The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



“Rampage” was an old videogame in which a giant King Kong-like ape, a massive Godzilla-esque lizard, and a humongous wolf climbed buildings and ate people while dodging the military tanks trying to shoot them down. It was fairly simple, yet also addictive. Rampage is the movie version of that game. I could probably end the review right here. Whatever you think the film's weaknesses and strong points will be based on that information, you're absolutely right.

What would you do if you were hired to write this screenplay? You'd definitely need a hero – maybe a primatologist like Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson). And you'd certainly need to have some sort of villain, probably the requisite corrupt businessperson, not unlike Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman). Of course, they would need to be tied together somehow. Maybe Claire has developed some sort of DNA hybrid chemical that makes animals grow big and aggressive. Why? Because she wants to weaponize them, of course! Sure, it's been done a million times before; it can be done a million and one. Then have Davis's albino gorilla somehow ingest a dose of the chemical, grow to outrageous proportions, and go berserk.

From there, the script practically writes itself. Show that a wolf and a crocodile have somehow also taken in the chemical, find some lame excuse to get them all to a major city – Chicago, perhaps – and turn them loose to wreck everything in sight. Bingo, you're done.

Perhaps you can see the problem with trying to turn a videogame like “Rampage” into a movie. There's no story, so one has to be invented. The concept is not really conducive to a story, though. It's specifically designed to just be about smashing stuff. Rampage puts a lot of emphasis on such smashing, surrounding it with cliched plot points to pad things out between creature attacks. What you're left with is long stretches of monotony, punctuated by occasional moments of dumb fun, culminating in a final half-hour that does what the whole contraption is ultimately designed to do.

Rampage would have seemed a little more original had it not come on the heels of so many other movies in which gargantuan creatures battle each other. We've already had five Transformers pictures, two Pacific Rims, and a Kong: Skull Island. There's nothing here we haven't seen several times before in the last decade, which only serves to make the laziness of the plotting more obvious.

Sometimes it feels as though movies are made because the technology allows it, not because anyone is especially excited about telling a story. Rampage absolutely comes off like that. The fight scenes are enjoyably goofy, if admittedly routine, but they're few and far between until the last thirty minutes. Because anything that isn't a fight scene is dull, and because this is the umpteenth FX-heavy creature bash-a-thon, the final results are mixed.

Despite impressive visuals, you can tell where the film's heart is. When hitting its desired note, things are fine. But the film is beholden to the fact that it needs a hook on which to hang the action sequences. Rampage couldn't care less about that hook. Neither could we.

( 1/2 out of four)

Rampage is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.

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