By Jim Slotek
Imagine a giant, mutated, virtually invulnerable albino gorilla, wolf and alligator laying waste to the city of Chicago a la New York in the first Avengers movie.
Now imagine the gorilla, in fact, wrote the movie in which this takes place.
Monkeyshines on a laptop are my best guess for the provenance of Rampage, a ludicrous Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson destruction-fest passingly based on the early-‘90s arcade game (whose objective was to control monsters to create destruction for points).
How else to explain humans reacting in ways humans wouldn’t to the death of thousands amid rubble – ie., yukking it up? I mean, a gorilla scriptwriter could easily imagine running amok, but it can’t be blamed for not understanding normal human behavior and interaction.
On the plus side, Rampage, having been written by a gorilla (the credits say four humans, but I’m not buying it), is not about to tax any audience’s attention span.
At its best, Rampage is like a CG-ed version of a half-decent Toho monster movie, in which a city is destroyed just because.
At its worst, well, let’s start at the start. Rampage opens in a corporately-owned space station under siege and ultimately destroyed by a mutated rat. Seems an evil bio-corporation (aren’t they all?) has been conducting genetics experiments in space, because… I don’t know.
But how else are you going to randomly free-fall canisters of “gene editing” mutation-gas across North America so that it monstrously infects a gorilla in a San Diego primate habitat, a wolf in Wyoming and an alligator in the Everglades – all of whom follow an evil corporate signal to meet in Chicago for deep dish pizza and a Cubs game, followed by mass destruction.
Too bad for the bad guys, but they infected the wrong gorilla. George is best friends with primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson), who has taught his buddy to communicate and perform shtick via sign language with the apparent vocabulary of any Planet of the Apes character. Their scenes together are, ironically, the most recognizably human in the movie and a definite crowd-softener.
And Davis is not going to give up on George just because he’s suddenly the size of a building and has forgotten he’s herbivorous (people die in sundry ways in Rampage – being swallowed is one of them).
A scientist who happens to be a former Navy SEAL (aren’t they all?), Davis and a geneticist with a guilty conscience (Naomie Harris) escape military custody and commandeer their helicopter with the help of a National Security Agent played by The Walking Dead’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Morgan here plays an ostensible good guy with a ladled-on Texas-barbecue accent and the same creepy perma-smirk he wears as TWD’s alpha villain Negan.
But the actual villains are an evil, scheming, blonde corporate mastermind (played by Malin Akerman, who I’m guessing was cast because Charlize Theron was too busy playing basically the same character in the Fast & Furious movies) and her idiot brother (Jake Lacy).
That’s enough plot, thank you very much. What’s important is that director Brad Peyton has brought all the carnage tricks he employed in his previous adventure with The Rock, San Andreas, and upped his game. Yes, buildings are destroyed, but there are also plane crashes, and helicopter crashes, and crashed helicopters that take off and crash again. Johnson is shot, buildings fall on him, and he carries on with the same angry determination exhibited by the monsters.
And that, my friends is why he’s The Rock.
As dumb as it is, Rampage is more fun than any Transformers movie. And a heck of a lot shorter.
Rampage. Directed by Brad Peyton. Starring Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, Naomie Harris and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Opens wide, Thursday, April 12.