Created: November 8, 2020, 11:43 pm
Written by Ryan Speck
I thought I'd get a little ahead by watching two movies in the same day. Unfortunately, that second movie was Rampage. The script was so incredibly inept and so much sheer bullshit was thrown all over the screen that I can barely remember anything that happened in a meaningful or comprehensible way, especially a day later. The film seems to have drifted from my mind like some terrible fever dream.
By the rating appearing next to this review, you'll notice that I've rated it as below average, as opposed to just being direly awful, but that's just the mindless action and spectacle undercutting the truly sinister nature of this script. This is a 1 out of 5 script, if I've ever seen one. I know Dwayne Johnson does any number of films that aren't good and makes them work nonetheless, but I can't quite fathom why he made this one. Aside from the obvious fact that it's based on an 80s arcade game that most people forgot long ago, it was a mess outside of that flimsy premise. Call it anything you like and try to modify the nature of the plot and you still have these terrible, stereotypical characters that feel like they're out of a twenty-year-old disaster movie instead of something vaguely modern. Dwayne can pull off almost anything, so he remains basically unscathed, and Naomie Harris is too earnest and perhaps too good of an actor to look terrible in this, but Jeffery Dean Morgan comes out looking like shit and Malin Akerman exposed just about every flaw she has as an actress by taking her strongest qualities, her light personality and her genuine likablity, and abandoning them to play a cold bitch villain that probably should have been played by a waspy British actress with a resume full of scenery-chewing. Malin's a dead fish and Jeffery is a fucking clown and we feel bad for both of them, but glad that they got paid. Joe Manganiello mostly escapes none the worse for wear, probably because he dies early on. Which was the one real surprise of the movie. When you're introduced to the mercenary leader that's working for the corporate bad guys of the movie, you expect that he's the one that will be the true nemesis by the movie's end. But, nope, we're supposed to find Malin and her dunce brother to somehow be acceptable if not formidable opponents for our heroes.
The villains truly are something right out of Resident Evil. We're introduced in our very first scene to their experiment-gone-awry in the form of an astronaut/scientist attempting to escape from a burning space station. Marley Shelton hopefully got a good check to show up in this short scene. She's the lone survivor who's being denied access to the escape module by ground control (which seems unreasonable on its face) until she gathers experimental samples to bring back to earth. She manages to get the sample cannisters and get back to the escape pod before a giant rat gets to her, but not before the pod's glass is damaged and she burns up on reentry. Now, if you'll allow me a moment, some things are stated later on: for one, the villains need to collect the cannisters (and, later, samples of the infected creatures) because they apparently have no idea what the formula their scientists were testing contained, something they could have easily found out by bringing the cannisters back to earth before testing or, even, before launching them into space; second, they specifically designed their formula to make creatures grow to be gigantic, become super-aggressive, super-strong, super-agile, and possess any number of other random mutations, yet they seem surprised that the rat they tested it on became gigantic and destroyed their space station, something they're unhappy about the loss of. Who is such a formula for? In brainless dumbfuck fiction (like Resident Evil), there's always the ever-present boogeyman of "military applications" as the excuse for the proceedings, despite the fact that anyone with four brain cells to rub together knows that there's no feasible way an idea this dumb wouldn't manage to hugely backfire and kill everyone. The same is true here. They've developed a formula to basically create fucking kaiju and want to sell it to the military? What is the military going to do with a hard-to-deafeat and uncontrollable giant monster? They say the only reason they're testing in space to begin with is because they'd be thrown in jail if they tested it on earth (as if that's ever stopped any corporation from doing something). They know what they're doing is illegal. Who do they think is going to buy it? And that's just the first and most basic premise of the movie.
Dwayne plays our beefy former military, former anti-poaching UN gun-for-hire, now primatologist. (Because we all know that having a meaningful experience with an animal suddenly makes you qualified to work as a research scientist at a zoo.) He teaches gorillas sign language and basically raised the albino leader of the troop, George, from the time he was a baby, really fucking up the time scale of this movie, since George looks like he's at least 30 years old (for an unrealistic-looking CGI gorilla) and you can't imagine Dwayne having been in this job for decades.
We start out with the usual annoying cast of co-worker side characters. I greatly feared that these people were going to stick around for the whole movie, but they were promptly jettisoned when Naomie Harris showed up and the monkey escaped, much to my surprise and delight. (Jack Quaid has a type and it's very annoying, one of the reasons I didn't want to watch The Boys.)
