In 1993, CRISPR genetic editing technology was the hope for many with incurable diseases, but it was classified as a weapon of mass destruction in 2016 when companies began to look for profit in unintended uses. Energyne CEO Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) has been conducting experiments so dangerous they were performed on a space lab, but a horrific accident sends test samples plummeting to Earth. The first consequence is George (Jason Liles), a rare albino silverback gorilla at the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary saved from poachers by primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson). When his friend, who he can communicate with using sign language, grows two feet overnight and begins exhibiting aggressive behavior, Davis will go to great lengths to save him in "Rampage."
Inspired by the titular video game, four screenwriters have come up with one of the most preposterous pieces of popcorn cinema Johnson has starred in to date. To be sure, there are pleasures to be found in a giant ape flipping off 'The Rock,' but everything surrounding this central relationship is eye roll inducing.
Take the film's prologue, in which Dr. Atkins (Marley Shelton) is denied escape from the disintegrating Athena-1 spacelab until she's retrieved experimental samples. Akerman is so evil all she lacks is a mustache to twirl. That Atkins would have had one hell of a lawsuit to file had she survived is the type of logic these filmmakers cannot be bothered with. It only gets more implausible.
Davis teams up with Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a former Energyne employee who served time after trying to destroy 'Project Rampage' (the reason for her incarceration is, of course, held back to allow for an entirely unnecessary relationship obstacle). They are arrested by Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, recycling 'Walking Dead's' Negan) after George is sedated and loaded into the cargo plane Davis and Caldwell warn will never contain the ape. Of course, George awakens and brings the thing down, leaving Davis to save Caldwell and Russell with parachutes as George simply 'regenerates' and escapes.
Meanwhile, Wyden and her sniveling brother Brett (a mugging Jake Lacey) dispatch a team led by mercenary Burke (Joe Manganiello) to take out the giant wolf terrorizing Colorado. When that fails, Claire heads to the rooftop of Energyne's Chicago headquarters to set off a beacon that will call the creatures in, because obviously if anyone is going to stop the mayhem, it should be done in a heavily populated urban area. Chicago's waterways will also prove advantageous to the immense crocodile we've seen exiting Florida's swamps.
George, a combination of motion capture performance and digital effects, is a charming creature with a penchant for practical jokes, so despite his blue eyes turning red with rage, we fear for him rather than anyone in his path, just like King Kong and Mighty Joe Young before him (even so, the filmmakers let down their creation twice in the third act with an ill-advised gag shot that makes him a man eater and a groan-inducing final 'joke'). But while George just grows bigger, that giant wolf and crocodile, both entirely digital creations which dwarf George, take on more monstrous characteristics, the wolf developing webbing which allows it to fly, the spike-encased crocodile more teeth and tusks. Neither looks remotely natural. We're told time and time again that these creatures can regenerate, but that doesn't stop U.S. Army Colonel Blake (Demetrius Grosse) from ordering continual strikes.
Director Brad Peyton kept his almost equally ridiculous "San Andreas" afloat with family drama and situations that, while exaggerated, were based on real and timely threat. This time around, anything resembling reality or logic is tossed so Johnson, whose character super humanly survives all kinds of battering and bullets, can enjoy a bromance with an ape. Is he hoping this will be his very own "Bedtime for Bonzo?"
Robin did not see this film.
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Reeling has been chosen as a Movie Review Query Engine Top Critic.