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Saturday, 25 August 2018

Movie Review: Rampage (2018)

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Joe Manganiello, Jeffrey Dean Morgan 
Genre: Science Fiction Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $420 million

Plot: When 3 different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago

'Can't Quite Stampede Its Way To Victory'

It's a pity that Rampage ought to have been and should have been a great film. For starters, the premise sounds good; but instead, this is very unfulfilling, half-baked and had it not been for the names of Dwayne Johnson, whose performance is subdued a little here, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Rampage would be a far lesser film worth talking about. Yet the film suffers for 2 reasons: 1) the tone is far too serious for a premise such as this, making it not as fun as I'd anticipated and 2) overall, but for Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Dwayne Johnston, the rest of the casting leaves a lot to be desired.

Based on the series of video games developed by Midway and later on, Warner Bros Entertainment games that surfaced on the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo GameCube and Wii, Gameboy and Sega Saturn, in the game itself, Rampage's gameplay involves choosing a monster to destroy cities around the globe, whilst avoiding the presence of the police and army forces. In the film, Dwayne Johnson is Davis: a primate specialist at San Diego Sanctuary who forges a close bond with George, a colossal albino gorilla. But trouble looms in store when a canister containing a mutating mist comes into contact with George, and he transforms into an angry beast. With the aid of a geneticist in Kate, Davis has to figure out a way to save the gorilla and the trio are targeted by a pair of dastardly siblings in a brother and sister, as well as a secret government agent, Harvey. 

I couldn't help but feel as I watched this that Rampage is the type of action movie that had it surfaced during the 1990s or early 2000s around at the same time as Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park had been making waves, and with a more stellar and star-studded cast, alongside Dwayne Johnson, this would have turned out even better. As a film, with this particular version of the 2010s, this is a B-movie at best destined for the Sci-Fi channel and the story just wasn't well conceived. Even with Davis's relationship and interactions with George.

Dwayne Johnson plays the same character as in every single major movie and still has screen presence, whilst Jeffrey Dean Morgan revels in his good guy cool cowboy role and one that doesn't really give him much to do and they pretty much tower above everyone else. It's a shame they weren't given a good script to work with and this is still not their best work for either of them. & though I like him as an actor, I wished he didn't give Harvey a Southern drawl that sounds way too hammy and heavy and he'd appeared earlier on in the film. Despite having 4 writers onboard, they, especially, still couldn't manage to conjure up a story with substance. 

Malin Ackerman did well in Watchmen alongside her co-star Morgan, yet playing opposite himself and Johnson, she is poorly miscast as the main villainess and it seems she just can't convince as the bad girl, lacking in arrogance & menace (nothing she said and did was evil enough) and nor could she carry a big budget Hollywood film. Both her and Jake Lacy as the villainous siblings were poorly written characters, as they ham it up for the cameras with virtually little effect. Lacy, meanwhile, is way out of his element as the brother & the pairing come across as irritating rather than bearable. British actress Naomie Harris exists no more than as a McGuffin, although her American accent was not bad. The film suffers from its casting issues and like I said, it needed A-list stars who could provide and generate that extra charm to help spearhead the film. Especially as there was just next to zero chemistry.

For some reason also, Rampage lacks energy, enthusiasm and with a typical story where one would be able to figure out what happens. It's not enough to have special effects, huge monsters, a star in Dwayne Johnson who, alongside Jeffrey Dean Morgan, carries this film.

Rampage doesn't work well as a video game adaptation and had it functioned as a straight up action flick with more established performers, it would have made it even more watchable. Aside from the special effects, everything else is so formulaic, the attempts at humour but for 1 or 2 little lines from Johnson and Dean Morgan doesn't exactly work as well and the movie doesn't feel as entertaining as it should have been. Sadly, it is yet another underwhelming film based on a video game property. 

It's not horribly bad as the critics have stated to be, but I would be lying if I said I was satisfied with what I have seen, despite not knowing much about the Rampage video games. Unfortunately, director Brad Peyton seems more inclined to create a lot of hot noise and air through its CGI effects supported by some debatable casting (notably Ackerman, Lacy, Harris, and Dwayne Johnson's character's fellow scientists, who get killed off & Joe Manganiello) and for a director who helmed Dwayne Johnson's two other movies San Andreas, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and Cat and Dogs, going by those offerings, it's as to him style makes up for the lack of substance those movies emit. And sadly, Peyton makes that same mistake here. He should be lucky that Johnson just about makes it worth seeing, because, without him and Dean Morgan, Rampage would be an even poorer film. 

Mighty Joe Young meets King Kong meets Jurassic Park meets Transformers, Rampage is a mixed bag and though it is not completely abominable as many have cited, I was left feeling it should have added up to something that was more than just great CGI scenes. Lamentably, however, Rampage is supplemented by a seen-it-all, done-it-all formulaic and derivative script, in the face of the cool premise, but also it is let down by a lack of cast chemistry, the inconsistent performances across the board and the strained and not fully developed characterisations.

As well as the script, as Davis, main star Johnson isn't given any opportunities to display his Rock-like persona, nor as much wit, nor ingenuity and to provide a bit of a lighter feel to give Rampage more of that leverage it so needed, and less of the drudgery that it seeps.  

Final Verdict:

Rampage works okay as a B-movie, but when it becomes a film wherein George the GGI and fake Gorilla is more of the focus when he doesn't do very much or offer much, that is when the movie has a major problem, amongst a few others it never manages to overcome. 

As a result, Rampage comes up disappointingly short that fails to smash its way to the top. 


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