things. If a movie that doesn’t have to deliver anything more than monsters destroying things has scenes and characters around that central theme that are so awful that it ruins the movie as a WHOLE – that’s BAD.
The Rock has movie star appeal, but there isn’t much more reason to go to this beyond watching the special effects – giant monsters wreaking havoc in downtown Chicago. In this case, a genetic editing experiment launched by a slick corporate entity in outer space goes haywire and pieces of the experiment find their way into the DNA of animals here on Earth, causing them to mutate, grow and eventually be controlled by the corporate baddies.
The early part of the film, long before the destruction part I came to see, is a microcosm of why Rampage is terrible (a bunch of awful things surrounding some good things). The movie surrounds our charming lead with a bunch of choices that just don’t work. Johnson plays a San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary expert who has been caring for an albino ape named George since George was rescued from poachers at a young age. Johnson is essentially walking through this movie without needing to expend energy on any grand acting choices and the ape’s acting (mo-capped by Jason Liles) is some of the best in the film (missed opportunity for the movie, however, to skip over more emotional moments concerning the horrible fate that befalls George!). But this relationship is surrounded by truly dopey ones – Johnson’s co-workers are about half his age and cartoonish, saddled with the type of awful writing usually reserved for action movies in the ‘80s (and, oddly, after the movie sets them up, we NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN).
We also cut to Energyne, the evil corporation behind the genetic editing, who have an office atop Willis Tower, which I still call Sears Tower (for reasons unknown, there’s an ‘80s stand-up video game of Rampage, on which this film is based. It’s not referenced, it’s out of place, again – no reason). In this office is some of the worst acting you’ll see this year. Malin Akerman disappoints by going full-on one note as the head of Energyne but it’s Jake Lacy as her brother who is so bad, with a performance ass-deep in ticks, takes and astounding new levels of overacting that he surpasses camp or cartoonishness to only be described as mind-bogglingly dreadful. Seriously, an embarrassment. He needs to make another movie ASAP to make us forget he was in this one. And that’s being kind, seeing as how he gives a performance worthy of asking him to never perform again.
Out to top him on the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me scale is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, essentially bringing his Negan character from The Walking Dead IN ITS ENTIRETY to the role of a totally different person. He might as well have been carrying a baseball bat with barbed wire on it. The problem with Negan and Morgan’s character here, Agent Russell, is way, way, WAY too much smiling. You can never take anything he says seriously, especially menace, and that’s a problem. He just seems like a guy doing a character, rather than a government agent with untrustworthy loyalties. This is most unsettling because Morgan had shown himself to be a real actor of substance in previous blockbusters (his performance in Watchmen has a lot more depth and Malin Akerman had better days in that film, too).
Eventually, the film gets to why I showed up in the first place – giant monsters destroying things, and that’s certainly delivered. Literally ANYTHING can be accomplished in the movies nowadays. It’s hard to believe that this many special effects are in a movie and it’s not the summer tentpole of the studio. I guess that’s where we are these days, where the amazing is getting routine. But, as amazing as it is pulling off the spectacle of all that destruction, it can’t rise above the dumb script and patience-testing performances.
It feels ridiculous to call out a movie about a humungous mutant crocodile for its realism, but the film could’ve delivered better there, too. The film’s scope was stunted, it often felt like the characters of the movie were the only people in all of Chicago. They toppled a skyscraper right in the middle of downtown and the consequences weren’t impactful. Not to mention TONS of people die in this movie. Like, a lot, to where the fun factor shrinks. Also, characters ran into each other in the middle of the chaos. I know, a giant flying wolf is implausible, but you’d have a hard time running into someone you know in the Chicago Loop whether or not there’s a skyscraper in your way or not.
A whole separate article could be written on how most Dwayne Johnson movies are dumb. Think about it – Baywatch, the Fast & Furious movies, San Andreas, Hercules, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The Mummy Returns and on and on – these are dumb movies. If you ever saw The Rock electrify 30,000 people in an arena on WWE Raw, you can see the personality he has that made him a star. Most of the previously mentioned movies are big hits regardless of their dumbness. I’m still hoping there’s a reeeeaaaally good action movie out there – his Terminator 2 or Die Hard – that transcends the genre to where people go in droves AND there’s universal acclaim for the film’s quality. I suppose Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle came closest (maybe Fast Five), but true to Johnson’s M.O. of cranking out a crap-ton of movies – he currently has eleven films announced or in pre-production on IMDB – it won’t take long to find out if the next movie is it.
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Release Date: April 13, 2018
Run Time: 107 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers