Tag: jurassic park

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.

Super 8


Super 8 (2011)
★★★★ / ★★★★

It was the summer of 1979 and five friends (Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills) were set to make a zombie picture using a Super 8 mm film. The director, portly Charles (Griffiths), recruited radiant Alice (Elle Fanning) to be in the movie and kind-hearted Joe (Courtney), whose mother had passed away four months earlier, was completely elated with the idea because he had a huge crush on her. But when the boys and the girl held a midnight shoot at the train station, they witnessed an incredible crash. Something was released from the cargo train and strange things started to occur in town. Written and directed by J.J. Abrams, “Super 8” is the kind of film I love because it touched upon every single movie genre without losing touch with its heart. It was very aware of its environment. Notice that the water tower was consistently present in the background shots. As the movie went on, I managed to form a mental picture of where everything was relative to the water tower. I felt like I was one of the kids and my world revolved around that landmark. The storyline was divided into two extremes but the director had found a way to make the halves fit with a balance of elegance and intelligence. The first hour embodied a coming-of-age tone. We focused on Joe and his grieving father (Kyle Chandler) who never seemed to be around. It seemed like the two never really sat down and talked about death and what it meant to move on. When Joe caught his father crying in the bathroom, Joe was greeted with a closing door. Joe held a private fear that maybe he was slowly losing his father. I was surprised when I found out this was Courtney’s first role because his acting was quite impressive. I quickly identified with his character because of the way he used his eyes to convey specific emotions. I loved the scenes when Joe just looked at Alice in complete captivation. The warm looks he gave reminded me, at least from what I can remember, of my first love and what I was willing to do for and say to that person at the time. It was cute how he tried not to make a fool of himself but he did anyway. The second hour focused on the mystery involving a possible alien on the loose. Dogs evacuated town, local folks had gone missing, and the U.S. Air Force set up camp in order to regain control of the situation. Meanwhile, every time Charles yelled, “Production value!” (images that make it seem like a movie has a certain budget) the young filmmakers took advantage of their surroundings and shot their zombie movie with wonderful enthusiasm. Their plucky personalities was center stage and I couldn’t help but laugh at their interactions. “Super 8” was produced by Steven Spielberg and, understandably, it was compared to his work like the masterful “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” I say it was more similar to “Jurassic Park.” The scene with the overturned bus and the roar of the creature outside was very reminiscent of the famous T. rex attack: the rumbling from a distance, the jump-out-of-your-seat scares, the sense of entrapment, and the eventual gore. “Super 8” was a love letter to Spielberg and, more importantly, people who admire his work. While specific references were wonderful in and of themselves, I felt the magic most when the director added his own twist into what was expected. I wasn’t just moved by its emotions; I was transported in its time and place.

Monsters


Monsters (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

The original plan was for Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), a photographer, to take Sam Wynden (Whitney Able), his boss’ daughter, from Mexico to the United States via a ferry because the land between the two countries were infested with giant octopus-like aliens. But after Kaulder and Sam had a night out of drinking and celebration, Kaulder ended up taking another woman to his motel room. The next morning, when Kaulder wasn’t looking, the woman stole some money including Sam’s passport, a requirement in order for her to get aboard the boat. “Monsters” was an effective science fiction film despite its small budget because it had a solid hold on its tone. The first forty minutes focused on the flirtation and possible romantic connection between the two protagonists. Even though Sam claimed she was engaged, it was apparent that she enjoyed Kaulder’s advances. When he suggested that he stayed on her bed because it was big enough for the two of them, she hesitated for a moment before sending him off his way. The rest of the picture’s running time was dedicated to their nail-biting journey across the infected land. Initially, they were protected by men with guns but we knew that they were simply there as bait. When they heard a strange noise from a distance, it was only a matter of time until the aliens came out from the shadows that hid them so well. I believe the film was highly influenced by Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park.” Kaulder and Sam were always stuck in some sort of a vehicle as they were forced to observe the carnage. A small sound could potentially capture the aliens’ attention and so I caught myself holding my breath for them and hoped that they wouldn’t err. Furthermore, there was a scene set in a gas station that was very reminiscent of the children’s encounter with velociraptors in Spielberg’s sci-fi classic. We even had a chance to learn about how the aliens reproduced. It was horrifying. I felt like a child again; the feeling was similar to when I found out that if a worm was cut in half, the halves could survive and regenerate. (The concept still feels alien to me.) The extraterrestrials did get close to the characters but the filmmakers made a smart decision to not allow the creatures to catch up on them to the point where a human and alien would make contact. For a human to escape a giant alien equipped with sensitive feelers and great force would have been too unbelievable. It was all about the escape and the moments in which the characters believed that it might have been over for them. I understand some people’s disappointment about the film’s lack of CGI, gore, and explosions. That’s exactly why I enjoyed it. It was proof that those elements weren’t necessary to make an effective science fiction film as long as it has a wild imagination combined with a human story.

Jurassic Park


Jurassic Park (1993)
★★★★ / ★★★★

“Jurassic Park” was one of my favorite movies when I was about seven years old and it still remains a guilty pleasure of mine. (And I’m guessing my love for this film will be passed on to my kids.) Based on the novel by Michael Crichton and directed by the great Steven Spielberg, this film made me experience every emotion that there was to experience in (smart) summer blockbusters and creature-feature movies: heart-pounding thrills, suspense embedded in silences, funny one-liners, and astute script supported by storytelling that inspires true wonder.

