The premise of Rampage is so silly that one constantly wishes the film would have the courage of its convictions in the silliness department. It almost works. In fact, the film features such a strong start - opening on a genuinely terrifying sequence set in space that establishes the premise while blurring the lines between what is real and what was forged by computers - that the feeling of being let down by the overlong and overly loud climax barely registers as disappointment. Even in that climax, director Brad Peyton allows some personality to come through.
Loosely inspired by the arcade game of the same name, the film's premise makes quite the shift: Instead of humans being turned into giant mammals or amphibian creatures, those mammals/creatures simply become bigger versions of themselves. It's a rather disappointing trade-off, to say the least, as imagining the insanity of the other premise is itself a form of entertainment. Still, the silliness of this premise is nothing compared to how well the team of screenwriters (Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, and Adam Sztykiel) introduce it to us.
After a scientific experiment, based in a lab on a space station right outside the earth's orbit, goes horribly awry, canisters of a sinister solution are sent falling through the atmosphere, landing in random spots. Three of them happen to fall near living things that investigate them: a wolf, an alligator, and an albino gorilla. That last one, named George, is an inhabitant of a wildlife sanctuary partly overseen by Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a primatologist who, it seems, is also just about everything else: former Special Forces, instantly adept at science that is outside his field of knowledge, and - it goes without saying - essentially superhuman.
It's probably not of enormous consequence to bring up that final point, but the only serious injury Davis seems to suffer is a gunshot to the abdomen, which comes near the end of a movie in which he also survives multiple aircraft crashes and the siege of a major city by giant animals. That city would be Chicago, which suffers so much damage that, when the military calls in an airstrike, it doesn't feel like much of a threat to what remains when it seems it's about to happen. The military's weapons, of course, don't work, so we get a lot of ordnance dropped on the animals before they start to get the picture.
In any case, the plot finds Davis and Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), one of the scientists responsible for the experiment, racing against the clock to Chicago, where the other scientists (a sibling pair played by Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) responsible for all this have a plan to capitalize on the destruction. The silliness of the set-up too eagerly shifts toward another kind of silliness - the kind that reveals the movie to be too sincere in its engagement of this material to offer much in the entertainment department. At the same time, with the exception of the introduction and use of the giant alligator (which becomes increasingly indestructible in amusing ways), Rampage can only offer a disaster scenario we've seen before.
Dwayne Johnson (Davis Okoye), Naomie Harris (Dr. Kate Caldwell), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Harvey Russell), Malin Akerman (Claire Wyden), Jake Lacy (Brett Wyden), P.J. Byrne (Nelson), Joe Manganiello (Burke), Jack Quaid (Connor), Breanne Hill (Amy), Marley Shelton (Dr. Kerry Atkins).
Directed by Brad Peyton and written by Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, and Adam Sztykiel.
Rated PG-13 (violence/action/destruction, brief language, crude gestures).
Released on April 13, 2018.