The Rock cracks wise as monsters run amok in the lunatic arcade adaptation Rampage

Rampage,” director Brad Peyton’s latest film, enticingly combines a far-fetched plot with compelling animations and on-screen chemistry for an experience. That is equally humorous and thought-provoking.

The film is based on the eponymous video game by Midway Games and follows a quiet pathologist, Davis Okoye. While he desperately tries to keep his friend George, a gorilla, alive and simultaneously prevent a violent disaster.

The film begins in a space station, where a scientist must retrieve genetic samples as a horrifically large rat chases her. She escapes. But the samples enter the Earth’s atmosphere and fall over the United States where a crocodile, a wolf and a gorilla inhale the mysterious gas and begin to grow. When George is affected by the samples, his once tightknit relationship with Davis grows complicated.

As George continues to grow into a rabid beast, he slowly loses the human attributes that make him adorable.

While Davis tries to keep George from self-destruction in his unintentional rampage. He meets Kate, an ex-genetic engineer played by Naomie Harris, who helps him navigate the unknown territory of genetic modification.

Davis hopes he and George will be able to repair their relationship and the madness will cease. George may be lost forever to the serum he was exposed to.

While the film’s plot is far-fetched, the abundance of action makes for a fun watch. The movie is packed with meaningful expressions of friendship and violence. Peyton’s direction and Jaron Presant’s cinematography combine to create incredibly kinetic shots. That put audience members in Davis’s shoes as he faces the film’s many horrific creatures. The camera’s continual movement through each scene instead of static shots keeps the audience fully immersed. That contributes to the film’s dynamism.

Despite its adherence to the archetypal structure of the action film, “Rampage” is delightfully witty and energetic.

The three monstrous troublemakers who ravage through the film make the Tyrannosaurus rex of the 2015 film “Jurassic World” look tame. Perhaps because the concept of a 30-foot wolf or a house-sized crocodile is so unusual. Moreover, the variety of afflicted animals along with George’s loss of humanity make the serum’s effects seem petrifying and realistic.

The relationship between George and Davis is also entirely genuine, a refreshing digression from the strain. That between man and gorilla in blockbusters like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is an attractive headliner for action films. His ability to handle physically demanding tasks while keeping situations light-hearted lends pizzazz to otherwise undistinguished action films. His chemistry with Harris makes the jokes sound relaxed rather than rehearsed and helps the audience relate to the storyline.

Loosely adapted from the arcade button-masher of the same name. Rampage is an early contender for the most bewilderingly schizophrenic big-budget movie of the year: an ape-shit spectacle for a bat-shit era.

True to its title, conceit, and mindless video-game source material. The film has no shortage of death and destruction, as three supersized mutant animals stampede through civilization like bulls in a china shop. They knocking down buildings and gobbling up bystanders. And yet all this surprisingly violent mayhem has been nestled into a brisk, corny. Even vaguely family-friendly action comedy about the platonic love affair between The Rock and his best friend, an orphaned. Albino gorilla with what you might call an off-color sense of humor.

The gorilla’s name is George, and he lives in a San Diego wildlife preserve, under the care of impossibly buff bachelor Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson). As far as implausibility goes, city-destroying monsters have nothing on The Rock playing a primatologist. Even one who came to Jane Goodall’s calling through special-ops work. But maybe a movie with this much breathless pseudoscience demands a properly improbable pseudoscientist.

Davis has forged a wisecracking, cross-species bromance with his simian companion. Who he rescued from poachers years earlier and whose fluency in sign language makes Koko look like a total dunce. George, in other words, is a pretty remarkable ape even before he gets into a lost canister of gene-splicing pathogen and grows to the size of a small building. He’s also, to be honest, kind of a dick—a prankster whose habit of scaring the bejesus out of green interns for his own amusement sets the sadistic tone.

Sometimes the gearshifts are louder than Godzilla’s war cry:

This is a movie that chases a shot of rescue workers evacuating a smoldering downtown Chicago—imagery that can’t help but evoke 9/11, especially when set to mournful music—with a giant ape doing the universal hand gesture for sex. What holds it all together, just barely, is The Rock.

Ostensibly, franchise fare of this sort has no need for famous headliners; the premise is the star. But Johnson’s singular charisma—his way with a one-liner, the built-in special effect of his unreal physique—grounds Rampage in a consistent personality, even as the tone veers wildly from broadly comic to selectively sentimental to casually horrifying.

Hell, he even sells the character’s undying loyalty to rude, crude George, flipping cars and the bird, pummeling a humanity that had it coming. Some joked that the last American Godzilla movie, a much more artfully crafted creature feature, was a “post-human blockbuster.” Maybe this is just the first post-Harambe blockbuster.

INFO:

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Brad Peyton
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman
Written By: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan Condal, Adam Sztykiel
In Theaters: Apr 13, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Jun 26, 2018
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Peter Howell
It’s not a good film; it’s actually a supremely silly one. But with Dwayne Johnson once again flexing his pecs in the cause of popcorn distraction, it’s not entirely bereft of amusements, either.

Edward Porter
Cinema ticket prices these days are quite giant-sized, too, and this particular show isn’t worth full-cost admission.

Matthew Norman
You will leave the cinema in a jollier mood than when you arrived, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

Matthew Lickona
It may be based on a video game, but it plays like a live-action cartoon, one that doubles as a fantastical journey into the imagination and sensibility of a 10-year-old boy, complete with rude hand gestures and goofy declarations of badassery.

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