Rampage: CRISPR monsters gone wild 

Rampage USLet me come out. I enjoyed it, and I’m not much worried about so many people learning the word CRISPR from a popcorn movie. A little fun never killed any technology, and Rampage, by Brad Peyton, is less dumb than it may seem.

Point #1: the main character is great. I’m not talking about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, playing the role of the primatologist, but of his non-human friend George. Of course, this albino gorilla edited by mistake, following a lab accident on the space station, is a monster. But he is witty, moving, charismatic and, let’s repeat, witty. Yes, he made me laugh. Point #2: stereotypes are there, but they are not the worst kind. The evil bioentrepreneur looks like a hot Cruella de Vil with lab rats instead of dalmatians. Usually, female characters in sci-fi are trained in soft sciences (botany in Jurassic Park, anthropology in Avatar, linguistics in Arrival). Here, however, the geneticist is a female while the primatologist is a male, and neither of the two is white. Point #3: Rampage opens with the full-screen statement: “In 1993 a breakthrough new technology, known as CRISPR, gave scientists a path to treat incurable diseases through genetic editing. In 2016, due to its potential for misuse, the US Intelligence Community designated genetic editing as a Weapon of Mass Destruction and Proliferation”. Probably the screenwriters had to retro-date CRISPR invention to give the technology enough time to unfold. Furthermore, CRISPR accomplishments look more like rampant inter-species gene transfer than targeted gene editing. George got genes from sharks, whales, bats, cheetahs, and I’ve certainly forgot something. But again, science is quite marginal to the plot, and the funny side overshadows the scary stuff.

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