There really isn’t any point in denying that Dwayne The Rock Johnson is the biggest movie star in Hollywood right now, but he might also be the best. Nobody, except early Will Smith, can star in, sell, and market a movie the way he can. His power to entertain audiences with ridiculous premises is undeniable. Rampage is stupid, big, and insane, but it’s also obnoxiously entertaining and a joy to watch.
Rampage is the story of Davis (Dwayne Johnson) who is a primatologist/covert ops soldier/poacher hunter/special forces/body builder/sign language genius, who cares for a troop of gorillas led by George, a rare albino gorilla he rescued as a baby. The Wyden Corporation, owned by Claire (Malin Ackerman), has been doing weaponized genetic experiments in space. The space station blows up and three gene-altering agents fall to Earth and infect George, a wolf, and an Alligator. Dr. Caldwell (Naomie Harris) helped create the mutation experiment known as Rampage before she found out what it did and was sent to jail for trying to destroy it. When George rages out, he is captured by Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and flown to a base. During the flight, Claire activates a sort of homing beacon in Chicago to draw the monsters there so she can get a sample of their blood. George escapes though, as David, Dr. Caldwell, and Agent Russell work to try and save Chicago from the monsters, stop Claire, and save George.
The plot plays out exactly as you’d expect with very few surprises. Every single time the audience was about to roll their eyes, Dwayne The Rock Johnson would charm the damn pants off everyone in the theater with a funny line or reaction. Despite being an absolute giant of a man, he somehow manages to act as the audience’s avatar when it comes to reactions or line readings in his movies. One of my favorites is from Fast Five where he tells his team to “never, ever let them get into cars.” He delivers it with so much scenery chewing bravado that it turned the entire franchise around to being in on the joke. In Rampage, he has no shortage of charm when he drops lines like, “Of course the wolf flies.” He has a sense of purpose in these roles that is strictly there to deliver entertainment.
The way The Rock plays some of these outlandish scenes always seems to have the audience’s reaction in mind. How are we feeling? How stupid will we think this is? What can I do to get them to buy in and come along on the ride? Very few actors have the power to just sell the stupid crap on screen. Will Smith had it. Tom Cruise had it. The Marvel movies show glimpses of it too. Its tough because everyone will accuse you of being a popcorn movie or a dumb blockbuster. Rampage isn’t dumb either. Its a smart film, because it knows exactly how dumb it is and it focuses all efforts on making the audience enjoy the movie. Is there genetic experiments that make regular animals turn into three giant monsters who try and destroy a beacon on the roof of a city? Yes. Can we craft a story and characters around it to make it an absolute blast for 2 hours? The answer here is a big YES.
The action is really well done and I was pleasantly surprised how long the final battle went on. It really felt like the last 30 minutes of the movie was non-stop monster fights. It was an enjoyable experience, because other than “poaching is bad”, it really didn’t have much more it say message wise. Another blow to Kong: Skull Island with how great George looked, interacted, and fought. The CGI and creature design was really fun.
The movie sold me because it had only one purpose and that was to entertain me for 2 hours. It never tried to be something it wasn’t and exceeded at everything that it knew it was. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson just flexed his charisma into the story and elevated the movie to something that is not only worth checking out in theaters but once it is on HBO, I’m sure I’ll hang around for the creature fight if its on. The writers, directors, and stars knew the goal was to sell the audience on the experience, not get them to believe it. Recent movies like Suicide Squad, Transformers, etc. are all really stupid films that sucked any enjoyment or fun from the audience because they think they’re more than just robots punching each other. Rampage knows it is 3 giant beasts fighting with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson refereeing and its only mission is to get the audience to enjoy it. Mission accomplished.