Rampage is for the most part a movie that knows exactly what it is - a low effort, high energy Dwayne Johnson starrer that tries desperately not to be as stupidly conceived as Baywatch, one of Johnson's only true box-office flops, by overloading the film with irrelevant and unnecessary exposition before settling in during the second half into a pretty darn entertaining popcorn flick starring an actor who likes making popcorn flicks for his audiences that seem to adore his popcorn flicks.
If you go into Rampage expecting a cinematic masterpiece, you're either guilty of unreasonable expectations or you've simply never seen a Dwayne Johnson flick. Rampage kicks off with a thread of seriousness, Marley Shelton first introducing the core concept behind Rampage before everything shifts over to Dwayne Johnson's Davis, a primatologist with a genuine affection for gorillas and, in particular, George, a mostly congenial silverback who communicates using sign language and with whom Davis has established a relationship of trust and mutual respect.
Of course, Rampage isn't Jane and we know that something's going to go wildly awry because Rampage isn't about a man and his adorable pet gorilla. The trouble begins when George and a handful of other creatures encounter an inhalant that sets off a rather pronounced genetic transformation turning already intimidating creatures into retro-styled, fun to watch monsters that turn director Brad Peyton's instantly forgettable but reasonably entertaining Rampage into an outlandish, completely unpredictable adventure with sea creatures, rampaging wolves, one seriously ticked off gorilla and more.
By now, it's unquestionably confirmed that Dwayne Johnson is a movie star. He's not the greatest actor, but he never needs to be in the vehicles that he chooses. Whether he's playing a tooth fairy or a primatologist, Johnson seems to inherently know and trust and find affection with the fact that his fans see him as a larger than life cartoon, a friendly chap who would say "Hi!" to you if you crossed him on the street and who would step up and kick some bully's ass if they were messing with you.
We like Dwayne Johnson. Dwayne Johnson likes us, or at least Dwayne Johnson likes the house that we've bought him.
Johnson has been nearly spotless in his film choices. I mean, seriously. Who expected Tooth Fairy to actually work?
Audiences loved it.
I don't think even Johnson has figured out quite yet what went wrong with Baywatch.
However, Rampage feels like a Dwayne Johnson motion picture. Especially in the film's second half, Rampage becomes as larger than life as Johnson is larger than life. It's silly and wild, unbelievable and completely absurd... it's also quite a bit of fun to watch even though you'll likely struggle to remember any of it two hours after leaving the theater.
Dwayne Johnson makes silly scenes accessible, like a scene with Naomie Harris high atop a skyscraper with nearly certain doom awaiting only for a rescue to happen, of course, in a way that is fantastic to watch but absolutely nonsensical.
There are other scenes where I found myself just shaking my head going "Did they really do that?"
Yep, they did.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan has an absolute blast as a g-man tasked with trying to contain the ensuing damage, while the always overacting Malin Akerman joins up with Jake Lacy as the brother/sister duo who've largely triggered this entire mess and the two so completely overact that you can't help but wonder if you've stumbled into a Tommy Wiseau-led master thespian acting class.
If you're tempted to trash Rampage, I'd urge you to check your own sense of self-importance at the door. Rampage is overly long and far too serious early on, but it's otherwise exactly the film that it's supposed to be with cheesy charms and silly fun to be had by those who are willing to let go and let it wash over them.
There will be much better and much worse films in 2018 than Rampage. Save your energy and your scathing reviews for a film that's actually trying to matter. Rampage just wants to give audiences a little mindless fun and, more often than not, it actually succeeds in doing so.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic