When He Indoors saunters to the fridge hangry and there is nothing to eat, when the lawn mower won’t come out of the shed easily, when O2 are keeping him on hold with panpipe music in his ears – I now have all manner of sign language and calming techniques thanks to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and this new film of his.
So the formula continues to bear fruit – if you have an absolutely terrible idea for a movie, get your boy The Rock on the blower and he will sell the proverbial igloo to an Eskimo. But that said, it is a little bit of big dumb fun and come on now, who doesn’t like The Rock?
The muscle man is monkey expert Davis Okoye, building lovely relationships with his gorilla charges (some really rather decent CGI) at San Diego zoo. And then some space debris triggers the mischief.
Transpires a shady technology company has developed a process – with the help of a philanthropic scientist driven to help her terminally-ill brother through gene editing – that has the capacity to turn wildlife into giant killer monsters. It extracts all the strongest traits from the shark, the whale, the stag beetle and the cheetah. The trials on titanic hamsters in a craft orbiting Earth have gone catastrophically wrong and the serum drops into various habitats and the animal park enclosure.
Wait until you see the terrifying wolf. And then everyone forgets one capsule of monster juice splashed into the Everglades. That is a treat for the people of Chicago when a real-life game of Crocodile Dentist begins.
Johnson unsurprisingly has some excellent lines in this film. There is a moment when two soldiers are attempting to scupper his plans and the former special forces operative (of course he is – with a big heart, combatting poaching and rescuing albino baby gorilla George in the process) gently whispers, whilst deploying a choke hold: “It’s a big arm, don’t fight it’.
There are good teeth in this film too, beyond the animals – Johnson’s, those belonging to renegade boffin Naomie Harris and the gnashers of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who stars as Agent Russell. He brings all the cowboy swagger of his The Walking Dead character Negan and that is why I do love him a little bit. The only thing missing is his barbed-wire sheathed baseball bat swinging at his side.
The original Rampage came out in 1986, when games were simple. You moved from side to side either punching things or shooting them – and this film stays fairly true to that essence. So let’s not pick it apart for that very reason.
Don’t question how the IT department modified the villains’ radio aerial into a big beast-homing beacon during a couple of hours of overtime last night. Or how Harris’ Dr Kate Caldwell hacks a multi-billion dollar firm using a thermostat she found in the fridge. Logic is only going to slow down the beasties stomping cities to rubble.
IF YOU are looking for cute and cuddly respite with Isle of Dogs, you are most certainly barking up the wrong tree. It is quite possibly the weirdest concoction, even by Wes Anderson standards, but it is a work of art.
We are taken to the Japanese archipelago, 20 years in the future. In response to outbreaks of snout fever and canine flu, dog-hating Mayor Kobayashi banishes the mutts of Megasaki City to Trash Island, starting with his own household’s loyal Spots. Bereft by the loss of his best friend, Kobayashi’s gap-toothed young ward Atari flies to this junktopia, where he encounters the heroes of the piece, who embark on a mission to find his furry companion.
Voiced by the likes of Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray and Edward Norton, these dogs do not play nice and definitely do not smell nice. When we first meet them, they’re languishing in landfill, tussling over a sack of maggot-infested food which drops from the sky.
The film does not go easy with the gore. Early on, a pooch gets its ear bitten off while Atari has a propeller bolt stuck in his bloodied head. When a character is told to “stop licking your wounds”, it is literally meant. A sushi sequence finds fish, crab and squid squirming as they are merrily dismembered. We even get a graphic on-camera kidney transplant.
But there is a soft taiko drum-beating heart to this with wit and warmth. Nothing is funnier than the fights, furious flurries of dust and doggy limbs centrally swirling like the best old cartoons.
For those with an insatiable appetite for, and obsession with, Japanese culture and associated references (clearly like the director); this will be an assault on the senses.
For the less clever viewer – ie moi – I delighted in the smart eye for canine behaviour, the strange beauty created in them there garbage canyons and the messages on disenfranchisement, animal rights and the deepest love pets bring to your life.
While all the barks come out in English, some of the other dialogue is not translated, but you feel the emotion Anderson wanted you to nonetheless and that is the point.