Post by StevePulaski on Jun 8, 2015 18:25:14 GMT -5
Jurassic Park (1993)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
A dinosaur chases a man in Jurassic Park
Steven Spielberg's original Jurassic Park
is one of the five films I can think of that really showed American audiences the capabilities of special effects and the sheer realism of such effects (Tron
, Star Wars
, and Gravity
are my other case examples). The film shows creatures, better yet, a world, that I'm sure most kids fantasized about exploring when they were young come to life in a way that balances the mystique, the adventure, and the peril all in one collective package. There's no need to give dinosaurs voices or two-dimensional personalities; seeing them come to life and enthrall is all that we needed.
The story revolves around a company known as InGen, run by billionaire CEO John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who decides to allow four individuals, in addition to his two grandchildren, into a theme park he has created, housing living dinosaurs. What unfolds, however, is a catastrophic miscalculation, with dinosaurs running amok and people's lives being put in danger. Dennis Nedry (the always likable Wayne Knight) is the park's architect and computer engineer, who works to make sure that all goes well with the park, despite the outcome.
On top of being a love letter to our childhood dreams of being immersed in a world of real life dinosaurs, Jurassic Park
really formulates what a summer blockbuster is - realistic special effects, a team of rather likable actors shuffled in the mix, and a grandiose platform on which to play. Jurassic Park
's main asset, however, despite its beautiful effects, is the sense of danger it conjures up. Ultimately, while still exercising the principles of science-fiction, the film plays like a horror film at times with its suspense and buildup. Consider the scene when Hammond's grandchildren are hiding from a gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex, as the dinosaur careens over where they sit, lurching over them like an engulfing shadow.
The intensity Spielberg and company conjure up is akin to the kind of slowburn buildup Spielberg worked to predicate Poltergeist
off of several years earlier. There's a liberal amount of time that allows for a setting to be created, characters to be introduced, and a sense of danger to build. After the first hour or so, the film goes from a rather calm and collective drama concerning the erection of Jurassic Park to a full-blown, high-octane adventure revolving around our wildest imagination.
While Jurassic Park
is a winning spectacle of special effects and danger, it still falls prey, however, to the typical pitfalls of being a summer blockbuster. As somewhat expected, character development is sparse, as the characters before us (with the exception of Knight's Nedry) speak with the kind of technical jargon that makes them less characters running a park and more vessels to advance the plot. Being that there's little in the way of development for these souls also means it's hard to truly feel anything for them when they're put in danger, the primary reason we should be so invested in the peril on screen. In addition, there is also a lack of the exploration of the "man playing God" that is usually instilled in these films. Hammond has great potential to be the anti-hero here, working against popular opinion or science to develop real-life dinosaurs, ignoring all opinions and simply going for what he
feels is right rather than what others see as morally right.
But perhaps I'm turning Jurassic Park
, a film firmly stitched into the fabric of American cinema, into something it was never meant to be. One of the biggest gripes I get as a film critic is the assertion that I can never take films at face value or pieces of entertainment. The entertainment provided in Jurassic Park
is sufficient enough to warrant a recommendation, and the film has already transcended the impact of a summer blockbuster. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm right, or maybe in the end, it's for the dinosaurs.
Starring: Richard Attenborough, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Wayne Knight. Directed by: Steven Spielberg.
Post by StevePulaski on Jun 10, 2015 23:15:14 GMT -5
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Despite having perhaps one of the worst sequel titles in film history, The Lost World: Jurassic Park
winds up being a favorable dinosaur outing. One of the pleasant things about the Jurassic Park
franchise is that dinosaur films are few and far between, which allows for the ideas and sequences in these films to remain mostly fresh. There's little interference with "been there, done that" responses to action setpieces, nor is there a general cynicism to the tones of these films or the imagery (which gets especially moodier in this film). The wonder and elements of peril are still firmly instilled in Spielberg's direction and David Koepp's screenplay, making for a film that continues to really emphasize the thrill of its predecessor through nearly every scene.
We focus on Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who is hired by InGen CEO John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to document the activities of the dinosaurs on Hammond's second Jurassic Park site after the terrible breakdown of his first site before financiers close the second park. Initially apprehensive, Malcolm turns compliant when he sees his paleontologist girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore) packed up and ready to go, in addition to his daughter Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester) from his first marriage. On the trip, Malcolm winds up meeting an ecological film crew run by Vince Vaughn's Nick as well as a famous hunter known as Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite). As expected, however, the same catastrophe that occurred in the first park repeats itself with the second, making for a frightening and dangerous experience for the long-suffering individuals who recall Jurassic Park's initial failure all too well.
The sole thing The Lost World
does better than its predecessor is give us a group of more interesting characters and character actors. Seeing Goldblum, Moore, and Vaughn work off one another in a way that channels misfit tendencies very nicely is something to relish, for seeing all these actors in such a goofy, fun-loving project makes the price of admission already worth it. This band of characters, while still not entirely fleshed out, is still a lot better than the marginally amusing cast of characters from the first movie, which benefited largely from the effortless charisma of the everyman Wayne Knight.
