Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Jurassic World

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Produced by: Frank Marshall
Patrick Crowley

Screenplay by: Rick Jaffa
Amanda Silver
Derek Connolly
Colin Trevorrow

Story by: Rick Jaffa
Amanda Silver

Based on: Characters by Michael Crichton

Starring: Chris Pratt
Bryce Dallas Howard
Vincent D'Onofrio
Ty Simpkins
Nick Robinson
Omar Sy
B.D. Wong
Irrfan Khan

Music by: Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by: John Schwartzman

Editing by: Kevin Stitt

Studio(s): Amblin Entertainment
Legendary Pictures

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Release date(s): June 11, 2015 (United Kingdom)
June 12, 2015 (United States)

Running time: 124 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $150 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $1, 665, 727, 701

Okay, so there's less reviews going out than there should be. I admit that. The pace may not exactly be quickening, but it sure is going nice and steady. It's nice to be able to go back to my roots as a writer with the film reviewing. As I'm busy with both work and pursuing my own interests, it is a pleasure to take a step away from it all and just bask in the sheer enjoyment of sitting in a dark room watching something unfold. It would be amiss for me to make any great promises regarding this blog, as I've only managed to watch a dozen films so far from 2015 (easily my lowest number since this blog's inception) and have been so far removed from the general scheme of things, but I can say that I'll do my best to cover as much as I can. So, with that being said, for, if not all, at least some of the latest and greatest in the movies, keep your eyes posted.

Today's film up for review is Jurassic World, the fourth entry into the Jurassic Park film series. Returning to the big screens after a fourteen-year gap involving a long period of development hell, Jurassic World opened right in the midst of blockbuster season and became an astounding box-office success, standing right now as the highest-grossing film of 2015 and the third highest-grossing film of all-time. I for one was expected it to do relatively well, but I don't think many could have predicted the final outcome, and it just shows how much love there is this franchise. As a boy I saw the first film and instantly fell for it all: there was something just so wondrous and brilliant about those dinosaurs, and it amazed me that these beasts once walked the earth. For a long time, way before I started styling myself as an artistic enfant terrible, it was my great dream to become a palaeontologist. Yep, I wanted to earn a living and live my life on archaeological campsites digging up dinosaurs. I don't look back with hindsight and scoff at my younger self's ambitions. Indeed, I admire them, because I'm still to a degree digging up dirt, exploring and looking for answers to all of life's great mysteries. The first Jurassic Park (and the 1997 sequel The Lost World) have a special place in my heart, so thank you Mr. Spielberg (and of course Mr. Crichton for his terrific novel). Now, let's get on with the synopsis: twenty-two years after the events in Jurassic Park, a fully functioning dinosaur theme park under the name of Jurassic World has been operating successfully for ten years on the island Isla Nublar. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the operations manager of the park, is a workaholic who is too busy to recruiting new sponsors with a new attraction, the genetically modified synthetic dinosaur known as Indominus Rex, to spend time with her visiting nephews Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins). Before the attraction opens, park owner Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) wants resident Velociraptor expert and trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to evaluate the enclosure. However, when it seems that the Indominus has escaped, Owen and two staff members are ambushed by the dinosaur, which then escapes further into the island. With Zach and Gray having ignored the evacuation order while on a gyrosphere ride, it is up to Owen and Claire to save the boys from the rampaging beast, whose escape has had a tumbleweed effect causing all sorts of havoc, and restore some semblance of order to the park. Got it? Good!

