Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Dwayne Johnson has over the years, become known for a certain type of movie. The cheesiness he has always embraced with a wink and a smile (remember the 3D gimmick of pec-popping berries at the camera in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island?) but it's only recently that audiences have figured it out; The Rock makes stupid but enjoyable movies -- and he puts effort into them.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was the height of this realization, a movie that had no right to be that funny, that silly, and that meaningful at the same time. Because of that movie, Rampage disappointed me.

I guess Welcome to the Jungle really was something special.

It tries to be essentially the same thing: an outlandish premise? Secret animal experiments in space go awry, and the dangerous concoction crashes back to earth, infecting an albino ape with super-growth and aggression. So, yes, check. Comedy? Not as much, but the film is sure to give the ape a "sense of humor." There's banter and one-liners. And meaningful? Well, it is genuinely attempted, but only works against the precedent of movies like Transformers sequels which are the same type of giant and destructive but completely devoid of any meaning.

That is to say, it's extremely light on meaning, but it puts it on full display so we'll notice that there's like, theme and stuff in a movie where an albino King Kong fights a flying giant wolf with quills in its tail. And it does make the movie feel less mindless, but at a cost. Because most of the movie is spent with Davies (Johnson) and co. (mostly just Naomie Harris) trying to keep George (mo-capped by Jason Liles) safe as he grows, and has fits of rage while government idiots (led by the remarkably fun Jeffery Dean Morgan) try to take him away so they can put him down.

I'm guessing they made him albino so comparisons to King Kong wouldn't be as obvious?

The cost in that because George is a good guy character, the movie refuses to let him do anything too terrible. No killing; minor destruction only. And besides a brief red-shirt encounter with the big bad wolf near the beginning, that's all that happens until the last act. Granted, it's better than letting George kill without discretion and then still value his life over the faceless innocents he's rampaging on, but, the movie is called Rampage. And there's not much of it until the final showdown.

Cutting back on CGI monster fights is fine by me, but it's only really worth it if the content that replaces it is better. In this case it's basically a toss-up, and only then because the monster fighting wasn't all that spectacular to begin with. The crocodile with shark teeth we already saw in Annihilation, the flying wolf wasn't nearly as cool as it sounds, and George didn't even do the classic King Kong break-the-jaw-open move. Is it trademarked or something? It a typical CGI rumble.

I would've been happier with more effort put into the rampaging, and I would've been happier with more effort in the character department. I get that both is too much to ask for, (it shouldn't be) but they held each other back, so neither was satisfactory. The most memorable aspect turns out to be the comedy though it rarely got a chuckle from me. The banter between George and Davies was relatively good, and credit for going for the bad jokes on purpose is due -- that was a bold move.

Let them fight.

It's the charisma and effort of The Rock that keeps it all afloat, is what this boils down to. He has a special talent for making the worthless content as interesting as anything else. I love Naomie Harris, but her character is so much a nothing-burger that all I could think was what is the world is she doing in this movie. Jeffery Dean Morgan is having fun, but his character is too cliched, and then the second he isn't, the movie drops him. And the bad guys are exactly the bad guys from Incredibles 2, I kid you not.

It has its moments as a dumb CGI romp, but don't kid yourself; Rampage is a mess. And if it's really a mess you're looking for, there are bigger, badder, funner, and more memorable ones out there to be found.

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