Without giving too much away …
Was it perfect ? No. Was it imperfect ? No.
Jurassic World is about as good a movie, as a movie designed to do what this one is designed to do, can get. Not much more can be done with something like this to add depth, in any area. Be it story, character, or deeper meaning. And you don’t really fully realize that, until the very moment the dinosaur shenanigans kick off. That’s when you know what you really wanted all along. And that is what settles the movie cozily between perfect and imperfect. The filmmakers didn’t shoot low. But they didn’t shoot as high as they could have either. They merely aimed at the meat and potatoes. And they hit what they aimed at, with the precision of an expert marksman. But they never even aimed at the broccoli. And come to think of it, Spielberg himself hasn’t aimed at the broccoli since he made Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Consider: a billion dollar corporation (much like the corporation that actually owns and operates the Park featured in this film,) has assigned ‘you’ the job of driving profits through the roof via the engineering of bigger and greater thrills. Greedy corporate types who just keep snapping their fingers and saying, we gotta keep up with the demand. We need more innovation. We just want ‘you’ to deliver the goods, they say. Just give people their cheap popcorn thrills, they say. No depth. No meaning. No underlying message. Just shut up and show us people getting assaulted, impaled, filleted, masticated, and murdered by extinct animals, genetically engineered to better resemble what the mainstream public have accepted as the generic look of dinosaurs. Don’t get showy and pretentious. Don’t have the ambition to illustrate for the public what dinosaurs ‘actually’ looked like. Don’t get philosophical. No, instead, tamper with the very DNA of the substance — just enough that the public recognize what they know to be an extinct animal. Ya know, give them the fantasy they want. But keep it real. We need profits. Build us a better monster to thrill the kiddies.
In fact, between the plot of the movie and the movie as a product, I can’t decide where the line is.
In part a remake, Jurassic World begins with two kids being sent to the park off the coast of Central America, for Christmas break. Their parents are getting a divorce. Shades of Jurassic Park. For the first 40 minutes, the park is established. It’s perimeter, it’s internal day-to-day routines, it’s principal characters, some other boring business … and then a new attraction the public haven’t seen yet. An intelligent monstrosity that soon gets loose.
What works in the movie, would be essentially predictable — if the filmmakers hadn’t been so clever at hiding it all, and doling it out in intervals of every four minutes, or so. There’s, of course, the aforementioned new attraction, ‘Indominous Rex.’ NOTE: Rumors go back, to around 2006, I believe — and all over the internet — that the fourth Jurassic film would feature dinos wielding assault rifles and being trained for combat. Well, luckily, that idea (reportedly featured in a John Sayles script) was scaled way, way down to the idea of training velociraptors to follow commands. Much like a lion tamer would command the big kitties.
However, turning raptors into a military weapon is precisely what Vincent D’Onofrio’s character wants. His character, is an all too realistic portrayal, of that simply annoying ambitious con-man that always shows up in your office, at some point, and rests a hand on your shoulder, as if he’s already your friend. You know the guy I mean. The guy who pushes his way into people’s lives. The guy who’s decided, on his own accord, that he’s an ‘Alpha.’ The guy you’ve always wanted to turn around and deck. Just lay his ass out flat, man. I – could – not – wait for him to die. Every word that comes out of his mouth was painful to my ears. At one point Chris Pratt’s character just looks at him and says, ‘Do you ever listen to yourself ?’
And while there is the constant presence of dinosaurs, here (Something which was sadly missing from Steven Spielberg’s sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park,) the movie nonetheless takes pleasure in pointing out that a teenager would rather talk on his cell phone or check his Facebook page, than see a dinosaur. An obvious angle on the material, I guess the filmmakers couldn’t resist. Because after all, by now dinosaurs are common place in this Jurassic universe. And probably on live camera feeds on the internet, as well. Thus, they’re all over the place in this movie. That’s the mentality working here. And it often works against the movie. Adding insult to injury, the dinos look the same as they have in every other movie. Not just the Jurassic films, but they greatly resemble any dinosaur in any recent movie. Nothing spectacular or new here. No chances taken; no ‘wow’ moments. Nothing jaw dropping. But you also get the impression very fast that that’s the idea. This is a serial. Nothing more. Their goal is deliver the goods and get out while they can, without overstaying their welcome. It’s like the filmmakers, the financiers, and the corporate big wigs are all on the same page here. This isn’t 1993. Therefore, let’s simplify everything. The movie, the mentality, everything. And they have.