Still instilled in The Lost World
from the original Jurassic Park
film is the film's desire to keep us feeling constant danger and uncertainty. Jurassic Park
's main attraction, besides state-of-the-art special effects, was the fact that it always made us feel at the mercy of enormous, hulking dinosaurs, regardless of where we tried to hide (or where the camera place us). Spielberg clearly capitalizes on this principle with this particular film, giving us the feeling of minimal safety he did with not only this film's predecessor, but his other projects like Duel
Then there's the element of darkness in this film that's significantly more present here than it was in the first film. Rather than encapsulating the common attributes of flashy, summer blockbusters, The Lost World
finds itself assuming a moodier state of mind, actively showing innocent bystanders consumed by dinosaurs, young people mauled by baby dinosaurs, and more. There's a flood of action and suspenseful sequences that really amount to some fully realized events in this film. Consider the scene when Kelly performs a complex gymnastics routine to save Malcolm and Sarah, or when the dinosaurs are attacking the film crew and Malcolm works to rescue them.
In some ways, The Lost World
finds ways to be more engaging than Jurassic Park
. Its moodier style further exploits the dangers of dinosaurs, and the repeated peril that humans face when trying to assimilate to their world. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
continues to affirm this frightening realization while remaining a thrilling piece of blockbuster entertainment, never squandering the opportunity to be dark and violent but also peppering in the occasional one-liner (some funny, some cringe-worthy) for good measure. Much like its predecessor, this is ultimately a variation on the summer blockbuster done well and in a consistently enjoyable manner.
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vanessa Lee Chester, Vince Vaughn, Pete Postlethwaite, and Richard Attenborough. Directed by: Steven Spielberg.
Post by StevePulaski on Jun 11, 2015 22:50:08 GMT -5
Jurassic Park III (2001)
Directed by: Joe Johnston
William H. Macy and TÃ©a Leoni.
I mentioned in my review of The Lost World: Jurassic Park
that it would be difficult to call a dinosaur film, at that time, at least, "routine" or cliche because of how rarely dinosaurs were put on film. With Jurassic Park III
, however, we now have two very capable films to compare this one to, and this, on top of several issues this installment bears, work to not only derail a franchise that had fairly solid footing in the ground but managed to defy odds to become one of the few defining films in American history for its special effects.Jurassic Park III
can't manage to conjure up the same kind of danger that the original film did, nor the moodiness and the energetic cast of misfits of the second film. It plays like a theme park ride, with little sense of danger and a heavy sense of perfunctory happenings that simply occur in without much added spark of ingenuity or creativity behind them. Where Steven Spielberg had a method to his madness, and a terrific sense of buildup in both of his films, director Joe Johnston and writers Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne (yes, Election
Alexander Payne), and Jim Taylor simply stumble when trying to find a route to take with Jurassic Park III
that works and breeds new life into material that's beginning to show signs of wear.
We refocus on Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) of the first film, who is now refreshed with the events of Jurassic Park out of his mind. Despite saying he has no ambition to return to a life involving dinosaurs, Dr. Grant meets a man named Paul Kirby (William H. Macy) and his wife Amanda (TÃ©a Leoni), who cut him a blank check to give them an aerial tour of the island of Isla Sorna. He reluctantly agrees until, while on the plane, realizes that the Kirby's want to land on and explore the island, resulting in a plane crash that leaves the three of them, plus Grant's son Billy (Alessandro Nivola) and a handful of Kirby's men, stranded in a playground filled with dinosaurs. Worst of all, many of the dinosaurs are Pterodactyls, soaring menaces that hunt for prey on the ground before scooping them up and taking off without a trace.
The Pterodactyls steal the show in this film, for they are the ones who are unpredictable, quick-witted, and more entertaining to watch than the group of misplaced actors on display. The Lost World
had the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, and Vince Vaughn, all actors you wouldn't think would star in a Jurassic Park
film, but somehow found their way onto the set and decided to make due with what they had. In turn, they turned into be a cast of likable character actors, making for one of the most surprisingly functional misfit casts I have yet to see. Jurassic Park III
, on the other hand, is what happens when a series of actors find themselves working together and something feels off. It's not really an involvement thing, but there seems to be a general level of discomfort amongst the actors; actors like Macy and Leoni seem terribly out of place with a film like this, and no character, not even Grant, bears any likability throughout the course of the film. The original Jurassic Park
had its share of empty characters, but at least devoted enough time to them to show that Spielberg and company were trying to provide audiences with an even balance of talking and action, whereas The Lost World
found a way to more-or-less balance the dichotomy out to a rather effective level. Jurassic Park III
can't seem to do either very convincingly; it's too busy trying to set up the next action sequence when it focuses on the characters and is too busy looking for an easy way out during the action sequences.
