Rampage follows primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), who has a strong bond with an albino gorilla named George. A catastrophic on a space laboratory causes three canisters containing an experimental pathogen to fall to. Earth. One of them lands in George’s habitat, and it causes him to grow at an alarming rate and develop a dangerous aggression. Davis is determined to find some way to help George, but the corporation behind the disastrously experiment has other plans. Things converge in Chicago, where an antidote to the pathogen might exist.
The movie actually starts out on the space laboratory, while the catastrophe is in motion. It establishes a somewhat unusual tone for the movie, as this sequence features floating corpses, one of which loses an eye to a piece of debris. It turns out that the movie is much more violent than one might expect. There is a sequence later on in the film that has a cadre of mercenaries hunting down a pathogen-infected wolf, and the level of dismemberment that makes it on screen is a little alarming. The PG rating has always been a tad lax when it comes to violence, but this film really pushes at that boundary.
It is one thing to be violent, but there are moments in this film that feel like a celebration of violence. There is a death played as a victory. Another death plays out like a comedic beat. The violence enacted on its CGI creatures also gets pretty horrific, the movie pretty cavalier with the exposure of VFX blood and guts. It’s the kind of thing that would feel a lot more appropriate within the confines of an R-rated B-Movie. But this is not that. This is a PG blockbuster movie, and in this context, it all gets a little disgusting.
The movie gets crass, too, passing off its macho bro humor as the twisted sense of humor of a gorilla. This approach populates a derivative story with flat heroes and even flatter villains, and a plot that doesn’t stand up to the least bit of scrutiny. The plot holes are so big that any one of these giant animals could stroll through them. To the film’s credit, it manages to make a lot of it fairly good. The CGI is credible, and integrates well with some solid action stage work, even if it becomes a little obvious when a stuntman is on screen.
The best thing the film has going for it is its star, Dwayne Johnson, whose charisma is once again called upon to create a compelling core for an empty blockbuster. It only goes so far, though. Naomie Harris is present, but doesn’t actually get to do a whole lot. Jeffrey Dean Morgan smarms it up in a way that fits within the movie’s general macho approach. Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy stumble as the film’s villains, the two unable to bring anything interesting to these paper thin roles.
Rampage isn’t just your typical mindless blockbuster spectacle. It all feels just a little more crass, a little more cavalier with the depiction of violence. There is a context where this kind of thing can be enjoyed, but this isn’t it. Like every big tentpole release, Rampage is at least partly targeted at kids, and that makes this film more problematic than your average VFX clunker. The action does get compelling at times, but it is saddled with the baggage of this film’s generally detestable qualities. Parents can certainly do better for their kids.