To start off with the good, I have to say that Jurassic World is a blockbuster which delivers it's big-budget spectacle in stacks. Notwithstanding the fact that the film is looks good and is edited well, the special-effects on the film reaches the standard of excellence set by the previous films. Computer graphics have come a long way since 2001, and it's a fitting tribute to the work of the late great Stan Winston that his alumni at Legacy Effects and Industrial Light And Magic, with the likes of Phil Tippett and Dennis Muren back on board to bring the franchise up to contemporary speed. The use of motion capture is also a welcome addition, ensuring the seamless flow of movement in the dinosaurs. With all of these elements of a high standard, it means that we can sit back and wallow in the sheer awe at watching these creatures, but also on the edge of our seats with some of the film's terrific action sequences. There is a brilliant sense of size and scale involved in the scenes, but most importantly, they maintain the essential fear factor involved; these are big, scary beasts, and chances are they the ones doing the hunting, not the other way around. All of this culminates in one of the most outrageously destructive and totally awesome fight sequences I can remember seeing in a film for a good while. There are also other things to admire about Jurassic World. Like the original, it is ultimately a precautional commentary on the ethical question of man playing god. Science and the advancement of technology brings many great things, but there are some stones best left unturned. While it's a tried and tested trope, those behind Jurassic World are smart enough to ensure that the movie has it's own thing going. It's the first post-9/11 Jurassic Park film, and there are clear implications involved with the shadow that that event has left upon our collective consciousness. The idea of the intelligent Velociraptors being trained is a genius bit of thinking (and which reminds me of the turn of the Vortigaunts in Half-Life 2), because not only do you get to have dinosaurs on the side of the humans but you also get the ethical considerations involving InGen's Vic Hoskins designs to see them trained for military use as weapons of war. As regards thematic content, Jurassic World succeeds. Also, while some may mourn the absence of John Williams as the film's composer, we can celebrate the fact that Michael Giacchino is on board here and that he delivers one of his best scores to date. While I'm not usually the man for what I call 'orchestral histrionics,' Giacchino is an exception, and this contains many pieces of work which are quite clearly trademark 'Giacchino' themes, but also are creative, thrilling and at times beautiful. Furthermore, there is a synthesis between this and his homages, echoing the iconic Williams themes, balanced perfectly and never overstepping their bounds. It's a score that works on many different levels, merging sound and vision into moments were time seems to stand still. I wouldn't be surprised if it remains one of the best scores of the year come awards season. It is this synthesis I mentioned, between respectful homage and distinctive creativity that stands out at the heart of Jurassic World. Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver were handed the reigns to bring a much beloved franchise back to the big screen, something which they do successfully. Maintaining a balance between the homages (the Jurassic World employee wearing a Jurassic Park t-shirt being told off for being in bad taste) and taking the property to new places, Jurassic World is a confident, respectful and highly entertaining blockbuster which assures that once again, life has found a way for this franchise.

So, as you can gather, I liked Jurassic World. Scratch that, I really liked Jurassic World. However, much as I found the film a hell of a lot of fun, there is a central problem to it which means that while it is a great movie, it's no masterwork. That problem lies in the characters. Despite the fact that you have quality actors like Chris Pratt and Vincent D'Onofrio playing these parts, they remain themselves two-dimensional tropes with no viable arcs. Pratt can make paint drying somewhat watchable, but his Owen Grady has none of the development or depth that his recent protagonists Emmet Brickowski and Peter Quill have possessed. None more so is this prevalent in Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire, a part which is indicative of the poor state of affairs regarding the lack of viable female parts in major Hollywood films. Claire is a strong and at times intimidating authority figure to her employees at Jurassic World, but all of that cool demeanour goes out the window when it comes to the rugged charms of Chris Pratt. I know that's a spoiler but tell me you can't see that a mile away! I mean, for God's sake, she even acknowledges a previous tryst with the man as "a mistake." Is it really necessary for every major female character in a blockbuster to fall for their leading man? I'm not suggesting a standardisation of platonic relationships or something, but isn't demeaning to suggest that powerful women who are successful are lacking something 'inside' (hint hint, wink wink) and hollow vacuous shells unless they go head over heels for their male co-stars? Whatever happened to the Ellen Ripley's, the Sarah Connor's or the Clarice Starling's? Because of this lack of character development, these arcs weren't appropriately justified, and I found some of the sexual and gender politics involved here to be quite troublesome.

Right so, taking that away my problems with the characters, which I hate to, being the ethical mother that I am, I still think that Jurassic World is a great movie. This is a big-budget spectacle which delivers in stacks. The cinematography, editing, sound and special effects are of a very high standard, and the well-scripted action sequences are among some of the most exciting around. Also, for all the lack of character development, there is still a rich amount of thematic content. Michael Giacchino also gives us one of his best scores, quite clearly his own while steeped with gestures towards the work of John Williams. The same can be said for much of the film. It's quite a step-up for Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, but they succeed in delivering a film that is a synthesis between something that is a respectful homage to the history of the franchise and an original move forward for its future.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cool

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