“Rampage,” director Brad Peyton’s latest film, enticingly combines a far-fetched plot with compelling animations and on-screen chemistry for an experience that is equally humorous and thought-provoking. The film is based on the eponymous video game by Midway Games and follows a quiet pathologist, Davis Okoye, while he desperately tries to keep his friend George, a gorilla, alive and simultaneously prevent a violent disaster.
The film begins in a space station, where a scientist must retrieve genetic samples as a horrifically large rat chases her. She escapes, but the samples enter the Earth’s atmosphere and fall over the United States where a crocodile, a wolf and a gorilla inhale the mysterious gas and begin to grow. When George is affected by the samples, his once tightknit relationship with Davis grows complicated.
As George continues to grow into a rabid beast, he slowly loses the human attributes that make him adorable. While Davis tries to keep George from self-destruction in his unintentional rampage, he meets Kate, an ex-genetic engineer played by Naomie Harris, who helps him navigate the unknown territory of genetic modification.
Davis hopes he and George will be able to repair their relationship and the madness will cease, yet George may be lost forever to the serum he was exposed to.
While the film’s plot is far-fetched, the abundance of action makes for a fun watch; the movie is packed with meaningful expressions of friendship and violence. Peyton’s direction and Jaron Presant’s cinematography combine to create incredibly kinetic shots that put audience members in Davis’s shoes as he faces the film’s many horrific creatures. The camera’s continual movement through each scene instead of static shots keeps the audience fully immersed and contributes to the film’s dynamism.
Despite its adherence to the archetypal structure of the action film, “Rampage” is delightfully witty and energetic. The three monstrous troublemakers who ravage through the film make the Tyrannosaurus rex of the 2015 film “Jurassic World” look tame, perhaps because the concept of a 30-foot wolf or a house-sized crocodile is so unusual. Moreover, the variety of afflicted animals along with George’s loss of humanity make the serum’s effects seem petrifying and realistic.
The relationship between George and Davis is also entirely genuine, a refreshing digression from the strain between man and gorilla in blockbusters like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is an attractive headliner for action films; his ability to handle physically demanding tasks while keeping situations light-hearted lends pizzazz to otherwise undistinguished action films. His chemistry with Harris makes the jokes sound relaxed rather than rehearsed and helps the audience relate to the storyline.
The film’s animation is impressive, as the wolf, crocodile and gorilla are relatively lifelike within the bounds of the silver screen. Throughout the film, viewers can see George’s eyes soften as his conscience returns and then watch him fall back under the biological haze of raging testosterone and increasing strength. The success of “Rampage” relies heavily on the high quality of the CGI that makes the nightmarish animals come to life.
The realism of the animations contributes to the film’s warning against the genetic optimization of predators as weapons. “Rampage” reminds watchers that, while genetic modifications may be used for good, they can also go awry.
This film is peppered with unexpected, hilarious moments that not only relieve tension but also keep viewers on the edge of their seats. “Rampage” is a rare mainstream movie that balances unlikely escapes and stunning action without taking itself too seriously, making it an enjoyable movie instead of a cookie-cutter blockbuster.