It’d be a pretty big stretch to call this a Kaiju film. With the exception of the giant monster in the final third act, there’s not really any giant monster action going on. That said, it fits quite comfortably in the creature feature genre, which I personally feel is closely related to Kaiju/Giant monster films as they both often borrow from each other, and I just watched it the other day, so I’m gonna talk about it.
This movie takes place out in the Arizona desert, where a meteor has crashed into the earth and lodged itself in an underground cavern. A biology teacher and geology teacher from the local community college go in to investigate and bring back to the lab samples of space goo where they quickly discover that it harbors alien bacteria. It turns out that this bacteria is super special, containing complex DNA that gives it the ability to rapidly evolve. Not too long after this discovery, the government gets involved, and not too long after that, everything goes sideways and aliens start running amok causing havoc and panic but ironically, not that much property damage. Through the power of friendship, ingenuity, and dandruff shampoo, our plucky heroes show those aliens that humanity isn’t a forced to be trifled with.
This movie has a few things going for it. The creature designs are an absolute treat and in some ways very much reminiscent of 1997’s Men in Black. The similarities were enough to make me poke around IMDB a bit to see if they shared some art or special effects crews, but after a few minutes of clicking around, I didn’t really see any cross over. So I’d chalk it up to a combination of some of the artists being inspired by previous works, shared styles of art in the era, and shared techniques in CGI and special effects at the time, seeing as how the two films are only four years apart. In any event, the creatures themselves are a lot of fun. Just like the creatures and the art design, the set design for this movie are really well done as well. The cavern that the asteroid is found in feels like it’s teeming with alien life and the community college is so on point that if you just showed me random pictures of the set, I’d almost swear that that’s where I went to school. So, kudos to the art team on this film. Additionally, while I wouldn’t call the action scenes in this movie amazing or anything, they get the job done.
Hmm. Honestly, that’s really the only thing the film has going for it. Otherwise, I think it’s a mess in three big ways and they all deal with the script.
Firstly, every last character feels very one note. I wanna hate myself for typing that because I honestly don’t think that one note characters or relying on tropes for the purpose of story telling aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves and flat characters are basically a staple of these kinds of movies. But in this movie? Ugh. Every character is such a cardboard stand in that you could take David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Julianne Moore, and pretty much every major actor out of this movie, replaced them with less skilled actors, and it probably wouldn’t have affected how this movie came out at all. To make things worse, there is a genuine attempt to flesh out some of the characters in this movie, to add back story and motivation, but it’s all done through stunted exposition and tell instead of show story telling techniques. Which again, sometimes exposition works. Sometimes storytellers need to rely on tell, not show, for the sake of simplicity and time. That’s fine. But when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work and this movie is a great example of that. Also, as an aside, Julianne Moore’s character Allison is supposed to be clumsy. It’s not funny the first time she fumbles, and it’s not funny the fifth time she fumbles. I don’t fault her as an actor for that, I fault the poor execution of comedy in this film for that (more on that in another paragraph).
Secondly, the writing is very predictable, as if even if you don’t watch a lot of these kinds of movies, you feel like you’ve seen this movie before. The heroes are portrayed as mavericks who break the rules to get things done. The military is portrayed as controlling, blame shifting, and full of hubris. The threat levels of the monsters escalate at such a steady pace, there’s no surprise or shock in any of the reveals. In fact, there’s not really any surprise in this movie at all. Punchlines to jokes can be seen coming well before they land and the same is true for any scenes with thrills or jump scares. If you, as a viewer, half pay attention to the dialog, plot reveals can be seen coming from a mile away. It’s just a flat, even tempo, no surprise kind of film without any charm to really carry it through.
Lastly, so many of the jokes in this movie have aged very, very poorly. If I were to describe Rampage as a film where a five year old gets to design the monsters, I’d describe this movie as a film where a freshman college fraternity kid writes the jokes. Comedic timing and execution of jokes aside (many of which in this film is poor), this film is so full of outrigth tasteless and questionable jokes. Dala was right next to me as I watched this movie and it’s so bad that about every other scene I was worried about what she thought I thought of these jokes. To be clear, I think they’re in poor taste and poorly written, which is bad enough, but the poor execution just made things worse. As a comedy, this movie just isn’t really funny with the exception of a gag here or there.
I liked the creature designs of this film and pretty much nothing else. If you want to see how to do characters, story tempo, and humor wrong, check out this film. Otherwise, I’d avoid it and just recommend you check out the screen shots and concept art from the film’s IMDB page.
This movie gets a 1 out of 5 from me. Click the IMDB page, enjoy the art, and then go on with your life knowing you’re not missing much else from this movie.