To illustrate the change between 1993 and 2015, let me bring your attention to something. There is a lovely piece of John William’s music echoed here by composer/conductor Michael (Star Trek) Giacchino. And it’s not used to underscore a magical moment involving a dinosaur. It’s used to underscore the first reveal of the expanse of the damn park itself. The scope of the park. That’s how much as changed in the public’s mind’s eye regarding dinosaurs. Both in the film, and in real life. They are mirrored, in subtlety. My how the mighty have fallen.
Having Chris Pratt on hand, riding high on his success in Guardians of the Galaxy, is a nice touch. He’s a likeable actor. And his character has a well defined, commanding presence that you can bet will be showing up in any potential sequel. And it was nice to see Dr. Henry Wu, from the original film, back in the lab. Sadly, while Hammond and Ian Malcolm have serviceable mentions early in the film, no other characters are featured. Not even in supporting roles. But the movie moves at such a pace, that in hindsight, the film would have to have primed you for the return of former characters in a potential sequel, or your disappointment would have been immense at just seeing them for a moment or two. Which is kind of what happened when audiences saw Laura Dern’s character ‘Elle Sattler’ for only a few brief moments at the beginning and end of Jurassic Park III, in 2001. But don’t focus on that movie; I’m sorry I brought that movie up, that movie sucked.
What doesn’t work in this movie … well, apart from a woman running through an action movie in high heels (LOL!) let’s just say that we’ve all heard enough quiet little reassuring comments to children in peril, to last a lifetime, and we didn’t really need more of that shit in this movie. In fact, an irreverent take on how kids deal with being in peril would have been very appropriate, given some of the dark humor in the the later half of the film. Trust me, I assume you’ve all seen that teaser poster and those trailers, featuring Pratt on a motorcycle, flanked by raptors … yea, the audience I saw it with got a kick out of the irony of how that situation turned out. That was more entertaining, and more serviceable to the story, than almost anything else in the movie. Mainly because in light of the publicity surrounding that element of the plot, it was an unexpected left turn. Jurassic World could have used more of that. The movie follows too many rules. And it’s clearly begging to be a full-on black comedy. And I really mean that. Once the action starts, it’s a lot of fun. But in general, the movie is wanting in smart humor. And while I won’t give away the surprise ending, the final ‘confrontation’ was genuinely the funniest, and most crowd pleasing thing in the movie. Just seeing Bryce Dallas Howard light that flare, knowing what she was about to do, generated a slow, drawn out laugh that rolled through the audience like tossing a lit Zippo into a box of fire crackers.
All in all, it was a solid summer movie. And in my opinion, more fun than anything else so far this summer. It’s no where near the magical experience of the first film, but Jurassic World improves over other sequels in the franchise, significantly.
To wrap this up, we all know that anyone who habitually watches movies of this kind has opined and even in some way, proselytized the coming future of movies. And due to much of the big budget, dumbed-down crap that we’ve all endured, it hasn’t been at all positive. Quite the opposite. Specifically, I refer to a genre that has often been referred to as ‘tent-pole’ movies, or ‘comic-book-craptastic extravaganzas,’ or ‘sequels,’ ‘reboots,’ et all. But to my generation, often as simply, ‘fantastic films.’ It will be terrible ! We’ve said. They will take away all meaning and stick us with the cheap thrills ! And it won’t MEAN ANYTHING ! Where’s the Vision !? Where’s the showmanship !? Well, the future of movies has arrived. And although it’s nothing special, apparently no one is complaining. So in the case of Jurassic World, a fun serial-like distraction, I just threw up my hands about 40 minutes in, and simply allowed myself to enjoy the greatest made-for-cable film in history. In 3D.
Jurassic World is not quite a monster movie, and as an action picture, it was definitely no Raiders of the Lost Ark. But it was still fun. And guess who gets the last roar.
I give this near perfect B-movie, an …
THIS is a tough one for me. I cannot really hold with the massive mob of current critical acclaim, and yet, I felt the movie succeeded on a number of minor levels. I looooved the darker tone of the film. Been a while. And the action was well planned and executed. However, I sadly cannot confirm, as many critics have stated, that this film is, ‘an immediate action classic,’ or ‘one of the greatest action films ever made.’ Pardon my French, but THAT is utter bullshit.
