Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Jurassic Retrospective

SPOILER WARNING: I won't get to Fallen Kingdom till way down the page so you can read up till you see the picture of the logo and be safe.

I absolutely love the whole Jurassic series. Since the title decided to change from park to world, I think it's best to just call it Jurassic. Five movies and at least two decent video games, plus the of course masterfully written source material makes the ten year old in me give a little squee every time I see that logo.

A review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is probably redundant by now, so I thought it would be nice to go through the film series and see how we got to where we are now, what worked, and maybe even highlight some moments in the franchise I particularly loved (Or hated).

Okay, let's go.

Jurassic Park: Introducing the Dinosaurs

Throughout the entire series there's going to be an ongoing battle for screen time between the dinosaurs and the human characters. While this fluctuates in who wins and who deserves it, I'd say the humans in Jurassic Park are the best the series would have. We get clear backstory and motivations for each character at a nice brisk pace so that when they make a decision it's clear why that character did what they did. Even the kids, Lex and Tim, who could've become a pair of Jar Jar's in the wrong hands were likable. This makes the intense scenes with the dinosaurs far more enjoyable because we love the dinos but we still want the humans to win.

The dinosaurs of course are magnificent. This was the first time CG was used at this level in a major film and Spielberg at the time knew how to combine practical effects with the computers to fool the audience into thinking they were seeing real dinosaurs. Every appearance of a new dinosaur is given this beautiful moment to appreciate the creature, as if every one is a magnificent piece of art, which they are. I will never forget being awed the first time the T-Rex first appeared. First she was talked up periodically throughout the film, then we see Tim react to seeing her with the night-vision goggles. Next is that goat leg on top of the sun roof, then we see it. Eating dinner like nothing in the world could disturb it. There's so much more that makes this scene great but just that alone was enough to know that we were about to experience something special.

If the first film suffers from anything its the extremes it needs to go to in order to put its humans in danger. Spielberg has been criticized for the jeep scene's inconsistencies, and if you think about it the whole returning the power to the park thing doesn't really do anything in the long run since they escape the park anyway, but we're not here for plot. We're here to see dinosaurs, and that's exactly what we got.

Lost World: More Dinos More Problems

Lost World Jurassic Park suffered initially from trying to get us to care about the humans. Ian Malcom goes to a different island to rescue his paleontologist girlfriend who is there playing Jane Goodall meets Wilma Flintstone. We get them and a group of disposable mains plus a bunch of mercenaries types who are capturing the dinosaurs to build Jurassic Sea World that was apparently already built before Jurassic Park but was abandoned because Hammond I guess got bored. This is poorly explained but by the time we finally get on the island it was worth the wait. This film delivers far more dinosaurs than the first, including the beloved Stegosaurus.

Our main goal ends up becoming centered around the T-Rex again, since because of reasons Daddy T-Rex is chasing our humans around the island. The raptors get a great scene involving long grass and some truly terrifying suspense as the mercenaries get picked off, but then we get what amounts to a Benny Hill sketch before we leave the raptors for the rest of the film.

The climax has been both criticized and applauded for it's sheer nonsensical awesomeness. The T-Rex is taken to San Diego on a boat that it somehow takes over and starts rampaging through the city like a miniature Godzilla. We catch it and send it home to his mate and the adorable baby T-Rex that I loved as a kid and still do to this day. A lot of people criticize this movie in general for removing the wonder and awe the dinosaurs had in favor of a chasey action/horror film, but I like it. We had the awe when we were first introduced to these things, trying to do it again just wouldn't make any sense. We've established that dinosaurs are cool, now let us see them do cool things!

Jurassic Park 3: The One With The Talking Raptor

Usually ending up at the bottom of a lot of people's list in this franchise, three was a massive stretch to get the characters on the island. A kid gets stuck on the island and a couple of suburban annoyances trick Alan from the first movie and his new sidekick to join them in hunting for the brat. I like this movie, but here's my issue: It has the least amount of human deaths than any of the other films. We get three. That's it.

Fan favorite T-Rex gets killed by an even bigger dinosaur, Spinosaurus, This is probably the saddest moment in the film but besides one raptor kill marks the end of our death count. I know it's kinda dark to harp on the death thing, but since character development and the wonder of dinosaurs are now gone this was kind of all we had left.

I will say this, even knowing that everyone is okay in the end we do get some incredibly intense scenes later. One is where we get to meet the Pterodactyls, a hole in the Jurassic franchise besides a brief cameo at the end of the last film and here depicted as something alien and terrifying.. The scenes with them escaping one giant flying dinosaur is incredible, though I call shenanigans on the fake-out death provided by Grant's sidekick.

Next we have them trying not to get eaten by Spinosaurus while river rafting at night, that was delightful, especially since a lot of the CG was ditched for practical effects. The juxtaposition between them and Ellie's kid is also a fun romp and makes Barney seem incredibly twisted.

Last but not least is the best scene with the raptors in the series so far when the humans try to return some stolen eggs. This is particularly intense because they are trying to communicate with the raptors in acts of gesture so that they don't get killed. It reminds me of a scene from Congo where they are confronted by a silver back and our hero shows submission hoping it gets the thing to back off. Some people hate that the scene is ended by Grant making poor imitation raptor noises through a wooden toy but I thought it was clever.

Jurassic World: Soft Reboot in Ridiculous Heels

Jurassic World saw the park finally open and we get to see what Hammond intended for these monsters. We get hundreds of humans for the dinosaurs to play with, plus plenty of new dinosaurs to see. The plot is still not great, but it makes sense. Someone wants to weaponize dinosaurs and so they're trying to weaponize the thunder lizards. That works, but I don't buy the idea that people are getting bored of dinosaurs. There is no way on this earth that people could get bored of seeing a giant monster that they can only see after paying a fortune to travel to an island just to get near.

The big new dinosaur is the genetic grab bag Indominous Rex. This thing makes for a great threat against the entire park as it tears through security and other facility workers. I was rooting for it to hit the gift shop areas until it broke out the pterosaur enclosure, then I was squeeing like an Anime fan as the vacationers were carried off by giant flying lizards.

The only downside are the human characters we have to get to know. As in all of them. I know people like Chris Pratt because he spends all his onscreen time Chris Pratting around, and that's okay, but he barely makes sense since apparently his work in the Navy makes him qualified to train Velociraptors. Maybe I just don't understand the Navy, but to me I don't get the connection.

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom: WHERE ARE THE DILOPHASAURS???

Seriously where are the Dilophosaurs? They were a great dinosaur all the way back in one but besides a couple references they were never seen again. Did they die off? I know they're not scientifically accurate but I thought we were throwing accuracy out the window when Spielberg literally made up most of the traits of the Velociraptors and they're still around.

Anyway, here we get the dinosaurs we've grown to love dying en mass because apparently the island has had a vulcano that is about to erupt. Some rich guy gets ret-conned into being Hammond's old partner and is trying to save all the dinosaurs they can before the island explodes, but his evil business manager want to sell off the dinosaurs like a horrifying version of Ebay.

Okay fine whatever it gets the dinosaurs over to north America and get to play with them inside a mansion. Cool, I like it. We also get to see a few Allasauruses, which I was really into since they are Utah's state dinosaur. We also get an Indo-Raptor, which is just a smaller Indomonus Rex so he can fit inside a house. He works and I like him but I didn't like the fact that the scene where he tries to sneak up on a little girl hiding in bed stops the pacing of the movie like a brick wall. I get that it was great fodder for the trailers but it was near the climax that the whole sequence just felt forced and out of place, especially since we just saw the thing smash through a glass window to try and eat this kid.

What's your favorite Jurassic scene?


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