OnScreen Review: "Rampage"

Lewis Baird

  • United Kingdom Film Critic

We all love a good action movie now and again, don't we? Now, if someone was to ask you who the king of action was, who would you answer? Well, I'm 21, therefore, my generation's action movies have been dominated by one man. And that man is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnston, who to me is the king of action. So how does his new blockbuster, Rampage, face up to his previous kick ass films? 

Johnston's most recent film is based on the 1986 arcade game of the same title, where players can control 3 mutated monsters to fight against the military. Within the movie adaption, we follow Dwayne Johnston as Davis Okoye, who is battling to help his friend, George, an albino silverback gorilla, after a meteor containing an experimental gas, hits his enclosure, causing him to grow in size and become vicious. With the help of Dr. Kate Caldwell, the doctor who created the gas, portrayed by Skyfall's Naomie Harris and Agent Harvey Russell, called in to capture George, played by The Walking Dead's Negan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, they try to cure George. Plus verse an infected (big ass) crocodile and a (flying) wolf. This action extravaganza is filled with obstacles and tense scenes.

First of all, lets be clear, obviously this is a popcorn movie. It's not meant to win awards, however, it is meant to be an audience pleaser.

And that it is, an audience pleaser. I was very apprehensive when going into this film, as recently the big creature films that have been released are just destined to flop. Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla may have been visually beautiful, but, the storyline and character development were simply dreadful. With Rampage, Brian Adler's visual effects work brilliantly to bring these huge creatures to life. At points, it does look a bit cheap and perhaps not the visual effects we would expect to see in a 2018 film. However, George, played by CGI artist, Jason Liles, had clear depth as there was some hilarious scenes with Dwayne. Also, the vicious side of the gorilla was also captured terrifyingly, so there was definitely a good balance there, which must of been extremely hard to do. So the main CGI character is not like the other generic monsters we're seeing flop in our cinemas. 

Brad Peyton directs this action feast, he directed one of Johnston's previous hits, San Andreas. And it's clear to see that this director has experience in the action genre. He puts the audience directly in the action, he manages to create tension when we are in the presence of the terrifying creatures. Some of the camera angles with the humongous crocodile, was disgusting and almost like we were going to get swallowed. There wasn't a moment where I felt like the scene wasn't flowing. The only thing I would say about the direction is that it felt generic at points. I understand these films are not supposed to be hugely detailed. But as a director, I feel he could have made the film have more of an identity. As the CGI characters featured give the movie a certain element of identity, but at points, I feel Peyton fails to make the setting around the creatures and actors match the intensity of the action. If we are supposed to care about Chicago or any of the other surroundings within this movie, then Peyton failed to do that, as the setting was all portrayed very beige and irrelevant. I feel there needed to be more detail and character in the film, away from the actors/creatures, to make it really stand out.

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With story and screenplay by Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel. It is a pretty sturdy story, it is interesting even though the focus is on the huge action scenes, with monster on monster or man on monster sequences to please the action junkies, there is still a detailed and enjoyable plot sewn through this movie. However, there is a few plot holes in this film, where logic is not present, mainly the Wyden's intentions make no sense. 

The Wydens, Claire and Brett, the villain brother and sister duo, are portrayed by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy. These characters are the only two that I feel have been completely underdeveloped in this film. Brett was ridiculously underwritten so it was going to be a challenge for Jake Lacy to portray him. However, Malin Akerman, managed to make Claire into a straight-faced villain, but it's not going to be that memorable.

The main thing that holds this film together is the three main characters. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnston is very good in this film as Davis Okoye, the primatologist whose best friend is George, the gorilla. Dwayne seems less hardcore in Rampage and more caring about his gorilla. There are bad ass scenes so don't worry, but overall there is more depth and knowledge in this character than some of his other roles. 

Naomie Harris is brilliant as Doctor Kate Caldwell, the smart inventor of this mutation gas. Obviously, it's not as in depth as her roles in Spectre, Pirates of the Caribbean and Moonlight. However, she is definitely very good at portraying this normal woman who is thrown into the action, headfirst. 

And last but not least, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who portrays Agent Harvey Russell. This character supplies most of the laughs in this movie, mostly for his hilarious side comments. Morgan is great at playing a hard guy, but in this he's a hard guy with a bit of a heart. It is great to watch. If you watch The Walking Dead then you'll see some of Negan in this character but maybe a bit of a lighter side. For this movie, it works. 

Overall, this movie is great for any action junkies looking for their fill. Also from a fan of the game this is based on, I have been told it's a good adaptation. If you are looking for an academy award winning film, then this isn't for you. But its a fun journey, featuring a pretty solid main cast, a killer croc, a flying wolf and a (sometimes) friendly albino gorilla. Some creative decisions could have made this film better and more memorable. For me, it's 2.5/5 stars.