Rampage over Artistry

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is back. This time around he is battling giant monsters together with his colossal-sized gorilla buddy, George. By the sounds of the plot, audiences may be resistant anticipating that the film is poorly plotted, acted and directed. Rampage is worse though. Christian Tesfaye awards 4 out of 10 stars.

Life is hard, and movies make it easier. Often than not though, this is done by giving us plots and scenarios that are utterly flimsy. They do not require a smidgen of thought, revelling in unfettered ignorance and dispossession of originality in the name of escapism. Such excuse for lack of imagination and effort is unforgivable.

Rampage is one of those movies. Critics may pass it off as a silly but entertaining monster movie. Not me. No one ever said that monster movies could not be a commentary on the human condition or have an interesting, unpredictable plot.

Those same critics would have us believe that King Kong, released in 1933, was such a movie, only original in that it came first and the special effects used were impressive for its time.

This could not be further from the truth. The classic monster movie had grit and substance. By design or coincidence, it could be viewed either as an interracial love story or intimacy between beings of differing backgrounds. It was the sort of film whose filmmakers were willing enough to shock and inspire.

There is none of that in Rampage. There is not even an effort to tell a good story. This is a movie that thinks it is nifty because it pitted Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with bigger antagonists.

Dwayne plays Davis, a zoologist that deals with primates. His favourite of the animals at a San Diego animal sanctuary is George, an albino gorilla who can sign and is almost as conscious as a human. But George begins to change after a night of encountering a canister that has fallen of an escape pod from a space station. Inside the canister is a chemical compound that can alter a living being’s DNA.

Other than George, a wolf and a crocodile also assimilate the chemicals and mutate into storeys-long monsters with regenerative powers and aggressive tendencies. For some reason, George is spared, but the wolf and crocodile also become uglier and are gifted with extra abilities.

The monsters are attracted to the city of Chicago by a powerful radio signal, which drives them crazy until they destroy it. Although the military tries to evacuate residents before the monsters reach the city, it is unlikely that causalities will not be high. Thus, Davis teams up with a genetics engineer and a secret government agent to come to the rescue.

The director is Brad Peyton, who is well known for his movies that require immense suspension of disbelief. One of his earlier feature film outings was Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. It is a film about cats and dogs who try to stop a cat supervillain from taking control of a space station to transmit powerful radio signals that only dogs can hear. I am embarrassed to say that I have seen this movie.

This is not Peyton’s first collaboration with Johnson. They have worked together previously in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas. The former was only slightly good. This is all thanks to Jules Verne who had written the book of the similar name as the subtitle over a century ago which the 21st-century filmmakers did not capitalise on whatsoever except for an onslaught of special effects.

San Andreas was as terrible as Rampage. It was a movie whose story existed not to tell a story but to justify the earthquakes and collapsing buildings. It is not much different than Rampage in that the human story never existed; it would have been as watchable.

I think Johnson is a unique actor. He could give great performances under comic settings. But he has had enough of the action roles he seems fond of. He is too normal for that. There is nothing exciting in seeing a sizable fellow beat up guys that are, usually, smaller in stature than him.

Where is the fun in watching a protagonist that is not visibly vulnerable win?

It is better that he becomes selective and not take every role that is thrown at him. Kevin Hart and Kassahun Fisseha, a.k.a Mandela, have chosen to go down that road, which may have allowed them to become financially successful, but it has not gotten them any class

By Christian Tesfaye
Exclusive to Fortune

Published on Apr 28,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 939]



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