Rampage commits the same critical mistake as so many of these sorts of movies: too much of the humans, not enough of the big bad monsters.
Since entertainment is on the forefront of the filmmakers’ minds in these cinematic endeavors — often at the expense of character development (explosions always sell better than drama, and figuring out a way to pull off both risks failing at their primary goal: $$$) — why not just forget the characters altogether?
Well, the human characters at least.
The Rock of course needs to be included for box office purposes, but who wouldn’t prefer to witness him fighting fantastical creatures for the entire duration, instead of wasting time with a fakakta story?
Everyone remembers the climaxes for a reason, and building to them through ineffective and unaffecting story and character development in no way builds crucial tension. I guess audiences may get bored of fighting fighting and more fighting, which could cost too much to computer engineer anyways (simple solution: cut the runtime under 90 minutes, which would be a modern miracle nowadays!).
Even though there’s a chance the action would lose interest without making us care about the fictional participants, that problem hasn’t plagued recent examples populated by insignificantly-underdeveloped humans, all superior to Rampage: Crank, John Wick, Shoot ‘Em Up, Hardcore Henry, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum. Plus, it’d probably be easier to endear audiences to CGI animals anyways (as evidenced by my suspicion that those who see Rampage will probably care about the giant ape more than anyone else).
It might seem financially safer to rely on these familiar forms, but why keep regurgitating flawed formulas by conforming to their faults? This sounds counterintuitive, but focusing entirely on the crowd-pleasing animals — which would be an experimental approach, even though they’re the real stars of the scenes people pay to see — could ultimately prove more lucrative, both commercially AND artistically.
As for Dwayne, a part of me respects Mr. Johnson for trying to revive the genre of age-old action movies led by image-conscious stars who are more presences than performers, refusing to play characters with deeper arcs than just trope platitudes. Like, how many of his roles include moral nuance, or even flaws?! He’s basically always a perfect superhero regardless of his vocation (usually ex-military turned charming Everyman), with a heart of gold who kicks ass and takes names both on and off the battlefield. He may not be capable of much more than affably spouting one-liners with irony…
But much like the entirety of Rampage itself, he might as well stick to what the world knows— and wants — him to be good at.