Rampage: Film Review
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Joe Mangianello, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy
Director: Brad Peyton
There is only so far Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's charisma and endless muscles will go - and his latest flick, Rampage where he re-teams with San Andreas director Brad Peyton, sorely tests that.
Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a former species forces cum animal saviour who's now a primatologist.
Bonded with a white silverback gorilla called George (and who gets a brief back story flashback later in the piece), Davis finds his world rocked when a science experiment from space causes his friend to change from gentle Curious George Harry and the Hendersons' beast to roaring destructive angry King Kong type.
Things are further complicated when the evil corporate bigwigs, who created the genetic editing process, want their DNA back and hatch a plot to get the creatures back to the city.
In a race against time to save his bud, and with a shady government agency on his heels, headed up by a hammier friendlier version of The Walking Dead's Negan himself Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and a former genetic scientist (007 star Naomie Harris) in tow, Davis has it all to do.
Based on the 1980s video game where monsters menaced the city and picked off human armies, Rampage shows clearly its video game edge - ie little to no cohesive plot, scrabbling from one section to the next without any care for logic or anything to trouble the brain.
The problem with Rampage is that if you're expecting dumb, you'll get it in spades.
If you want some god-awful dialogue thrown in there as well (Morgan's agent spouting the line that "When science shits the bed, I'm the one called in to change the sheets" being the worst), then you'll be happy.
And if you simply want to see a bit of rote CGI monster smash city / Kaiju fight, you'll be satiated, but not satisfied.
Rampage, despite Johnson's usual charisma as he plays Dr Doolittle and beast bestie, is just not enough of anything to warrant much more than dumb.
Characters are woefully underwritten (step forward, Naomie Harris' expositionary scientist) and the bad guys are laughably paper-thin, but Rampage tries to take itself too seriously, when really it should just embrace the stupidity of what its premise is.
There are signs that it does this in the end, with Johnson rolling out his action jackson figure that we've all been expecting, but it comes too late in the day to really resonate.
WETA Digital's work with George is, as you'd expect from the Apes trilogy, stellar; but their work on the other creatures, while homage to the original villains of the game, stands out as looking a bit wobbly in places and less realistic than it could be.
Ultimately, and unfortunately, Rampage is not quite the popcorn thrill it should be - while it's at heart, a mash up of buddy movie and monster flick, the B-movie pretensions are what hold it back. It may be as dumb as a bag of spanners, but it's not smart enough to use that to its strength.
By refusing to embrace fully what it could be, Rampage goes from being a slam dunk to a film that shows that not everything Johnson touches can turn to gold, even if he coats it all in a few knowing nods here and there.