I couldn't say for sure whether Rampage is a "good" movie, exactly. I'm not entirely certain if I can recall a line of dialogue from Rampage, and I'm pretty sure I can't remember a single character's name without the aid of IMDB. It would be fruitless to discuss Rampage in terms of camera movement or the 180-degree rule or montage or zooms and pans and all that jazz. I'm just an Unfrozen Caveman Movie Critic; my primitive mind can't grasp these concepts.
But there is one thing I do grasp: when New Line Cinema puts Dwayne Johnson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a movie where giant mutated apes who like to play practical jokes fight giant flying wolves and enormous armor-plated crocodiles, it is entitled to no less than three hundred million of your box office dollars.
Rampage opens in space, where an illegal experiment in gene editing has gone awry, resulting in a super rat that destroys the privately owned space station on which said illegal experiment was taking place. The magical gene-editing formula crashes to Earth, infecting an ape, a wolf, and a crocodile. Or, maybe an alligator? I always get the two confused. It doesn't matter.
Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a Special Forces operative who took on a second career as an anti-poaching activist and primate handler. His ape, George, is the one that gets infected by the gene editing serum: the RMPG serum, I believe it is called. George starts getting bigger. And angrier. George isn't alone, of course. He and the wolf and the crocogator are being drawn to Chicago for reasons that aren't really important.
Davis wants to help his friend. Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) wants to stop the evil corporation Energyne, the sibling heads of which have misused CRISPR technology to create the RMPG serum. And government agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) wants to figure out how to stop the computer-generated destruction bearing down on the Windy City before millions die.
Rampage is transparently silly from the get-go. There's a giant rat in a space station. George and Davis do little comedy routines, down to the ape delivering a giant middle finger as a way to troll his human handler. The giant wolf takes down a team of Predator-style meatheads led by True Blood‘s Joe Manganiello in the woodlands of Wyoming (or possibly Montana?), a brief tacked-on action sequence that serves little purpose other than to keep the blood pumping. The crocogator just kind of shows up in the third act, surprising everyone. The brother-sister duo behind Energyne are mustache-twirling villains who also serve as comic relief. Jeffrey Dean Morgan basically plays his part as if Negan, the long-running villain from The Walking Dead, was given a government badge and a gun.
For God's sake, there is literally a cabinet-style "Rampage" game in the Energyne offices that is never commented upon, a hat-tip to the "source" material that can't really count as an Easter Egg or an in-joke since it's so blatant.
And yet … it all basically works? Dwayne Johnson defines charisma and charm, a fact driven home by the surprise success of last year's Jumanji reboot that stayed in the box office's top ten for three whole months. (By way of comparison, 2017's highest-grossing film, The Last Jedi, was out of the top ten by its seventh weekend in release.) I've always been a sucker for Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose turn as the Comedian in Watchmen remains one of the all-time-great comic book movie performances.
Rampage isn't high art, but it's fun, and fun counts for something. So sue me.