Film Review: Rampage

I really don’t know why I wanted to see Rampage. Every time I’d seen the trailer for it, I had come away thinking it was just a throwaway popcorn fodder film. After all, when you combine Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with a big CGI monkey and huge petrol-fuelled explosions, you’re never going to set the bar at awards season levels of expectation. And yet, there was a huge advertising poster for the film in the lobby of my local multiplex – a static image that did nothing but reinforce the tone of the trailer – but it appealed to me somehow, it made something click inside my mind. It screamed “silly explosive fun” and left me longing to see the film.

As expected, Rampage is a bad film. I’d even go as far as to say that for large parts of it I just sat there thinking it’s a shame that we live in a world where people will throw vast sums of money – an estimated $120million – to create a film so implausible silly and stupid, when there are hundreds of projects and stories that could be have been funded instead, and provided a far better 107minutes of entertainment I’m sure.

However, one thing you cannot criticise Rampage for is the CGI. As a film, it really highlights just how far computer aided film-making has come. The ability to seamlessly inject the unreal into the real, to destroy, fake and make-believe what is needed over what really existed is stunning. Gone are the days of wobbly models, broken perspective and obvious outlines as buildings explode, helicopters crash and The Rock holds the hand of a 50ft Gorilla!

Sadly though, once you’re past just how realistic CGI now looks and integrates, you start to look at the plot and the characters and everything just falls apart. The Rock is so out of place. He’s meant to be a humanitarian scientist (well actually primatologist), but the preconceived stereotyped image of what that should be in your mind just isn’t The Rock. He’s too big, and too muscled, to ever convince as having the required level of compassion you expect his character to have. The script doesn’t help him either. All he’s ever asked to do is state the bleeding obvious! He really does spend the entire film simply orating exactly what needs to happen next. It’s almost as though he’s reading the stage directions rather than his lines.

I also reckon that the producers of the film know it’s never going to be a classic, I reckon they may even be embarrassed by it. They called the ape George, and as soon as you start befriending apes and humans and involve the name George, I start singing George of the Jungle over and over in my head. I just can’t help it.

Worse than cheesy theme tunes and horrific scripts though, is how they treat Naomi Harris. You can see that she is a seriously talented actor – you can see it in her eyes, her demeanour – but she is sidelined into a role supporting The Rock that gives her scraps to work with and wastes the talent she has and the strength she could bring. Worse than her overlooking, however, is the casting of Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy as the head of the evil multi-billion corporation. Lacy, especially, doesn’t look like he’d last stacking shelves in his local village shop for more than a few days, let alone head up a company of such size and wealth it has its own scientific research space station. Visually they are just so wrong that every time you see them on the screen you just cringe with embarrassment. It destroys the tone of the film and takes any remaining chance of being serious with it.

There is one saving grace, however. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays an elusive government agent, but he was obviously the only member of the cast to realise this is a slapstick comedy, not a serious action film and so, plays his role with that in mind. There’s a lightness and humour in his performance that easily outshines everything, and everyone, else in the film. He is the only personality you connect with and I just wish he was on screen for more of it as it’s the charm of his character that draws your mind back to it when it regularly wanders away.

Rampage is a shocker. Trust me, it really is that bad. But because it’s so awful it also manages to cross the divide and, from a viewer respective, actually becomes an entertaining laugh! The problem, though, is that you end up laughing at it, rather than with it. It’s so determined to force itself to constantly portray a serious straight-faced story, that you – the audience – become completely wrapped up in watching Rampage stumble blindly from cringe-worthy moment to cringe-worthy moment, completely blind to how bad it’s become and how embarrassing it now is that it’s funny. It’s like watching a drunk man stumbling around while arguing with a traffic cone. You know you shouldn’t, you know it’s not funny, but you just can’t help but fight back the giggles.

4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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