Let’s be honest, I walked into Rampage without many expectations and the bar wasn’t raised much by the time I walked out. The movie sticks to the genre, using the established tropes and humour through characters we are all too familiar with, down to George, the Albino Gorilla with King-Kong proportions. A scientific experiment goes wrong, impacting the genetic coding of some animals who turn gigantic and powerful overnight. The story seems unconcerned with everything but tumbling its way to the final Rampage as these creatures have a showdown with a police force that keeps aiming despite their inability to control the situation. The fate of humans rests on the strength of one man, Davis (played by Dwayne Johnson), and this man can take bullets and flying wolves to fulfil his mission. I admit I felt hope when Naomie Harris as Dr. Kate Caldwell, a discredited genetic engineer adamant to redeem her mistakes walks onto the screen, but not for long.
The movie starts with a scene that neither excites the imagination nor supplements the story. Only to move onto a scene that establishes cocky humour and Davis’s ability to communicate with George using sign language. The trainees who accompany Davis lose their utility as soon as the action begins. The first half of the movie is busy nurturing a soft spot for George while characters make one stupid decisions after another to propel the story forward. The second half is a sum of SMASH, SMASH, SMASH without much purpose to it, as if the monstrous creatures have an internal setting to topple down buildings for no reason but that they can. In a scene where George breaks out of containment someone on screen screams, ‘not again’ reflecting how the movie kept pushing into the plot that had long lost its charm and surprise.
The movie refuses to invest in itself. There is no sense of awe at the humongous size of these animals. Rather clashes of male egos keep paying homage to the time-worn conflicts common for a big action packed movie. Stuck in reverse engineering of story writing, the script managed to make these rampantly growing creatures very commonplace. In another scene, a moment of grief following the plane crash with George in it has been delivered so blankly that much like the audience, the story too seems aware that such a loss was too early to be considered seriously. And then potential villains with individual personalities have been turned into the comfortable evil sibling duo setting.
No one demands that Rampage answers existential questions, but rather hopes that it acts as a distraction from it. But it seems mundane even in its ability to be aggressive. It’s much easier to make it through the second half of the movie than the first, not because it comes together in some concrete way but because watching a city being destroyed has a satisfaction.