Time for yet another Dwayne Johnson action vehicle. He does at least a dozen a year these days. This time around, the subject-de-grace is Hollywood’s latest attempt at a movie based on a video game, and we all know what powerhouse films those things are. This is Rampage, based on an arcade classic from the 80s and 90s, wherein giant monsters wreck a city and eat people. It was as basic as they come for game in those days in terms of plot, and this film follows in much the same vein. That’s not to say this movie is terrible by any means. In fact, it may be the best video game movie to date, if only by virtue of being “least bad” and “most watchable.”
Rampage is able to succeed, at least as much as one can hope, because it is aware of what it is and doesn’t venture too far from expectations. Everything is kept very simple, so this movie isn’t going to win anyone over looking for depth or challenge, but it does satisfy those looking for a dumb action movie dumb action and big effects. Like many other video game movies based on properties with little to no plot, Rampage has to make up most all of it, including premise and all the human characters. The premise is your basic evil science makes giant monsters because… science. The villains seem like they were pulled from a Saturday morning cartoon. And there are the standard army guys who don’t listen and just throw missiles at it. Nothing significant deviates from the standard tropes. Because of this, when actual emotion and drama are attempted with some characters’ backstories (only through expositional dialogue, no less), it falls flat because it’s not found anywhere else and it too is pulled from the box-o-clichés. It is minor and infrequent enough not to distract too much.
Most actors do well enough for what they are and what this film is. The villains overact with their weaseliness and blatant corporate evil, but the script doesn’t demand more from them than that; their demises are both fitting and funny. The scientist lady is also passable for what she is, but she is sidelined and incidental at best. What carries this film is obviously Dwayne Johnson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. They are charismatic, funny, and their charm here stems from that they clearly know that this movie is absurd and dumb but they also run with how fun and ridiculous it can be. Sadly though, Joe Manganiello was wasted here. He got better treatment in Justice League and Spider-Man.
The pacing is problematic, but that’s mostly because this is a feature-length movie, and that requires a plot. The psudeo-science, character motivations and relationships are quickly set up, but then the plot meanders for almost an hour until it gets to what everyone came for: giant monsters wrecking a major city. When it does finally get there, it does quite well. But here, it was definitely the destination and not the journey. I personally don’t take issue with the departures made from the game in terms of character design or plot; here, it makes more sense for the purposes of film and at least partially grounding what is a ridiculous scenario.
Overall, Rampage was an okay film. And that’s the best I can say for it. It knows that it’s a mindless popcorn flick that will be quickly experienced and then done with. It takes that absurdity and runs with it, but it can only run so far with what it’s been given.
Final grade: C+