One of the central premises of a Dwayne Johnson action movie tends to be the conceit that his characters are physically capable but emotionally limited. The video game, for those unfamiliar, was a simple contest between three monsters, a giant King Kong-like ape (George), an uncharacteristically huge werewolf (Ralph), and a not-quite-Godzilla (Lizzie) to determine who could cause the most damage to a city. Malin Ackerman gives great bad guy as the evil mad science corporate lady and gets rewarded with an all-time classic exit.
Davis (Dwayne Johnson) is an animal trainer. And it was the best video game movie ever made - certainly the best since Silent Hill 12 years ago and Mortal Kombat 23 years ago.
Sometimes a movie is exactly what it says on the tin and with a title like Rampage... well, it's pretty hard to be surprised. Super Mario Brothers and Street Fighter: The Movie had wildly convoluted plots to justify the adaptation. They require no mental exertions or self-examination, which is just as well, because the movie does not encourage cerebral activity. The three mutant animals, drawn by a radio frequency being emitted by Wyden Technologies from the Willis antenna (whatever, just go with me) all scale the building, smashing it as they go up, and inevitably bringing it down in a cloud of debris and smoke. George moves the same at any size, no matter how much extra mass he obtains. George is played in motion capture by Jason Liles who, I'm sorry, is no Andy Serkis. Nice George may be a little more human than gorilla, with sarcastic expressions I'd venture are not possible even with advanced signing primates, but we're post Rise of the Planet of the Apes here.
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Without peaking, what kind of animal do you think Lizzie is? Across the States, an alligator and a wolf that the internet dubs "Ralph" are also infected and they head towards a radio signal in Federal Plaza, Chicago - a flawless location for them to battle it out and turn all the iconic architecture into rubble.
This unforeseen level of emotional maturity, coupled with Rampage's willingness to hew a bit darker in tone, helps to elevate the action Peyton has constructed here.These blockbuster action beats are not just big showcases of very impressive CGI wizardry - thankfully all shot and staged comprehensively - but also edge-of-your seat stuff as they continuously ramp up in intensity.
There's time for The Rock to posture.
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Don't worry, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is there so The Rock can get in his face. The movie might actually be more fun seen in bits and pieces than as a whole. All of the goriest stuff is on screen, but cleverly hidden in out of focus foregrounds, just enough to sate those looking for a thrill, but never quite enough to make the audience squeamish.
It feels like they set out to make the game, then they got so far away from the game they threw in some homages to make it more like the game again. Since making the move from the ring to the screen, Johnson has made a habit out of turning awful ideas into blockbuster hits, and with Rampage he's again flexed his prodigious muscles to buff the shiny hell out of what could have been the cinematic equivalent of something you scrape off your shoe with a grimace.
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