When it was announced that a sequel to Jumanji would be made, I, still licking the wound of Robin Williams’ untimely death, thought to myself that this here was a movie I did not ask for. I kept asking “what’s the point?”Actually, I think a lot of people wondered the same thing. But what a surprise Welcome to the Jungle turned out to be.
The original Rampage arcade game came out in 1986, almost ten years before the first Jumanji movie. All I remember about it is that there were a lot of big buildings left at the mercy of overly big, and destructive animals. It turns out that was all there was to remember, and now, thirty years later, we have Rampage, another movie nobody asked for. This time, though it did have The Rock, there was no surprise.
The immediate blockade facing the pic was finding a way to expand its predecessor’s incredibly basic gameplay into a full length motion picture. And apparently, adding a corporate conglomerate (run by a despicable Malin Akerman and a greedy Jake Lacy) with apocalyptic intentions is the way director Brad Peyton and his screenwriters wanted to go.
Scientists for this corporation have developed a way to re-engineer genes using this gas-like substance called CRISPR. While CRISPR can perform miracles, such as curing cancer, the company has found that by combining the genetics of different kinds of animals, much more profitable – not to mention destructive – uses arise. An unexpectedly suspenseful one-shot scene starts off the film on a space station where experimentation on a rat obviously went awry. Limbs float by the one remaining geneticist, who manages to escape on a pod. However, the damaged vehicle does not make it through the atmosphere, sending the few remaining tests of CRISPR she managed to save hurtling down towards Earth.
One of the samples ends up in the wildlife conservation where primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) spends most of his time. Though it may be because of his disinterest in people, he has a special bond with these mammals; especially with one in particular, an incredibly intelligent albino gorilla named George.
George is one of the three animals to discover the weaponized DNA. The remaining two take the form of a wolf and a crocodile, all of which are transformed into ferocious, indestructible, and enlarged beasts. That’s a terrifying line up right there – the wolf is the most chilling of the creatures, as its carnage shreds people apart onscreen – especially once a signal is put out that sends them all on a B-line towards Chicago, setting up the urban battleground any fan of the arcade game would expect.
With Davis as he tries outrunning the creatures to Chicago are Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a discredited genetic engineer who helped create CRISPR to help her dying brother; and Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a cowboy trapped in a government agent’s suit. The majority of Rampage is spent building up the metropolis showdown anyone who actually wanted to see this came to see. As a result, the creators of Rampage sent their film into the ditch nearly all video game adaptations end up in: where they pick up the basic outline of a popular game, but not the reason the game is popular – the battle lasts only about twenty minutes of the nearly two-hour long runtime.
For what it’s worth, the final encounter, when it arrives, is just about exactly what you’d expect it to be. In fact, all of Rampage is what you’d expect to be; it doesn’t offer anything to the monster movie, the video game adaptation, or the Dwayne Johnson vehicle (this is The Rock’s fourth action-packed collaboration with Peyton), but it checks off all the boxes that go with each category, providing just enough entertainment to make it somewhat tolerable.
Johnson as Davis is given a larger-than-life persona, at least physically (he survives things that would make the T-1000 nervous). This is not much different than the performance he gave in San Andreas, and though this trope of his is simple, it has gotten the actor a lot of mileage. His introduction in the gorilla exhibit is pulled straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark; you expect a bull whip to come out, but it never does. Everyone looks to him for leadership (that is just about all Harris’ character does); the corporation considers him a greater threat than the three humungous monsters they have created; and apparently, the military, who never seems to figure out that their weapons are futile in this situation, does to, spending way too much time during this crisis trying to control him.
The audience for Rampage is out there; I’m just not a part of it. Still, as an action-filled blockbuster, though it’s not special, it works.