It is an old cliche and one that is often used to excuse “bad movies” (*cough* Michael Bay *cough*) but if all you want is a “popcorn movie flick” then Rampage is the perfect choice. It delivers exactly what it says on the posters: a monster movie with a larger than life hero and a series of outlandish and increasingly ridiculous set-pieces. If what you are looking for is action, Rampage has it in spades.
What you may not have released is that Rampage is based on a video-game. The video-game is an old arcade game where you played either solo or with a friend to destroy a city as quickly as possible. Your avatar was one of three monsters. Knowing this helps to explain the lack of actual credible story to Rampage. It seems to boil down to that premise but played out over ninety minutes: Three large monsters destroy a city.
One of those large monsters is “friendly” though, which is where Rampage’s saving grace comes into play: Dwayne Johnson. Johnson knows what his strength is. He is a man who has already taken on weather in San Andreas and made that engrossing and entertaining so a huge ape, a massive crocodile and a flying wolf should be no problem. Johnson is great at playing serious but with a bewildered raised eyebrow pointed firmly at the camera. He knows this will never win an Oscar and isn’t that type of film but plays it like it could be; delivering the corny lines like a pro.
Which is the first major issue with Rampage: it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It could be a great, spectacular B-movie but it insists on having a forced conscience. It could have been a dramatic, serious Godzilla-style disaster film but doesn’t take itself seriously enough. It has villains played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy who ham-it up pantomime style but insists on tragic back-stories for the heroes which places them firmly in the more dramatic corner. The tone is all over the place which wouldn’t be a major issue if it wasn’t so poorly written.
The writing is an issue in two different areas. Firstly, the lines people deliver are terrible. Considering Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Walking Dead fame is a credible, Southern tough-guy actor; he delivers terrible dialogue that screams “I’m doing this for a paycheck.” When it isn’t hammy, or forced, the dialogue is so corny that it makes you shudder and cringe, particularly whenever Johnson is talking to the irritating giant ape.
The second issue with the writing is how illogical so much of it is. There is a basic story here which works on some level (like the B-movie one previously mentioned) but Rampage seems to over-complicate matters and tries to be more than it needs to be. All the story actually requires is monsters getting to a city and destroying buildings and then each other.
Luckily, eventually, this does occur and when it does, the movie is at it’s best. CGI monsters beating each other up will always appeal to the popcorn, thrill-seeking audience member in any of us and Rampage does this expertly. It is like watching a video-game but with the roots of the movie where they are, this can be excused. Add Johnson quipping and drily commenting on each escalating ridiculous situation and you have a movie which is very watchable.
Overall, approach Rampage for what it is and you will be entertained. It is a film about monsters which destroy a city and then each other and while it is focusing on that it is perfect. When it tries to tell a story, use dialogue or add credibility then it starts to get messy and the cracks and flaws show through.
Rating – 3
(1 – AWFUL, 2 – AVERAGE, 3 – GOOD, 4 – GREAT, 5! – MUST SEE)
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