Tag: colin trevorrow

Jurassic World

Jurassic World (2015)
★★ / ★★★★

Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic World” seems to forget what made Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” so successful: The sense of awe the viewers experience when a dinosaur—whether it be a T-Rex, a velociraptor, or a triceratops—is placed front and center of the camera. I was not impressed with the way the dinosaurs look here. With the exception of one scene involving a creature taking its last breaths, they look too fake, non-tactile, very likely to be surpassed by CGI technology five to ten years from now. What makes the original special is that many of the dinosaurs to this day still look real. I declare that this sequel will not stand the test of time.

Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is in charge of making sure that operations in Jurassic World are running smoothly, but she is also tasked by her sister (Judy Greer) to show her nephews, Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), a good time. As the two boys sneak off to explore the theme park on their own, a dinosaur called Indominus rex (untamable king), simply called the I-Rex, ingeniously escapes from its enclosure and heads straight for twenty thousand visitors. This dinosaur is special because it is a hybrid of a T-Rex and… something else. We learn quickly that it is highly adaptable, extremely savage, and very intelligent.

The story is replete with unlikable or downright boring characters, from the controlling Claire, one of the main protagonists, to the villain (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wishes to use velociraptors as weapons in warfare. The brothers at the center of the story neither do nor say anything special about the park or the kinds of creatures they come across within the park. Although the screenplay forges a sort of bond between them toward the latter half, it comes across as forced because we learn next to nothing about who they are as people who just so happen to come face-to-face with extraordinary levels of danger.

The only memorable scene with the brothers involves being trapped in a cool-looking but ultimately claustrophobic gyrosphere and the I-Rex desperately wanting to eat them. I almost rooted for the dinosaur because then perhaps the movie would focus itself more on Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a raptor trainer who acknowledges and respects the inherent viciousness of these genetically modified animals. Despite this, I still thought Owen is not a very compelling character. His personality pales next to Drs. Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm from the previous pictures. Pratt can do more and should have been allowed to do so.

The product placement in this film is especially distracting to the point where I actually felt insulted. I am not the kind of viewer who is on the lookout for product placement but when a shot feels like it is only present for sake of showcasing a type of soda or a make of car, that is worthy criticism. The point of a movie is to experience a story as fully as possible. Leave the advertising to commercials. I felt so disgusted at times that I found myself wondering what the filmmakers were thinking when they decided to be so obvious about the products rather than what the characters are going through.

“Jurassic World” is not a terrible picture but it is tolerable because it does have some entertaining scenes beyond chase sequences. For example, we get a chance to see the ruins of a special location in Jurassic Park. Clearly, this film is not above utilizing nostalgia—including the insertion of the original “Jurassic Park” score from time to time. Ultimately, however, it is disappointing because one gets the impression that not enough effort is put into the material—whether it be from the writing, acting, or visual department—to give us an experience that makes its own undeniable footprint.

Watching “Jurassic World” is like going to California’s Great America but a lot of the rides happen to be broken at the time, and where I really want to go is Disney World with full-on VIP passes, VIP tours, an extended one week stay in a VIP room in a first-class hotel with free buffet accommodations. No, these are not too much to ask for when a movie costs hundreds of millions of dollars to make thereby having hundreds of millions of reasons to get it exactly right.

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

Over the years, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) has learned to expect the worst. Upon first impression, she lacks an air of joviality or a zest for life. For someone so young, she looks unhappy, tired, and it appears as though she has given up on many things that should matter. Working as an intern for Seattle Magazine, it is no surprise when she quickly volunteers to cover a story that involves a man who put up an ad asking for people interested in going back in time with him. Darius considers it to be a win-win situation. If the person turns out to be crazy and article is a success, it might lead to a promotion. But if what is advertised is in fact a possibility, it will give her a chance to change her past.

While “Safety Not Guaranteed,” directed by Colin Trevorrow, is not short of ambition, it might have been a more complete and fulfilling experience by doing one of two things: to have no subplot and a shorter running time or to have a longer running time with a more fleshed out subplot. Instead, it sits somewhere in between: moving forward at a constant pace but not taking enough risks by embracing extremes. Our interest goes on autopilot after a while.

At least there is a semblance of freshness in the relationship between Darius and Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the man who claims to have successfully gone back to the past. What they have is complicated given that Darius choosing to acquaint herself with the guy is essentially rooted upon deception so she can get to know him well enough prior to writing the article.

Plaza is very good in conveying a certain level of toughness in Darius without letting go of her character’s amusing quirks and acerbic sarcasm. It is easier for a performer to reduce Darius to a stereotypical angry punk rocker given her penchant for eye liners, dark clothing, serious demeanor. Instead, the protagonist is played with some insight and is allowed to react like any other person when a handed a surprising turn of events. Throughout the course of her experience with Kenneth, the subtle changes in her challenge us to catch up to her thoughts which makes her intentions a little harder to categorize.

It is unfortunate that their possible romantic connection is interrupted by a subplot involving Jeff (Jake Johnson), Darius’ superior, wanting to reconnect so badly with a former one-time flame. Perhaps its point is to relay the idea that holding onto the past and, given the opportunity, changing it to meet a fantasy is like watching—and being entertained by—one person attempting to push a five-ton boulder up a mountain. While appropriate given the plot’s themes, there is nothing much to it and other the character being a source of amusement.

In other words, most of us already know why the past should remain the past. The screenplay does not bother to further question or explore the human condition of wishing things to be different than they are. It fails as an effective and involving subplot that runs parallel to the central relationship. Worse, on a more basic level, it interrupts the flow of what is brewing between Darius and Kenneth.

Another missed opportunity involves the second intern, Arnau (Karan Soni), so severely underused that he might as well not have been a part of the investigation. Although he is given three or four funny lines to say, we do not get a chance to get to know him as well as Darius or Jeff. Why have him there in the first place?

Written by Derek Connolly, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is smart to leave its ending open to interpretation, but it is not entirely enthralling experience because some key elements that lead up to that point are a struggle to sit through at times. For a movie about a possible time travel, I kept wishing it would fast forward through its more somniferous clichés.