However, the movie has some bragging rights, here and there. Charlize Theron’s character was a wonderful slow-burn of a surprise. And the fact that the story just kept moving — almost literally — was fun. Especially in lieu of my ever-fresh memory of having sat through the languid Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985, waiting patiently for the action to begin, only to be cheapened in the third act by a single 7 minute sequence, that really added zilch to the already well-established action pallet of Mad Max films. That … yea, that was aggravating.
But this film makes up for that. There was plenty of action here. Closer in spirit to The Road Warrior (1982); still the most popular film in the serial. And across the expanse of what is actually a very thin storyline, there were some acceptable, rich touches of absurdity to behold. Such as the rock guitarist who played during the racing battles. The strange characters that inhabit the Citadel. Bad guys flying around on poles. Even Max’s minor role in the film, turned out to be a nice touch. One that should have been accompanied by additional narration. After all, the story’s construction is begging for creatively descriptive information in places, and Max would have been the perfect person to deliver it. In this case, Max the Explainer would have been an asset, rather than a hindrance.
This, for example, would have been a welcome bit of narration:
We drove across the terminator.
I told her what I knew. She told me what she knew.
I told her I was a cop. After the first wars. Before everything turned to dust.
I told her I went deep underground when I saw the mushrooms, again.
I told her I went mad.
She said when she was young there was a place of hope.
She didn’t have to say more.
Then she told me about their leader. Immortan Joe.
That he had been in charge of building big things, before the world ended.
Things for mining. Like the Citadel.
She said that thousands of days ago, he was sometimes a rational man.
But now he was just a dumb animal.
The wastelands play games with every living thing.
And these people and things were lost among thousands of miles of it.
They were trapped here.
They would live or die here.
Just like the rest of us.
Hope was their enemy.
None of them understood that.
And it would have passed in the wink of 30-odd seconds. But alas, this was not the case. And I got more where that came from, but I will spare you the all-around torture, dependent on your chosen point-of-view.
I liked the cinematography, the music, the direction. I liked the small surprises in the way some of the images were presented. There was even a neat little connection to The Road Warrior that I really liked a lot. One of the characters in the film is playing with a small wind-up music box, which ‘Max’ fans will recognize is later seen in the hands of Max, in The Road Warrior.
Now we come to the films faults. The picture opens with imagery similar to that The Road Warrior. Trees being blown down in an atomic blast, etc. Seen it. And although there is no pavement in this film (presumably because it has been scavenged for other uses by survivors,) the initial chase is indeed similar in style and theme to that of The Road Warrior, as well. If you were hoping for something earth-shatteringly original, based upon those glowing reviews by the critical mob, forget it. And all such chases, merely repeat that motif. It’s like an a single action sequence from that second 1982 ‘Max’ film, plays out over and over again, in digital photography, complete with heavy helpings on CGI compositing.
The only mistake I caught in the film, is a single bad guy who is revealed to be hiding under the ‘War Truck,’ after our heroes have gotten away. He’s never seen again, and he never falls off the bottom of the truck. WTF !? And then there’s Tom Hardy’s voice, which sounds suspiciously exactly like ‘Bane’ in The Dark Knight Rises. And every word of it, looped. You can tell.
As stated, at the heart of the film, is a simple, fast storyline. And for all of it’s attributes and possibilities, Mad Max: Fury Road really is a solid entry among the franchise of ‘Max’ films. However, the story seemed to be headed toward somewhere profound, and on a complex level that would pair the visceral with the poignant in a wonderful ‘hindsight is 20/20’ kind’a way. But the film never quite reached said destination. Albeit a good solid action film, there is something missing here. Opinions will vary. Many will proclaim it perfect. And to each his or her own. But as a writer, myself, I can easily tell when a storyteller is holding back. Instead of planning the road ahead, director Miller should have been more focused on the road beneath our feet. Although those vehicles are tearing across a desert landscape at 90 miles per hour, we, the audience, are seated solemnly, awaiting the story to be told, in complete; right now. And much of that information is missing. Apparently planned for inclusion in another movie.
