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July 22, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Mindless monster movie is silly but satisfying

Rampage

New Line Cinema

Director Brad Peyton has a knack for putting Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson into seemingly inescapable situations and having him come out completely untouched. Their unbreakable bond began with “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” in which Peyton places Johnson on an island filled with dinosaurs and other monsters trying to kill him. It continued in “San Andreas,” when Peyton set him in the middle of a city-leveling earthquake. In “Rampage,” Peyton places Johnson, once again, in the middle of a city being destroyed. However, instead of an earthquake, giant monsters are destroying the city. “Rampage” is at its best when the monsters are having their way with Chicago, and it’s at its worst when anything else — whether it’s an attempt at character development or trying for decent dialogue — distracts from them.

“Rampage” centers on primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson). He is the primary caretaker of an albino gorilla named George. When a science experiment involving genetic editing in space goes awry, its remains crash to Earth and infect three animals: George, a wolf and an alligator. This causes them to rapidly grow in size and become overwhelmingly aggressive. Davis, with help from the scientist who engineered the genetic editing formula, Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), attempts to stop the monsters from obliterating Chicago.

The giant monsters are, without a doubt, the most exciting part of the movie. Thankfully, the movie knows this; throughout, the action sequences are exhilarating. One action sequence involving the giant wolf — which can fly — and a group of soldiers in a forest is especially thrilling. The wolf picks off members of the group one by one, tossing them around in a way that is reminiscent of buttonmashing in a video game. To top it all off, the scene ends with the wolf jumping off of a cliff in marvelous slow motion to attack and destroy a helicopter. Over-the-top action is prevalent throughout this movie, and Peyton delivers on the promise of ridiculous monster carnage.

Unfortunately, the action is not enough to save this movie from its dreadful characterization. Most of the characters in this movie are caricatures of how people actually act. They have no personalities and are only defined by one dull motive, especially Davis. Davis seems like he should belong in the next Marvel movie because nothing the movie throws at him can bring him any real harm. When a character’s main trait is invincibility, it’s difficult to care about them. There is one moment when Davis is on top of a falling building. He gets into a helicopter on the roof, hovers above the building as it falls, and crashes in front of the building. He walks away completely unscathed. Although there are so many bafflingly ridiculous moments like this one, they start to become enjoyable.

Adding to the endless list of one-dimensional characters are the incomprehensible villains. Claire (Malin Ȧkerman) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy) own the company Energyne, which is responsible for creating the chemicals that infected the animals. They are driven by money, and that’s it. When the movie keeps cutting back to them talking about how they can recover samples from the animals so they can get more money, their interactions become obnoxious. Having onedimensional characters dominate the screen is a recipe for boredom.

There is nobody to root for except George, who is, ironically, the most human character out of everyone. He is given a more empathetic backstory. His parents were slaughtered by poachers, and Davis took him in. He is shown to be intelligent in his communication with Davis through sign language. In fact, Davis’ friendship with George might be the only likable thing about Johnson’s character. Regardless, George remains the character with the most heart due to his lovable and protective personality. As a result, the movie gains a sense of relatability it was looking for in its human characters.

“Rampage” is extremely entertaining when the animals are wreaking havoc. The action sequences are engrossing and wellshot. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is filled with one-dimensional characters with no relatability or depth. The movie is a brainless blockbuster that people can enjoy when they’re in the theater, then forget about 15 minutes after it’s over.