I have fond memories of playing the Rampage video game in my early teens. Me and my two brothers, huddled around my feeble ZX Spectrum, each of us taking control of one of three monsters. George the giant King-Kong style gorilla, Lizzie a dinosaur/Godzilla creature and Ralph the big wolf. The idea of the game was simple, but hugely satisfying – smash up city buildings until they collapse, while avoiding damage from the military who are out to stop you. Hitting your fellow monsters also takes out their energy, making it a great game for competitive brothers to be playing! Eating food you find, and even the soldiers trying to kill you, restores your energy. Lots of fun.
Rampage the movie begins out in space, where genetic editing experiments too dangerous/illegal are taking place onboard a space station. Things have gone badly wrong though and canisters containing an experimental genetic pathogen begin hurtling towards North America in what looks like a meteor shower. Back down on Earth we’re introduced to Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) – San Diego zoologist, ex-military (so, comfortable with guns, flying helicopters etc, could come in handy later…) and general all-round cool guy. In his care is an albino gorilla called George, who was rescued from poachers as a baby by Davis. They’ve built up a special bond ever since, communicating in sign language to the level where they are able to joke and generally take the piss out of each other. Overnight, one of the space canisters lands in the zoo and is released into the face of an inquisitive (or Curious?) George. From there he begins to grow bigger, and become increasingly violent.
Elsewhere, two other canisters have landed out in the wild. One right by a pack of wolves and another hitting a lake. The brother and sister team heading up Energyne, the company responsible for the space station and the genetic work (Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacy), dispatch a bunch of clean up guys with big guns to try and apprehend the wolf, which ends up going badly. Meanwhile, an ex employee of Energyne, Dr Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), who is also responsible for creating the pathogen, heads to the zoo. She wants to make amends for everything and bring down the company that fired her. Government agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) also shows up at the zoo with a bunch of men of his own, looking to take George away by plane – something else which you just know is going to end badly. Morgan plays Harvey Russell as basically just a slightly toned down version of his Walking Dead character, Negan. Grinning cockily throughout the whole movie and when he first squares up to Davis, you fully expect him to start swaggering around, monologuing about swinging dicks or something. He tells Davis that “when science shits the bed, I’m the guy they call to change the sheets”!
The three monsters begin making their way to Chicago to start smashing stuff up, attracted by a beacon emitting a sound only they can hear. Something “the tech guys rustled up overnight” at Energyne. Davis and Dr Caldwell also head to Chicago to try and help George and end the destruction, eventually aided by Harvey Russell.
Rampage has the potential to be a trainwreck, another casualty in the long line of awful video game movies, especially when there are so many CGI-heavy monster-city-smash movies out there these days. It all works surprisingly well though. When the monsters begin trashing things, it’s not an over the top assault on the senses where you can’t even make out any sign of human life and the affect that all of this is having on them. The action is well done and enjoyable, and peppered with plenty of trademark Dwayne Johnson humour too. Outside of the action, it’s also Johnson that holds the rest of the movie together and prevents it from dipping below average. Dr Caldwell is a very underused and forgettable character, serving only as sidekick to The Rock. Everyone else, aside from Harvey Russell, is also pretty forgettable too. But then at the end of the day, this is all about George and his monster buddies, and overall I found this to be a very enjoyable movie.