‘Of course the wolf flies’ sighs Dwayne Johnson, resignedly, after the 30-foot super-predator shrugs off a battering to glide directly at him. His character, Davis Okoye, knows exactly what kind of movie he’s in, and it’s to Rampage’s great credit that the film on the whole is so in on the joke, leaning into the ridiculousness of its premise with a gusto that makes it easily the most watchable videogame movie to date. San Andreas director Brad Peyton reunites with Johnson for another tale of mass destruction, but this time adds enormous monsters to the mix for a supremely silly and entertaining disaster movie.
With admirably little in the way of dull, fake-science exposition, Rampage lets us get to know Okoye in a brief preamble before unleashing the giant mutant creatures upon the world. He’s a primatologist, but also ex-special forces and a former killer of poachers, spending his days caring for amiable albino gorilla, George. After a science experiment in space goes immensely wrong, three canisters of mystery gas are flung to Earth, where they proceed to supersize George, a wolf, and a crocodile. Along with the growth comes additional aggression and attributes from several other animals, and it’s not long before the trio tear up Chicago.
It’s a thin story, and the film knows it, but also knows better than to waste time on plot contrivances when we could just be watching Dwayne Johnson and a giant gorilla fight monsters. Ryan Engle’s script was presumably written with Johnson in mind, so he fits the material perfectly, and Naomie Harris gets to have some fun as genetics expert Dr Caldwell, though you can’t help but feel that the whole thing is a little beneath an actor of her calibre. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, having an absolute whale of a time, very nearly steals the whole film as a cocksure spook who’s not nearly as much of an ass as you initially assume.
It’s never exactly dwelled upon, but Rampage also has some political teeth. The evil billionaire siblings behind the whole mess, the Wydens (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy), are quite clearly Trump family surrogates, especially Lacy, who plays his role as the spit of Eric. But that’s enough about the subtext of a movie based on an ‘80s arcade game where the sole objective was to wreak as much havoc as possible. Though the effects might be a bit wobblier than the top-tier blockbusters, Rampage is a lot of fun, with variety in the constant smashing and plenty of surprisingly scary or gruesome moments.
When a private military firm first discover the mega-wolf, it is utter carnage. Limbs and flesh fly in a real test of the 12a rating, and there’s a particularly spine-tingling shot when an out of focus ‘tree’ reveals itself to instead be a monstrously massive leg. Towards the very end, the destruction does exhaust itself, and the jaw-dropping casualty count and invoking of 9/11 imagery can feel a bit out of place in a movie as silly as this one.
All of the mutant animals are terrifically designed, the brief for the wolf and croc clearly being ‘you can never have too many spikes’, and George is loaded with personality. He’s not going to challenge Caesar and his Planet of the Apes brethren for most moving CG animal any time soon, but he’s decidedly not ‘just another beast’. As befits an arcade game adaptation, there’s not really an actual ending here, just a fading out to the credits, but Johnson’s bags of charm and a good balance between self-awareness and sincerity make sure you’ll still leave satisfied.