Rampage [Review by Haus]
Let us please, at the outset, be clear: Rampage is based on an 1986 arcade game in which colossal mutant animals tear up cities while little army men try to stop them. The film adaptation of this (but, but…) is a full-octane spectacle; it is at once crushingly stupid and supremely entertaining.
Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Rampage is so vapid, so senseless, so go-for-broke extreme, so legitimately and purposefully funny, so surprisingly well paced, and so utterly dedicated to its strange craft that I have laid down my weapons and deemed it, actually, beyond my reproach.
Rampage is a treasure. A very foolish treasure. You will hate it, at times, yes. But you must love it in the end.
I shall now review this movie. The Rock is good here. Product placement, including the allegedly-forthcoming Ford Bronco, is thick here. Supporting actors (including Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman) are good here. The CGI is, I must confess, good here. Beyond the foregoing endorsements I steadfastly refuse to engage in traditional criticism on what is essentially either a lunatic smearing feces on his padded wall OR a blinding ray of pure inspiration.
Okay, some more dispatches from the trenches: The gorilla, George, is surprisingly sympathetic and at times legitimately funny. The plot is something this same gorilla would concoct if lobotomized and left to fiddle with fridge magnets. Joe Manganiello is in this movie. That prototype Bronco has a mighty throaty exhaust note. Helicopters do not behave as depicted. A giant alligator scales the Sears Tower. The best moments come when The Rock is talking sign language to the giant ape. This film could have been stupid and hackneyed. Instead, it is stupid and surprising. Stupid and fun.
Rampage made me happy. I grunt and bang my chest at it.
On the science, permit me this aside. Back in 2005 I attended a screenwriting workshop at AFI. The U.S. Air Force funded this experience, sending a gaggle of dyed-in-the-KimWipes scientists into the Hollywood hills for five long days to learn the three-act structure from no less than the great Syd Field. (Yes, this really happened.) Anyway, one of the exercises we “elite scientists” got into there involved compiling examples of good and bad portrayals of science and scientists in film — both the worst offenders (e.g. Mission to Mars) and those films that did it right (e.g., Sunshine, Code 46, Primer).
I say that to say this: Between that workshop and a biochem PhD, I have some experience evaluating science on film. I can tell when a movie does science well, when a movie does science poorly, and — importantly in this case — when a movie wads up every wrongheaded misconception and groany trope, kiln-fires them all into a tough little brick, and then smashes you nonstop in the face with it for two blessed hours.
So yes, Rampage wantonly and unnecessarily pollutes our cultural commons with unhelpful half-truths about Crispr gene editing, DNA, and just about everything else. Science is not Done Right.
But I’ve made my peace with this and you should too. Rampage is here to entertain. It turns each and every one of us into a bemused and lazy king, gazing droopy-eyed at the court jester. So yawn, mainline some ICEE, munch some sweets. These are performers, your majesty, and they are here to entertain you. This is the pageant, the great extravaganza to thrill and delight and distract your highness. Let it. Let it! Atta-king.
Haus Verdict: Rampage is every bit as bad as you suspect, but far more fun than it has any credible right to be.
Rampage opens Friday, April 13.
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