Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Director: Brad Peyton
108 minutes (12) 2018
Warner Blu-ray region B
[Released 20th August]
Review by Christopher Geary
An epic yet briskly paced monster-movie, Rampage is based on a video game. It starts with Marley Shelton playing a scientist on an orbital station where she fights a giant rat. That confrontation in space doesn’t end well. The source of mutation falls down to Earth, and infects three animals that grow to enormous sizes, threatening chaos or destruction in a wave of menace across America.
Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas) stars as Davis Okoye, a primate expert from San Diego zoo, where he’s a handler for tame gorilla George, an albino that knows sign language but kills grizzly bears when infected by a weaponised pathogen from the space station. Naomie Harris (Moneypenny in recent James Bond movies) portrays the geneticist Kate Caldwell, a doctor who sketches out this movie’s sci-fi back-story about the potential dangers of genetic editing by CRISPR tech, just before the enraged and rapidly growing George escapes from captivity. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen) plays cowboy styled secret agent Harvey Russell, a government spook on the trail of rampaging George.
The albino gorilla George provides Rampage with subgenre links to Mighty Joe Young and King Kong. Ralph the giant grey wolf from Wyoming forests appears here with tacit links to Norse mythology’s Fenrir, the alias of Fenris in Thor: Ragnarok, while - alongside the movie’s numerous helicopter stunts - the special effects for Ralph also provide a couple of visual puns about Airwolf. Lizzie, the gigantic mutant crocodile emerging from Florida swamp-lands, is a fantastical representative of dinosaurs, and it also recalls Godzilla’s city-stomping antics. These varied influences add up to a magnificent creature-feature, packed with amusing effects and spectacle.
Due to a radio signal that lures the giant beasts, in a deranged plan hatched by biotech corp villainess Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman, Watchmen) of Energyne, Willis Tower in Chicago becomes the ultimate focus of mayhem by the monsters. Okoye is an ex-special forces commando (of course), so when he teams up with the big ape to fight the other two giant monsters, this can easily be viewed as an off-beat superhero movie (Caldwell mentions Justice League), and seems aligned to comicbook related cinema in general, despite its video game source. George is not unlike a super-hairy version of the Hulk. The gorilla is an over-sized rage monster, a result of experimental evolutionary science gone awry. George battles mutant animals (Ang Lee’s Hulk fought a trio of dogs), and during the ape’s primal rampage, he wrecks tanks and helicopters (just like the Hulk), after which the calmer gorilla becomes the movie’s hero to save a city.
Rampage boasts great action sequences, leavened by good humour, and urban tragedy in Chicago is rebalanced with a happy ending. This movie is a hugely entertaining treat for any fans of Kong: Skull Island, Pacific Rim, and various Marvel and DC productions.