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) wanted to open a new theme park that was full of dinosaurs and everything else from that specific time period. But in order for the park to get a green light to open, he must get the approval of outside parties: a mathematician who loves to talk about the chaos theory (Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm) and two dinosaur experts who are opposites but undoubtedly share great chemistry (Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant and Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler). Other characters included Hammond’s grandchildren (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards), a greedy computer expert who made a deal with another research group to smuggle DNA outside of Jurassic Park (Wayne Knight), another computer expert who likes structure and discipline (Samuel L. Jackson), a dinosaur hunter (Bob Peck), and a lawyer who values money over safety (Martin Ferrero). Although none of the characters were fully explored, I did not think that was too big of a problem because each of them contributed something to the picture, such as being dinosaur bait for our entertainment. And who really wants character development when one can look at how ferocious and fatal dinosaurs can be?

I admired this picture’s ability to balance. With its two-hour running time, I noticed that the first half served to explain how the scientists were able to replicate (with slight but crucial modifications) extinct creatures and the second half focused on the many brutal ways of getting hunted. As a Biological Sciences major, I liked the fact that it offered an explanation that made sense with regards to how the scientists acquired the dinosaurs’ DNA. Moreover, I also liked that it mentioned that acquiring the DNA would not be sufficient. That is, there were missing gaps in the DNA that had to be solved in order to commence the process of DNA replication and eventually cloning entire organisms. As for the chase sequences, I found that once it started it never lets go until the final three minutes. There were definitely a plethora of highlights in the second half but I’m only going to mention some. The kitchen scene that haunted me when I was younger was even more thrilling than I thought. When I was seven, I remember being able to identify with those kids because I thought that if I were in their situation, I wouldn’t want to get eaten by those hungry velociraptors either. Not that I’m older, I still could identify with them but on a different level: I didn’t want them to get hurt because they are smart, funny and energetic kids. Another highlight was the first appearance of the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex and how the water vibrated as it moved closer to the characters. I’ve seen the impact of vibration reference in a plethora of films that came after “Jurassic Park” so I think it’s safe to say that that scene is pretty much embedded in the collective media unconscious. And it rightly deserves to be because of Spielberg’s great execution by building suspense and eventually delivering the thrills.

The special and visual effects must be given applause. I’ve seen a number of movies surrounding 1993 and nothing even comes close to this film’s magic. Back in 1993, it must have been that much more impressive. Nowadays, if one was to watch this movie, one would find out that some effects were noticably computerized. Given that, while the two sequels greatly improved on the effects, neither comes close to the original’s sense of wonder and tension. For me, it goes to show that a movie can have the best special and visual effects in the world but if there’s not enough story and heart, it’s essentially weak as a whole. Last but certainly not least, I liked that it managed to tackle ethical questions of building such a park. I was glad that the whole “playing God” issue/religion was acknowledged but it eventually focused on defying nature without thinking of the consequences first. Goldblum’s character provided much of the ethical questions and I was always interested with what he had to say. And really, his questions are still relevant today because of all the technological advancements our generation are acquiring.

“Jurassic Park” is truly one of the best summer blockbuster popcorn flick ever made. By the time the credits started rolling, despite the death and terror that happened in the park, I still wished we had one just like it in real life so I could visit. If I were to describe this movie in the fewest words possible it would be “A Landmark.”

Jurassic Park III


Jurassic Park III (2001)
★★★ / ★★★★

Sam Neill returns as Dr. Alan Grant, a paleontologist who accepted a couple’s offer (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) to give them a tour of Isla Sorna (the second island where scientists conduct experiments of cloning and breeding of dinosaurs) because his research needed funding. Later on, we got to find out that the real reason the couple wanted to visit the island was to find their son (Trevor Morgan) who got stranded there due to a boating accident. Although I did not enjoy this installment as the original “Jurassic Park,” it was definitely a step up from “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” I still enjoyed watching the dinosaurs, the adventures that characters went though, and the campiness that came with the hunt but I felt as though the dinosaurs were secondary to the characters. “Jurassic Park III” did not have the same wonder as the first did. Instead of consistently finding more about the dinosaurs and how they’ve evolved as the picture went on, it was simply stated in the first fifteen minutes of the movie that the raptors knew how to communicate and were probably more intelligent than primates. So, in a way, it took away some of the potentially great suspense that the filmmakers could have utilized by means of surprise when the characters were actually on the island. The return of Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler was more than welcome because she had that constant worry look in her eyes but was more than capable of delivering when circumstances were at their worst. I just wished that her character was used a lot more instead of just keeping her at the periphery (i.e. off the island). Some highlights include the Pteranodon attack, the Spinosaurus attack while the gang tried to contact Ellie, and all the scenes with the Velociraptors. I also very much enjoyed the fact that this film made references to the first two and the characters that were not present on this one. Directed by Joe Johnston, “Jurassic Park III” was still able to entertain but it could have been longer in order to add more heart-pounding scenes and a much stronger ending. I’ve heard rumors that this is going to be the final installment of the franchise, which I really hope is not the case because I can always use more dinosaurs in the cinema. I say they just need a strong script and they should be good to go.