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Directed by: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harries, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Rated: PG-13 for Sequences of Violence, Action and Destruction, Brief Language, and Crude Gestures
Running Time: 1 h 47 m
TMM Score: 1.5 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Visual Effects
WEAKNESSES: Writing, Directing, Characters
When three animals become infected with an experimental pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist join together to stop them from destroying Chicago.
When a viewer enters a movie about giant, genetically enhanced mutant animals battling it out in the streets of Chicago, they have to be fine with knowing the film they are seeing is dimwitted. This movie panders to middle school and high school boys and honestly it never even tries to raise itself about that intelligence level. The humor in this film is sophomoric, there are huge, glaring plot holes, and the fight scenes, which, let’s be honest, are the reason we showed up, are boring and unimaginative. The film fails to do anything new with the monster-attacking-the-city plotline; if you’ve seen any Godzilla film ever, then you’ve seen everything this movie has to offer, and you’ve already seen it done better.
(SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH)
The film starts on a space station lab, where something has inexplicably gone wrong with an experiment the astronauts were working on; body parts float in the air, blood is splashed on the walls. The final remaining astronaut soars through the air, communicating with the ground asking them to help her get safely back to earth. Ground control, however, refuses to let the astronaut come home until the research is secured, so the astronaut does so, but in the process her escape pod is damaged and as she reenters the atmosphere her craft disintegrates, spreading the research chemicals across the US. Davis (Dwayne Johnson, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”), an ex-poacher-hunter now working as primatologist at a zoo, returns to his gorilla exhibit the morning after the space station accident to find that George, an albino gorilla, has grown a few feet overnight. As the story continues, it becomes apparent there are other giant animals as well, all of which are being called to Chicago, where there will be a deadly showdown between the beasts.
The only good part about this movie is the special effects; the monsters look good, so do most of the fights and destruction. The film is a special effects extravaganza: that’s what the viewers flocked to the theatre for, and that’s what they received. From the opening shots, we know the film is CGI-heavy, story-lite. If all you want is a monster flick with a few fight scenes, well, then, here you go.
The film’s biggest problems come from the fact that none of the characters are particularly likeable people. Davis likes to keep people at a distance, saying he prefers animals more. That’s fine, I suppose, but why are we supposed to care about people if his character if he doesn’t care about people. The reason Davis wants to help the government track down his gorilla isn’t because people are getting hurt, it’s because he doesn’t want George to get hurt. Academy Award nominee Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”) who stars as Dr. Kate Caldwell also suffers from likeability issues: she’s entitled and bossy and ignores people if she doesn’t want to talk to them. Jeffery Dean Morgan (“The Losers (2010)”) plays Harvey Russell, an arrogant and annoying government agent (from what agency, we never know). And of course the villains, Claire (Malin Akerman, “Watchmen”) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy, “Carol”), aren’t likeable either, so whom exactly am I rooting for during this flick? The monsters?
The motivation for the villains is never made clear and their plan is absolutely ridiculous. They say they created this rampage serum, which transforms the creature affected into a raging monster, as a weapon, but why develop something like this if you can’t completely control them? Well, it turns out they planned ahead for that aggressive side effect too, because they have a serum for the serum that also neutralizes their aggression, but unfortunately that neutralizing serum wasn’t being kept with the rampage serum. Why? Who knows? The villains also believe the best way to administer this anti-aggression serum is to lure them to the crowded streets of Chicago with a high pitched noise that drives the monsters into a frenzy, because what could possibly go wrong there? There are dozens of other plot holes in the film, but to focus on them would triple the length of this review.
The fight scenes in this film are actually rather boring. Really, there’s nothing that hasn’t been done in “King Kong”, “Godzilla”, even the Transformer movies. The creatures that are rampaging round Chicago are kind of interesting (I guess), but the way the director uses them is totally uninspired. I found myself checking my phone during the final fight scene, yawning, and wondering how much longer I had to sit in the darkened theatre until I could go home.
Another issue I had with this movie is that it’s a ridiculous concept, but for some reason it tries to take itself too seriously, and it comes off as stiff and humorless. The small bit of humor that was in the film felt like it was added in as an afterthought, and as a result, the jokes never really land.
As I mentioned above, this film is rather dimwitted. Movies like this are meant to entertain you for two hours on a Saturday and be forgotten by the time the Monday morning rolls around. This movie, however, has a hard time even entertaining you for the hour and forty-five minute run time. It’s dull script and unlikeable characters leave a sour taste in the viewer’s mouth, the humdrum fight scenes show us nothing exciting, and in the end, the movie feels like a mash up of a bunch of better monster movies. You want a good monster movie? Watch “The Host” (2006), “Jaws” (1975), or even “Pacific Rim” (2013)… all of those have more heart and more excitement, and are a better use of your time. This film is one that’s better off forgotten.
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