Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Rampage releases on Friday the 13th, so perhaps early reviewers were just in a spooky mood already. But judging from the initial trickle of critics’ reactions to the CGI-heavy movie, which adapts the 1980s video game for the big screen, Johnson — who plays primatologist Davis Okoye — may be the only thing about it everyone can happily agree on.
If there’s boundless enthusiasm in most of the early reviews for the Brad Peyton-directed movie reboot, which also stars Naomie Harris as Dr. Kate Caldwell, it’s reserved for what the critics didn’t like. Coming on the heels of Johnson’s turn in the well-received Jumanji, it makes for a striking contrast.
Variety took issue with the movie’s script-flip that reverses the goal of the original game, which had arcade-era players doing all the rampaging and wrecking. “In the game, the goal is to reduce as many buildings to rubble as possible, whereas this impressive-looking but relatively less amusing big-screen adaptation gets it backward, reverting to the shrill save-our-cities panic that fueled such hokey 1950s classics as Them and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” Variety chuffed.
Perhaps not surprisingly, reviewers from more conventional media, less-Hollywood focused outlets were even harsher. The New York Times panned the movie’s dialogue, as well as its use of CGI to get a little too real: “The special effects are only distinguished by a peculiar concern for verisimilitude,” NYT’s reviewer wrote, complaining that the film’s menacing giant wolf “appears to be suffering from mange.”
Similarly, The Chicago Sun-Times skewered the dialogue, while calling Rampage “no fun” and “all pain and no gain.”
“Nobody goes to a movie like Rampage for the poetry, but truly this is a terrible screenplay,” the Sun-Times review complained, later adding, "The game was more entertaining than the movie, to say the least, which feels hastily rewritten and nervously edited.”
Not every observation has been entirely critical, though. The Hollywood Reporter had no trouble taking Rampage for the matinee-style entertainment it was meant to be, and praised Johnson’s ability to step into the role of a good-natured hero fans can get behind. “Whatever character he’s playing… there’s no denying Johnson’s abundant charisma and brawny brand of self-deprecating humor,” THR wrote.
And even the Times, which blasted the movie as a “turgid, logy blockbuster,” still singled out Johnson’s performance as a bright spot — though, the review still scolds that “it seems he had less fun here than he did in the recent Jumanji.”
With more reviews still rolling in, Rampage stood at a 46 percent Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer at the time of this article’s posting. But just the same, 94 percent of the RT guests who responded at the site said they’re looking forward to heading to the theater to decide for themselves.
With an effects-heavy movie that never promised to deliver anything other than Johnson’s heroic charisma and big, foot-stomping fun, that’s probably not a bad approach, don't you think? Rampage tears its way into theaters everywhere on Apr. 13.