I ‘liked’ this movie. And I hope that it will grow on me. I truly do. Sadly, though, without those wonderful little nuggets of necessary STORY, an action film is always sub-par. Wish I could give it a better letter grade, but instead …
I was apprehensive about this one. Advanced reviews are all over the map, and to be honest, I bought into large helpings of the negativity associated with some of the more … shall we say, ‘destructive’ comments contained in those reviews. But, in my opinion, much of that turned out to be either A) anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive nitpicking by snide 21’st Century hipsters, or B) a clear case of a coordinated attempt at corporate sabotage. Honestly not sure which.
In any event, the movie turned out to be surprisingly good. Very well constructed story, with various small moments of character development divided evenly among the principals. Which is more than you can say for the first film. Especially in the case of Hawkeye. There are some great action sequences, too. And more (and better) humor, this time around. Case in point, when Iron Man wearing his Hulkbuster armor, punches Hulk in the face, repeatedly, and calmly suggests, ‘Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep…‘ And later, when a payoff scene arrives, regarding the ‘challenge’ of who can pick up Thor’s hammer. When that comes full circle, you’re really gonna laugh.
To be honest, there were one or two very minor quibbles I had. At a certain point in the film, I was eagerly anticipating that Natasha (a.k.a. Black Widow) would whisper to the Hulk, ‘Hulk … smash.‘ And unfortunately, they didn’t go for that wonderful opportunity. And when the final battle occurs, I was genuinely expecting the visual theme to be one of the Avengers being surrounded to the point of being squeezed in and cramped, among Ultron’s minions. But alas, that’s an image only generated by an artist on a wonderful piece of concept art that made its way to the internet rather early in the publicity game.
But don’t let such minor, personal quibbles keep you from seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron. Because all said and done, this is a damn good superhero, comic book movie. As good as these things can be. And it ranks with the best of the films that have been released with MARVEL’s logo on them. Including (in alphabetical order) the initial Avengers film, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, Spider-Man (2002,) X-Men, X2, X-Men: First Class, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
You wanna know what my generation were thinking, imagining, and plotting in the 1980’s when we were reading most of the comics that these films are based on ? Age of Ultron is as pretty damn close to that, as you’re probably ever gonna see.
Now if we can get a response from Disney on why there are no Black Widow toys on shelves.
I give it an A-
Just a note on “Western Legend” and my site/blog here at WordPress.com.
I got my book back from its former Publisher, Whiskey Creek Press. And while I won’t go into the problems I had with their non-commitment to their own contract, or the negative things I eventually found out about them, I will simply say that their company has been purchased and will very soon change name and ownership. So, hopefully, they will clean up their act. A funny aside: they strangely attempted to purchase the remainder of my e-book contract for roughly $5. The contract was up this month, anyway, so I declined. I was already working on placing the book elsewhere, anyway.
But this is why the links will not work at present. The book is currently unavailable.
I would like to thank everyone who purchased and read my book. It was a lot of work and very rewarding that many enjoyed it.
The book will see publication again, this time in print, with various illustrations and photos included for reference (all of which were rejected by Whiskey Creek Press.) And I’m really looking forward to that.
ASTROWORLD is nearing completion, yet still in progress. So, in the meantime, I thought perhaps I would post something here just to gather attention. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further adieu … an interesting assortment of random crap from the Internet, which I found to be interesting, curious, entertaining, or simply prosaically mesmerizing.
So I’m now deep into research and interviews for the purpose of bringing a film to the screen about the teen and young adult employees of a theme park in Houston, Texas called AstroWorld, in the summer of 1979.
A comedy in the vein of Meatballs (1979) meets a bit of Dazed and Confused (1993,) but also a tribute to the park’s hard-working staff, the people who loved AstroWorld, and the park itself.
At this stage this is merely a screenplay with no real money behind it, and there are several hurdles yet to dealt with. The first, of course, would be getting permission from Six Flags to use the name and logo of “AstroWorld,” and portray 1970’s era employees in one of their former parks. The second would be financing, which is difficult in that several things have to be in place before you get financing for such a project. The third would be finding a defunct amusement park which could be redressed and stand in for AstroWorld. … and that’s only the beginning.
However, I’m on it. I’m writing it. And we’ll see what happens.
Wish me luck, and remember … the show must go on.