By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — Those looking for a film that seriously engages with the human condition or advances the art of cinema will not find what they’re looking for in “Rampage” (Warner Bros.).
Grown-ups out to kill the better part of two hours and willing to be satisfied with some campy fun, on the other hand, will have little cause for complaint.
An entertaining bit of outsized nonsense, the flick combines 1970s-style disaster movie spectacle with the even older altered-animal trope that gave the world Godzilla back in 1954. The fact that “Rampage” is derived in part from the video arcade game of the same title is a tipoff of what to expect from it, including destructive action and shallow characterizations.
Cue the cartoonishly villainous brother-and-sister team at the helm of an evil corporation called Energyne, Claire (Malin Akerman) and Brett (Jake Lacy) Wyden. The Wydens’ scheme to weaponize a DNA-changing chemical hits more than a bump in the road when the space station on which their secretive research is being carried out is destroyed, and containers of the substance plummet to various localities around the world.
One dose of it ends up infecting, transforming and enraging George, a previously peaceful albino gorilla who inhabits a fictional wildlife sanctuary attached to the real-life San Diego Zoo. To save George from running amok and being put down, his devoted trainer, Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), teams with geneticist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and with an unconventional government agent known simply as Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
Davis is a Special Ops veteran (of course), Kate used to work for Energyne (naturally), while Russell, who cultivates the image of a modern-day cowboy, represents the OGA — Other Government Agency. These connections come in handy once the trio find themselves not only trying to contain George but battling an enhanced wolf and a monstrous crocodile as well.
Devoid of any artistic or moral significance, director Brad Peyton’s mayhem meter invites the audience to revel in the gruesome downfall of the wicked siblings, though the toll exacted by the monsters is generally portrayed without blood. Additionally, the script includes an unusual number of vain invocations of the divine name.
These defects aside, “Rampage” makes for a mindless, pleasant romp — though viewers are likely to forget all about it shortly after exiting the theater.
The film contains frequent monster violence, mostly stylized but with some gore, several uses of profanity and a couple of milder oaths, at least one rough and numerous crude terms and obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.