Anyway, after the expositional introductions, the cannisters (which we're told are engineered not to burn up on reentry) crash into the earth and all rupture in a very specific way so as to only release the contained pathogen when an animal is conveniently close to the capsule and sticking its face in to examine it. (This script had a minimum of four writers. Did I mention that? It took four people, bare minimum to make a script this terrible in the Year of Our Lord 2018.) George is infected. We find him the next day having encroached on the grizzly enclosure, where he's murdered the animal and grown in size substantially.
Disgraced former scientist for the bad guys, Naomie Harris, hears something about bits of the space station crashing into the zoo and, immediately knowing what's going on for no reason whatsoever, she ignores her job and rushes over to try to get her hands on the cannister. She claims she can help George and cure him, as she's the one who helped create the shit in the first place, but there's barely time to discuss it before the growing and enraged George tears his cage apart, Kool-Aid Man's his way through some walls, and escapes to the zoo parking lot, where the San Diego police are arriving to do what police do, which is mostly point guns at things. Mr. The Rock has gotten them to back off and almost has George momentarily calmed down when a black helicopter appears and someone in military gear starts shooting the giant gorilla full of tranq darts from an automatic rifle. Now, Joe Manganiello's crew of evil mercenaries had just been introduced in a previous scene and sent to Wyoming to kill a giant wolf to get a sample (so the bad guys can get the formula that they already had for some unknown reason), so I wondered why they were there. But it wasn't the mercenaries. (They're busy all being murdered by a giant flying wolf in one of the next scenes.) We're never told who the actual fuck it was, assumedly just magic Homeland Security helicopters that were there in seconds before anyone knew there was a problem. We sort of get that impression when, in the next scene, DHS has arrested Dwayne and Naomie and is sticking them on a military plane, something that probably couldn't be done, nor does it make any sense that it was. They didn't actually commit any kind of crime. DHS doesn't seem to have any use for them and they don't seem to be taking them anywhere specific; they just want to arrest them so there can be an action scene on the plane, leading to it crashing. Jeffery Dean Morgan is a nebulous government agent who doesn't really question them so much as mock and tease them, because he already knows more than anyone else in the movie, possibly because he read the script. That's the only justification I can think of. Dwayne advises against an angry infected ape on the plane, but Morgan condescends and knows better. He is immediately wrong, the monkey wakes up and trashes the plane, and the three name actors are the only survivors, parachuting away before the plane and ape crash.
You see, the Umbrella Corporation... I mean, Energyne heads, the Wyden siblings, engineered something else into their absurd do-anything genetic soup that their green mist turns anything it touches into: it also allows them to transmit a radio signal and enrage the giant monsters to come to them, with only one goal - to stop the nagging signal. This is what has awakened George on the plane. And now it's drawing all three infected monsters toward downtown Chicago. (Yes, three. There's a giant mutant alligator we'll see soon enough.) Up next from the Umbrella playbook, they're going to bring all the monsters to a heavily-populated city where they'll let the military do their dirty work, then they'll collect some samples of the formula they definitely should have but don't, even though they have an antidote stored in the building and supposedly have an outside server only they can access with all their evil plans and experiments on it. They are this arch and don't give a fuck about killing thousands of Chicago citizens, but had to do the experiment in space because they were worried about getting caught? The writers should be summarily executed, that's all I'm saying.
Now's the point where the military gets involved and our three name actors show up at the military field base, where it's the military's turn to not listen, know better, and try to arrest Dwayne and Naomie for no conceivable charges. As they're being taken away, Dwayne easily takes out two MPs after telling the MPs exactly what he's going to do to them. You see, he was Special Forces; he is a badass. They decide to take the medevac chopper that won't be missed and sneak off to Chicago to stop the monsters themselves. Jeffery Dean Morgan catches them immediately, because he's a government agent, making him roughly psychic. He knew exactly what they'd do and he approves. He gives them a radio or satphone or something. It's never clear and sorts of acts like both. They head out as the city turns into a CGI monster brawl. The military is completely ineffective. They can't manage the ape and wolf and, then, an even-larger alligator arrives. The military immediately turns all its attention to that instead, for no good reason, and they're absolutely fucked sideways. It would probalby help if their helicopters and planes wouldn't descend to about 30 feet off the ground to attack. Jets are using only guns and not missiles and attacking from meters out instead of miles; helicopters hover in place and shoot their cannons pointlessly at the creatures instead of their missiles until the monsters just reach up and easily tear them apart. Evasive maneuvers are for punk bitches, anyway.
The colonel in charge, Demetrius Grosse at a real career low, decides to drop a bomb that will annihilate half of Chicago, something a colonel can surely do, unilaterally, without any input from the Joint Chiefs or the President or the Pentagon... Whatever. He seems perfectly fine in probably killing tens of thousands of people because he begrudgingly called for an evacuation like a couple of hours before, so everyone should be out if they wanted to live or whatever.
