Mission Lab

REVIEW: ‘Rampage’ has its fun moments, but parents beware

April 20th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Rampage’ has its fun moments, but parents beware

Davis Okoye is an outgoing and athletic-looking primatologist who could have pretty much any woman in the world. But he prefers to hang around gorillas.

As Davis sees it, gorillas don’t let you down. They also don’t commit senseless crimes like Davis once witnessed in the jungles of Africa, where poachers killed several primates and nearly killed Davis, too. The only gorilla that got away – a baby albino he named George – is now one of his closest companions. Davis even taught him sign language.

George seems to be the picture-perfect primate -- the kind you’d see on the cover of National Geographic. Until something strange happens. George turns uncharacteristically aggressive. Then he starts growing, from seven feet to nine feet overnight. His growth spurt continues, and soon he’s breaking out of cages and bursting through walls at his home, the San Diego Wildlife Sanctuary. Next thing you know, he’s bigger than most buildings.

What happened? We learn that George’s bloodstream was contaminated by a genetic editing sample from a not-so-innocent Chicago corporation, Energyne. Even worse, a wolf and a crocodile have been contaminated, too, and they’re headed for the Windy City, where thousands of citizens could die at the hands of the monstrous animals. Can they be stopped?

It’s all part of Rampage (PG-13), which is currently in theaters and stars Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the Fast and the Furious series) as Davis; Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) as his companion, Dr. Kate Caldwell; and Malin Akerman (Watchmen) as Claire Wyden, the head of Energyne.

The movie is loosely based on a 1980s-era video game. Genetic editing (according to the plot) previously gave scientists the hope to cure diseases but has since been labeled a “weapon of mass destruction” due to its abuse. Energyne cares little about the ethics and hopes to make billions from its advancement.

Rampage is fun as an action movie but has several content problems that may concern parents.   

The details:

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: Minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Extreme. With lots of mayhem and destruction. We see a giant rat lead to the death of a woman. A gorilla nearly kills a man before another gorilla saves him. A giant animal smashes cars. Another animal kills several men in the woods as they try and shoot it. Davis beats up two men. A boat is capsized, and people fall out. Someone is shot in the leg. We see a character fall into George’s mouth; he eats the person. Missiles and bullets rain down on the huge animals. Another character gets crushed by debris; we see the blood splatter. Animals battle one another in the city in Godzilla-vs.-King Kong-like battles. A skyscraper falls to the ground, resembling a scene from 9/11.

Sexuality/Sensuality

Minimal. Davis turns down a date from a colleague; a male co-worker makes a joke to Davis about “submission.” George uses his fingers to make a vulgar sign for sex. 

Coarse Language

Extreme. Dwayne Johnson’s movies often have been heavy on bad language, and it continues in Rampage with about 70 words: s—t (22), h-ll (18), a—(7), d—n (6), misuse of “God” (4), misuse of “Jesus” (4), GD (3), SOB (3), ba----d (1). George gives the middle finger, too.   

Other Positive Elements

Davis’ desire to protect animals from abuse and slaughter is commendable. (See Worldview, below.) But he has compassion for people, too, such as when he saves a person from death who had been opposing him.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

The movie includes images of a skyscraper collapsing to the ground in a scene that somewhat resembles the Twin Towers on 9/11. 

Life Lessons

Davis puts his life on the line to save his animal friend and the people of Chicago.

He also rejects the advances of a woman who seemed to want more than just a date and a conversation. That’s rare for any movie hero, especially one rated PG-13. And it was welcome.  

Worldview

Moviegoers who enjoy digging for the overarching theme and worldview – like me – will view Rampage differently. Some will see it as a mindless popcorn flick that shouldn’t be analyzed. Others will be troubled by the movie’s insertion of human-like emotions into animals like George. Still others will argue that the film has elements similar to Planet of the Apes – that is, “humans bad, apes good.”

But I think that despite its flaws, Rampage has a worldview message for us. Consider: Energyne is a company that views the abuse of animals as the means to wealth. A top-level official brags that money – and not the betterment of society – is their sole goal. By contrast, Davis is someone who views animals as something special that should be protected.

Here, Davis’ position is closest to the biblical position. God made mankind caretakers over Earth and the animals. We shouldn’t abuse them, but we shouldn’t over-protect them, either. This means we shouldn’t hunt them to extinction, even though God says we can eat them (Genesis 9:3). Animals were created for the glory of God and for our enjoyment and use. If they’re gone, none of that is possible.   

Sponsors

For children, Dave & Buster’s is the most well-known movie partner.

What Works

Johnson is magnetic, as always. His chemistry with Harris works well, too.

What Doesn’t

The bad guys are annoying and cartoonish. I cringed when they were on screen. The coarse language is over the top, too. Most people don’t talk like that. Perhaps immature middle schoolers are impressed. Parents aren’t. 

Discussion Questions

  1. What does the Bible say about animals? Why should we not abuse them? Does the Bible say we can eat them? If so, where?
  2. Where does the Bible say mankind is to have “dominion” over the Earth? What does that mean?
  3. Did Davis have a balanced view of animals? Of George?
  4. What, if anything, did you not like about the film?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Rampage is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, language, and crude gestures.