Thursday, April 12, 2018

Aptly named ‘Rampage’ supplies gigantic thrills via wild animals gone wilder

By Steve Crum
Rampage delivers on its title. Big time. Described as a science fiction-monster movie, it is exactly that: a giant monster flick (featuring three baddies) that is nearly non-stop action, destruction and thrills from about 15 minutes into its 107 total. Middle schoolers, particularly, should love this one. It’s fun for older kids and adults too.
This is supported by the sounds of the youngsters near me at the screening. Their reactionary screams made me jump even more. 
However, Rampage is by no means in a best film of the year category. But it IS a well honed monster flick using formula shock gimmicks that will frequently make one squirm and jump. (Beware of the giant wolf in the forest sequence.) 
Brad Peyton (Cats and Dogs, San Andreas) directs a screenplay (Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel) that is based on a classic and rather cartoonish 1986 computer game series called, appropriately, Rampage. (Warner Bros. acquired the rights when it bought Midway Games.) Peyton chose to use CGI to convert the animated game look into a realistic spectacle in which a chunk of Chicago is destroyed by the U. S. Army battling giant creatures.
In the compelling opening sequence, set in the San Diego Zoo’s Wildlife Sanctuary, we see primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson once again typecast in a jungle-like setting) introducing some young colleagues to George, a rare, albino silverback gorilla. Okoye and George have obviously established great rapport, and communicate with each other by sign language. 
Cut to a space station wherein an experimental drug has turned disastrous for the sole scientist aboard, who is fighting for her life against a gigantic, deranged rat. Soon, three cylinders filled with the gaseous form hurtle to earth. Two of them hit land, one in water. Wa-la, the three animals exposed to the gas soon grow much, much larger…and are driven by killer instincts. There is a grey wolf, a crocodile (which becomes Godzilla-like in appearance), and…George. Eventually, George resembles a white-furred King Kong. 
Turns out that the experimentation is the nasty work of a greedy chemical corporation, located in Chicago, which sends an electronic signal to summon the three monsters to head for Windy City. Driven by his protective camaraderie for George, Okoye teams with a genetic engineer (Naomie Harris) and the head of a private military group (Joe Manganiello), as they trek to Chicago to overpower the corporate bad guy-scientists and rescue George. 
Essentially turning to formula plotting, Rampage provides a hero (or three) versus some mad scientists who have unleashed monsters. We have seen this before, but it works very comfortably here. 
And there are plenty of laughs along the way. 

GRADE on an A-F Scale: B-