Meanwhile, the Wydens are having everything in their company seized by the FBI, but they aren't being arrested or taken in for questioning or anything. The FBI only wants their hard drives and servers and then they jet right out of the movie again. But, like I said, secret server. Not that it even comes up again.
So, as mayhem is going on in the city, Dwayne and Naomie get to Energyne to find the cure and stop the creatures. Despite everything being taken by the FBI just to make it harder for them to find the cure in this scene, the just look in very obvious places and find it immediately. Naomie grabs three of the giant EpiPens full of counter-agent (that won't change the creatures back, but will eliminate the aggression, making it a very fucking mediocre solution to their terrible experimental product). But the Wydens are there... and they have a gun! Now, despite being able to take down two MPs with raised weapons, no problem, Dwayne lays down like a little bitch for a goofy rich kid in a suit because he sort of has a gun pointed at them. Then Malin grabs the gun from him, giving Dwayne the perfect opportunity to take them out, but he decides he's a pussy and lets her shoot him in the gut instead.
They take two of the three doses of "cure" (Naomie secreted one in her pocket) and drag Naomie to the roof, because they're going to make her recreate their missing formula from scratch and they need to get away via helicopter. There's a helipad on the roof, exactly where I thought Dwayne and Naomie should have landed their helicopter instead of in the street a few scenes earlier. The villains think it's a good idea to head to this roof and slowly board their waiting helicopter, despite this being the exact location of the giant antenna all the monsters are being drawn to. It seems like they should have left when they turned it on. No one in this fucking movie has a brain stem.
Dwayne, of course, comes to the rescue on the roof because the bullet "missed all the major organs", so he's fine. But the monsters are there and there's no escape from the roof. Malin pulls the gun on them again and is going to make Dwayne head out and draw the creatures' attention so they can make their escape. There's a tussle, the gun is kicked away, and Naomie sticks the cure into Malin's purse and pushes her out onto the roof, because she somehow knows that George is going to pick her up and eat her whole, despite the fact that he hasn't done that in the whole movie. But she makes a pun about Malin getting eaten, as she knows for sure it's about to happen moments later. Malin is eaten whole, with her purse, with the sort-of-antidote in that purse, still inside its EpiPen-like container. Then they decide that, somehow, it'll take effect on George and he'll be okay in maybe 10 minutes. What? It was an injector. He wasn't injected. How long would it take for him to digest even the plastic in the container, if it isn't protected by the leather purse? Isn't it much more likely that he's just pass it right through his body? Oh, yeah. I forgot. Fuck logic and reason of any kind.
Dwayne and Naomie escape off the roof in the tail-less mangled remains of the helicopter, keeping it just barely off the ground as the building falls over.
George comes to his senses. The alligator bites off the wolf's head, now that they're not all working together to stop the signal, because that's something the pathogen made them do. There's a big, destructive fight between the alligator and Dwayne and George. Naomie heads off and gets Jeffrey to stop the colonel from dropping the bomb on the city. You see, there's still people on the ground. As if this would somehow come as a surprise to the colonel, watching via drone and satellite footage back at HQ. Military and civilians still on the ground everywhere in the blast area? You don't say! Somehow it works, I guess, because the colonel sees that George is now on our side or something and he calls for the stealth bomber to abort, which flies by the city at roughly 1,500 feet off the ground, a real good height for a stealth bomber to drop a massive bomb from.
There's a fight. The monkey wins. He gives Dwayne the finger and then makes a fucking motion with his hands to ask if Dwayne is boning Naomie yet. I guess I should have mentioned that the movie is shockingly violent and profane for something that got away with a PG-13 rating. If this isn't an example of the MPAA having massive bias, I don't know what is. Just because it's an absurd yuk-fest with The Rock, I guess it gets a pass for the massive amount of not-bloodless death and destruction taking place throughout and a surprising amout of swearing for a once-pretty-conservative rating system.
I'm sure there's more detail and a lot more painfully awkward and incompetent writing that I missed or glossed over, because I'm trying to keep it to just three thousand words about this shit tornado. The movie constantly fails to have realistic physics, realistic characterizations, realistic motivations, believable people or places or actions or events. If it weren't for Dwayne Johnson and the mostly light-hearted destruction and mayhem, the movie would have been a lot worse and more painful. I mean, it'd probably be Tom Cruise's The Mummy. Though, sad to say, I think that still had a better script. What I'm saying is that it's probalby both better and worse than I'm saying, which averages out to what I gave it. Except the script. The script is a fucking failure.
Summary execution. I'm not saying we have to... Just think about it for a while. I think you'll come around to what I'm getting at.