“Rampage” at least lives up to its title.
The science fiction action film displays seemingly endless scenes of gigantic animals destroying buildings, planes and everything else in their paths. Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) joins forces with former genetic engineer Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) to neutralize a giant wolf, a vicious crocodile and Davis’ albino primate friend before they turn Chicago into a pile of dust. While the film might impress audiences with exciting images of gargantuan animals reminiscent of “Jurassic Park” and “King Kong,” at its core “Rampage” presents a predictable, unimaginative narrative that relies too much on special effects.
For director Brad Peyton, it seems as if supersized animals and sequences of explosions took priority over a well thought-out plot and engaging dialogue. In focusing primarily on complex visuals, “Rampage” forgets about its secondary characters and allows them to become afterthoughts.
At the beginning of the film, Peyton introduces characters like Davis’ three research associates but leaves them in the dust once Kate enters the story. In removing the researchers from the overall narrative, the film’s writers missed the opportunity to develop their knowledge and their potential contribution to the chaotic narrative.
Such treatment is not limited to just the protagonist’s associates, but extends to antagonistic forces as well. The film introduces Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy), the miserly siblings responsible for the genetic mutagen that eventually infects the three animals. With the film’s primary focus on destroying the animals on their paths to Chicago, it’s easy for audience members to forget who the real villains of the film are – an incompetent and childlike CEO and his significantly smarter and daring sister, who are only trying to protect the reputation and wealth of their genetic modification company.
The script included untimely scientific explanations, familiar tropes and cheap, dry humor. As the military chief Colonel Blake (Demetrius Grosse) plans to place military forces in the path of the giant wolf and gorilla, Davis interrupts and states that such animals don’t typically travel together. The odd scientific interjection amid such high-tension scenes feels misplaced, adding to the film’s questionable pacing.
Some of the film’s better moments, however, do come from its short-lived jokes. From profane jokes about sex and excrement to those mocking male emotions, “Rampage” does bring minimal comedy, mostly through a albino gorilla. In the beginning, Davis asks his primate companion to fist-bump him, but instead, the beast decides to show Davis his thick middle finger.
While “Rampage” does not bring anything new to the science fiction genre, the film has some redeeming qualities when it comes to the character development of its powerful female figures. On the protagonist’s side is Kate, a former genetic engineer who challenges the popular image of a male scientist helping to save the day. Conversely, Claire demonstrates herself as the true boss of her brother’s company and the mastermind of their destructive plot.
However, despite the small positives in representation, “Rampage” as a whole recycles narratives that have become all too familiar within its genre. Peyton can use visual effects to make up for what he lacked in innovative writing, but at the end of the day, “Rampage” is a film that not even Johnson’s dreamy smile can save.