Monday, June 25, 2018

dino ex machina: a jurassic review

I was originally going to do this review as a part of a Dozen Movie Dash, which is a random post that I do giving quick reviews of a dozen recently seen films (which, until last night, I didn't realize how random, as I haven't done one since 2014)

As a part of the DMD, I figured I'd talk about "Tag" and "Action Point" and maybe Dolly Parton's "Nine to Five" that I just watched, and of course, talk about "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom", which I saw this weekend...

Then I realized my review was longer, so taking on 11 more films would make this an obnoxiously long post... not that that has stopped me -- I mean why say in 500 words what I can say in 1500, amma right?  Up top!

So I figured I would just give this it's own post...

The reviews for this have been all over the map -- it sits at 50% critics and 62% audiences scores on Rotten Tomatoes, and 6.7 on IMDb, and after watching it, I could see where someone would love this movie, and where someone would hate it.  If you wanted more of the same as "Jurassic World", then you get it -- if you wanted a different story, then you are out of luck.

Without giving too much away, the general story is the Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, who I really like, though I'm more a Jessica Chastain fan in the "Pick one of the two actresses that are nearly the same") is recruited by the extended family of John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, from the first film, though he is only referenced -- Attenborough died in 2014) to go get the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar. The island is being destroyed by a volcano, and Claire, who has strong armed Owen (Chris Pratt) into coming along, is to assist in getting a least a few of each species onto a transport ship, where they will be taken to a new habitat to live in peace for the rest of their days. But, of course, not is all as it seems.  

Here's the thing... we love dinosaurs. And in "Jurassic Park", we got them... and they were amazing. They were incredible, unlike anything we'd ever seen.  With "Lost World Jurassic Park" and "Jurassic Park III", some of the luster was gone, as the story was sacrificed to show us more impressive dinosaurs.  So when "Jurassic World" came along, some 14 years later after JPIII, we were ready to be dazzled again, and we were. A new generation of teen fans were discovering the T-Rex and the raptor and other extinct creatures, with new characters and new story lines and more!

But something happened between "World" and "Fallen Kingdom".  They pulled the checklist out and made sure that what made the first one so good would also be in the second one... 
  • Jerk military guy. Check!  
  • Invented dinosaur creature. Check!  
  • Claire's plucky and wisecracking assistants. Check!
  • Kid involved. Check!

And, something I've dubbed Dino ex Machina.  Remember in the very first Jurassic Park, when Grant and Ellie and the kids are surround by raptors in the lobby of the main building of the park?  All hope was lost, they were about to get eaten... and suddenly, the T-Rex comes out of nowhere to save the day??  And then at the end of "Jurassic World", Claire and Owen and the kids are cornered by Indominous Rex, and are about to get eaten... and suddenly, a giant sea monster comes out and eats them??  

Dino ex Machina.

When the dinosaur pulls a deus ex machina and improbably saves the day. And there are several of these moments in "Fallen Kingdom", by the way. It's lazy writing and was a little irritating.

One of my favorite movie jokes ever
SIDEBAR:  The official term is "deus ex machina" and is from a Latin translation of a Greek term "god from the machine."  It's defined by Wikipedia as "a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and seemingly unlikely occurrence, typically so much as to seem contrived. 

My own personal favorite example of this is in the movie "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" where Peter, played by Vince Vaughn, has sold the gym to White Goodman - Ben Stiller - and despite winning the tournament, is still under threat of demolition by Globo Gym... until Peter wheels out a literal treasure chest, informing White that with the money he got from selling Average Joe's Gym, he gambled it into enough cash to purchase the majority stake in Globo Gym, thereby now owning both gyms.  And on the treasure chest?  "Deus Ex Machina".  It's a brilliant joke that I think a lot of people never notice.  Thus, when a T-Rex or other dinosaurs suddenly rescue our heroes... Dino Ex Machina.

Overall, despite the last several paragraphs, I enjoyed the movie. It was loud, it was a little tense (though the fate of the main characters were never in ANY question), and the CGI was good. The best part of the film is what takes place on the island, though we are done there by the first half hour, and its onto the rest of the movie.  It's nice to see Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) but he's completely under utilized in his bit parts. 

I guess you could say this movie is "Brain Candy", meaning, its loud and blowey uppy and roar filled and people in danger but the real people we love are never in real danger, and Brain Candy isn't a bad thing. Its a movie you don't have to think about, it's a movie you can just watch and not be encumbered by the thought process... but that pro is also a con, because the original "Jurassic Park" is a very smart film at it's core, even with it's absurd premise.

So go see it at the theater to get the full scope of the visual and audible... but keep your expectations lower than you want.

PS... I think you'll agree with me... the first one should have been called "Jurassic Island".  This one could have been called "Jurassic Kingdom".  The final one in this trilogy (and honestly, let's hope the final one for a long time) could have been called "Jurassic World"... and you'll see that in the 10 second blurb AFTER the credits. 

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