Finally, there's the emotionally manipulative angle that comes up with this film too, particularly in the ending, which ties everything together with a very incredulous circumstance combined with cloying choral music to let us know that everybody involved is safe and sound. This kind of thing only works to soil the scope and power of the original film and the kind of dark, brooding atmosphere The Lost World
bravely built. The special effects are still strong, only this time, merging CGI with animatronics leaves a bit of a hokiness to the dinosaurs, particularly the Velociraptor, which bears a feathery coat (while this may be more scientifically accurate, it looks messy and unbelievable on-screen). Where the other two films were creating a powerhouse franchise in film, Jurassic Park III
is looking for a quick buck, and that part is evident from the cast choices, the writing, and the general feel, all of which feel significantly squandered and traded in for something convenient rather than daring.
Starring: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, TÃ©a Leoni, and Alessandro Nivola. Directed by: Joe Johnston.
Post by StevePulaski on Jun 13, 2015 14:02:08 GMT -5
Jurassic World (2015)
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World
A fourth installment of the "Jurassic Park" franchise has long been in the works, and if nothing else, its assembly at least gives this new generation something to warmly embrace that doesn't find itself cloaked in candy colors and Marvel branding. On my way to the theater, I kept trying to think of what I exactly wanted "Jurassic World" to accomplish as a film, and it didn't take long to realize that I was overanalyzing a lot of my expectations. The only thing I wanted was the element of wonder and danger that was missing in the third installment, but heavily present in the first and underrated second film.
On that note, "Jurassic World" delivers quite a bit of suspense and exhilaration. I would even say it goes far beyond the thrill and intensity factor of the original film with what it chooses to show. There's much more blood and violence than in any of the previous films, and the special effects are some of the strongest the series has ever seen. Aside from occasionally appearing to be a Samsung sponsored commodity with the heavy emphasis on product placement, in addition to elements that almost seem like self-parody for a summer blockbuster, this is only one of the many summer blockbusters we've been spoiled to so early in the season.
Our setting is Jurassic World, a monstrous theme park housing real-life dinosaurs, some of which genetically modified, that provides the thrills and excitements of living with dinosaurs. We immediately focus on Zach and Gray Mitchell (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), two young boys who venture out to Jurassic World to visit their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who runs the park. Claire, however, is busy trying to attract financiers to see the park's new "Indominus Rex," one of the genetically modified dinosaurs that combines eight different species of animal to, in turn, create a humongous dinosaur.
The park's main dinosaur trainer is Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), an ex-Navy member, who immediately works to help after a catastrophic turn of events has Indominus Rex leaving his concubine, wreaking havoc on the park. Numerous failed attempts to cage and detain the beast eventually result in several other dinosaurs being let out of their cages, causing for a complete meltdown of the entire facility. Despite lacking in proper artillery and being responsible for hundreds of thousands of lives, Owen and Claire work together to try and stop the beasts from terrorizing the park.
The original "Jurassic Park" worked so well because of its emphasis on peril. The film put you into a barrage of situations that felt like you were at the mercy of the same large, hulking beasts the characters on-screen were running from. "Jurassic World" restores that element, constantly trapping the viewer in an awkward or frightening position, with Colin Trevorrow commanding controlled but large-scale direction at all times. This is the essence of why "Jurassic World" is such a thrill; it plunges us into many different scenarios and gives us a variety of evocative landscapes and dinosaurs to feast our eyes on at all times.
Through starring roles in some of Hollywood's loftiest and most expensive productions, Pratt has finally asserted his ability to command a presence. If "Guardians of the Galaxy" didn't convince you that he wasn't on top of his game, "Jurassic World" will be that deciding factor. He has the subtle, suave goofiness that doesn't make him bumbling and incompetent and the right amount of intelligence as a character actor to be taken seriously, and he rises to the occasion with this picture at every turn. His character is actually so interesting that it makes focusing on the two young boys feel like a burdened change in direction, mainly because Robinson's character is such a moody, unlikable teenager.
In itself, "Jurassic World"'s burdens come in the form of excessive product placement, to the point where if Starbucks or Samsung isn't being shoved down our face, it's Coca-Cola or Beats by Dre. Some don't pick up on product placement as easily as others, but when we're immersed in a theme park setting like this, which is predominately wilderness as is, these sorts of things are much easier to spot, especially when it seems that Trevorrow is trying to make sure that said product is always at eye-level with the audience when it's in frame. Furthermore, there's the obvious element of events occurring to the characters' advantage just in the nick of time, which, while common for the summer blockbuster genre, is nonetheless cloying and overly obvious. We've already been asked to suspend our disbelief for dinosaurs, so scenes like a dead Pterodactyl's beak coming dangerously close to one of the young boys' faces before slowing to a halt feels like a cheap shot at suspense and convenience.
These burdens, however, do not discourage the fun "Jurassic World" brings. Few franchises from yesteryear that are revisited in the modern day have the ability to excite, but just hearing the name "Jurassic Park" brings to mind a multitude of different visuals that capture the imagination. "Jurassic World" is a testament to the imagination and proves, yet again, that even franchises that have laid dormant for several years can still get off the ground and morph into something worth watching.