The Rock walks — and runs — with the an­i­mals in ‘ Ram­page’

Chicago Sun-Times - - USA TODAY - Brian Truitt

Dwayne John­son has fi­nally found a co- star who’s big­ger than “The Rock.”

In the ac­tion- ad­ven­ture Ram­page ( in the­aters April 20), the larg­erthanlife John­son plays a heroic pri­ma­tol­o­gist whose best friend is a 7foot- tall, 500- pound rare al­bino sil­ver­back go­rilla named Ge­orge. “I’m pretty sure on pa­per he’s smarter than me as well,” John­son quips.

Thanks to an ex­per­i­men­tal serum gone wrong, Ge­orge and other crea­tures grow enor­mous and go on a path of de­struc­tion in Ram­page, an adap­ta­tion of the 1980s video game that’s also grounded in real gene- edit­ing sci­ence.

“Like with any­thing that pow­er­ful, you have to re­ally be care­ful that you’re uti­liz­ing it wisely and not for the wrong rea­sons,” John­son says. The for­mer pro wrestler and Fast

and Fu­ri­ous reg­u­lar stars as Davis Okoye, a guy who gets along with an­i­mals way bet­ter than with peo­ple. “When an­i­mals like you, they lick you. When they don’t like you, they eat you,” John­son says. “That’s his phi­los­o­phy, which has got­ten him far in life.”

Davis no­tices Ge­orge get­ting big­ger and con­se­quently more un­con­trol­lable, and as he tries to help, it soon be­comes clear the go­rilla’s not the only beast af­fected: By the end of the movie, Davis is try­ing to keep Ge­orge, a 30- foot wolf named Ralph, and Lizzie, a croc­o­dile the size of a foot­ball field, from wrecking Chicago while also at­tempt­ing to save his friend. ( Ge­orge is played via per­for­mance­cap­ture by 6- foot- 9 ac­tor Ja­son Liles, and all three are romp­ing, stomp­ing CGI crea­tures cre­ated by ef­fects house Weta Dig­i­tal.)

Di­rec­tor Brad Pey­ton and John­son last teamed for San An­dreas two years ago, and as in­tense a dis­as­ter film as that was, “you have to ratchet up the dial 10 times with Ram­page,” John­son says.

Grow­ing up in Hawaii, John­son plunked a lot of quar­ters into Ram­page ar­cade ma­chines “when I was a teenager spend­ing way too much time at pool halls, es­pe­cially when school was ac­tu­ally in ses­sion,” he says, laugh­ing. He also fos­tered a fas­ci­na­tion for things of gar­gan­tuan size, from King Kong and Godzilla to Ul­tra­man and Voltron.

John­son spent time with folks from the Dian Fossey Go­rilla Fund aswell as ex­perts and an­i­mals at the At­lanta Zoo to un­der­stand a sil­ver­back go­rilla’s psy­chol­ogy, en­ergy and be­hav­ior.

“That was re­ally eye- open­ing for me in terms of how dan­ger­ously close we are to hav­ing these beau­ti­ful an­i­mals ex­tinct,” says John­son, who adopted a baby sil­ver­back at the zoo. “There is a much greater level of em­pa­thy and care and con­sid­er­a­tion that we have to have.

“I was an an­i­mal lover be­fore, but af­ter this my love has be­come bound­less.”

WARNER BROS. EN­TER­TAIN­MENT

Dwayne John­son has some big mu­tant crit­ters on his hands af­ter an ex­per­i­ment gone wrong.

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