Rampage, a fun series of video games that began in the ’80s, is primarily about giant monsters destroying buildings, eating people, and causing as much—wait for it—rampage as possible. Of course, the movie adaptation is about the exact opposite. It follows a human as he tries to stop giant monsters from destroying buildings, eating people, and causing all of that—wait for it—rampage. Calling it an “accurate” translation from game to screen would be dishonest, since it’s antithetical to its inspiration.
The film follows Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a primatologist who has created an especially close bond with an albino gorilla, George. Meanwhile, an evil corporation that isn’t Umbrella has been playing around with genetic manipulation. The experiment “escapes,” for lack of a better word, and three vials find themselves scattered across they planet. George gets one, a wolf gets one, and a crocodile gets the final one. They become giant, angry, out-of-control monsters. Eventually, they converge on Chicago, and it’s up to Davis to both (1) try to stop them and (2) try to stop the government from bombing the city, since that always seems like the solution the government comes up with in movies like this.
Rampage has been directed by Brad Peyton, someone you may remember directed the 2015 disaster movie San Andreas, which also starred Dwayne Johnson. That time, earthquakes were the cause of all the destruction. This time, it’s giant monsters. Fundamentally, the movies are pretty much the same, except this time instead of trying to rescue his family, Johnson’s tasked with something less personal and therefore less immediately emotionally compelling.
Peyton cares little about the impact of the destruction. Countless buildings are destroyed and lives are lost—none of them matter. As such, “saving the city” feels like less of an important goal for the protagonist. He wants to save his ape friend, of course, since that’s the closest thing he has to an immediate family, but the bond isn’t the same. None of the characters are very strong, anyway. We have no connection to anyone.
“You’re overthinking it,” I can hear you saying. “Is the monster destruction fun?” Sort of, I guess. It’s mindless, but it’s done with top-notch special effects and doesn’t have editing or camerawork that induces vomiting, so I guess that makes it better than some of these things. And, for some people, all you really need to make a good movie is a giant ape, wolf, and crocodile fighting in Chicago to have a fun time. If that’s you, have at it.
The rest of us will watch Rampage with the less enthusiasm. Without much of a reason to care, it’s all a bunch of white noise. It lacks the characters and purpose to draw us in emotionally, which makes the action much less enjoyable. It’s well-staged action made possible due to very good special effects, but it’s hollow. That’ll be enough for some people. The Transformers movies have their fans, too, after all. But if you’re looking for something more than just “San Andreas with monsters instead of earthquakes,” you’ll be disappointed.
Conclusion: Rampage is a hollow disaster movie.
Recommendation: If you like watching monsters destroy a city without being given much of a reason to care … I guess you’ll have fun with Rampage.