Back in 2015, Rock “The Dwayne” Johnson conquered an earthquake. A few short months from now, he’ll topple a skyscraper. But in this particular entry in the “The-Rock-battles-CGI-sploitation” subgenre, he takes on gargantuan mutated animals. Yes, I’ve got a lot to say about Rampage… but does any of it really matter? You can’t critique a movie like this. You saw the trailers, you bought the ticket, you knew what you were gonna get. And what you get is Jeffrey Dean Morgan at his Jeffrey Dean Morgan-iest, Joe Manganiello warming up for the Deathstroke solo flick in a role that takes a page from Channing Tatum’s textbook on brief-yet-memorable cameo appearances, and Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy playing villains so cartoonish that I’m surprised their names aren’t Boris and Natasha.
If it seems like I’m focusing more on the human characters than the giant monsters, that’s because the film itself treats the giant monsters as a secondary concern. Although the kaiju action is sufficiently spectacular once the narrative finally gets around to it, director Brad Peyton apparently didn’t have the budget to sustain it for a full hour and forty-five minutes, and therefore settled on the solution of padding the hell out of the running time (similar to how Michael Bay handled the Transformers franchise). Fortunately, the live-action side of the plot actually isn’t that bad. Granted, The Rock’s usually impressive ability to play literally any part with absolute sincerity does’t necessarily benefit a story that otherwise refuses to take itself too seriously (a graphically mutilated corpse or two notwithstanding), but Denim Jeans Morgan is clearly having a blast with his cowboy cop federal agent routine, and Akerman and Lacy are effective enough as mustache-twirling antagonists to make their grisly fates deliciously satisfying.
Yes, this is a rather significant departure from the original arcade game, in which people are little more than health power-ups… but this adaptation only superficially resembles its source material anyway (forever dashing my hopes of seeing Malin Akerman transform into a Godzilla-esque lizard creature—c’est la vie). And I can’t exactly complain about that. I saw the trailers, I bought the ticket, I knew what I was gonna get. And what I got was The Rock walking off a bullet wound to the gut like it was a damn mosquito bite, Just A Small Salad pouring on enough charm to make me question my sexuality, and a mo-cap albino gorilla that kicks reptile tail, knows how to flip the bird, and thankfully—at Mr. Johnson’s insistence—does’t die at the end.
It’s the kind of junk food cinema that gives me a major toothache, but still tastes pretty darn sweet in the moment.
[Originally written May 7, 2018.]