9/10 Rampage has The Rock fist-bumping an albino gorilla. It’s fucking awesome!
In low orbit, a lab rat that has received Energyne’s secret gene mutation formula breaks free and barrels through a satellite testing facility. As the shuttle disintegrates, three remaining vials scatter across North America, including one that lands in the San Diego wildlife preserve where Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) watches over George (Jason Liles), one of the last albino lowland gorillas in the world. Normally peaceful, if a bit of a pottymouth, George swells to twice his size overnight and begins recklessly destroying everything around him. As George berserks through San Diego and a similarly afflicted grey wolf thunders through the Wyoming mountains, killing for sport, Energyne’s evil CEO Claire Wyden (Malin Âkerman) activates a sub-sonic broadcast to summon her creations to headquarters. George and Ralph stampede to Chicago and just trash the place — all while a previously unknown monster, Lizzie the crocodile, storms up the Illinois river.
Remember a couple of weeks ago when I said Ready Player One was the rare meticulously crafted blockbuster? Rampage is the rarer, more meticulously crafted blockbuster. It’s absolutely wonderful.
This is a piece of brainless CGI schlock that’s still wonderfully detailed and well thought-out. Director/producer Brad Peyton takes extreme care to prominently keep humans and small objects in frame for scale. Even when the skyscraper-sized crocodile with tusks rips open the screen, Rampage never feels divorced from reality because the human context of the action is always clear — and always awesome.
Maybe it’s because of the heavy CGI use, meaning that actual cameras were rarely part of the process, but the action sequences are well choreographed and clearly had a lot of thought put into them. Rampage’s lengthy final act is liberally dotted with sweeping, ambitious long shots and capped with some surprisingly brutal kills.
Despite its video game origins, Rampage absolutely refuses to play itself off as a joke. Allowing for Jeffery Dean Morgan’s extravagant performance as government agent Harvey Russell, every character takes every situation completely seriously. It’s not dark or gritty, but there’s always a sense that real lives are at stake here.
The gravity of the rest of the movie allows George’s pottymouth to shine, and middle school poop jokes that would draw scattered chuckles in less intelligent movies elicit deep belly-laughs instead.
The trouble is, that’s not going to be enough. Originally set for an April 20 release, Rampage was moved to the April 13 slot — recently vacated by New Mutants, which was called to essentially be remade from the ground up just two months before its release — in order to give it more room after The Avengers: Infinity War was bumped back to April 27 to give it more space ahead of Solo: A Star Wars Story, which Disney insists on releasing May 25 despite the obvious fact that it’s not going to be ready by then. With Thanos set to corner the market on ticket sales as well as infinity stones, Rampage really only has this two week window to make its money.
After one weekend in release, the $120 million movie is sitting at $151.5 million worldwide. There’s nothing competitive coming out next weekend, but returning moviegoers are probably more likely to check out A Quiet Place for a second time than Rampage. Assuming it eventually doubles its current international mark and ends up with around $300 million, that’s decent, but not nearly enough to justify the initial investment.
That’s probably not the end of the world — Rampage, refreshingly, doesn’t spend any time setting up a sequel, leaving everything it has on the field in one two-hour sitting. But I do want to see more from the people that put it together.
Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate and managing editor of The Lewisville Texan Journal. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter and Instagram and support it on Patreon. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.