Thursday, June 21, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

It was somewhere around the midpoint of the movie when I realized that I was watching a stealth Spielberg film, indeed...almost, I daresay, an Indiana Jones movie, disguised as a Jurassic Park movie. "Okay, Brady is Indie, or his great grandson. Blue is really the new Short Round, and...yes, yes, it all makes sense now..."

I had that same weird feeling with the first Jurassic World movie, except that I imagined it was a film about what happened when Starlord decided to go back to earth and visit for a while, wrangle dinosaurs, stuff like that. The thing is, these new Jurassic World films do this to me: they not only make me think of some other films with very subtle call outs in terms of their style, but they evoke a type of film I haven't really seen in a long time. A movie where the heroes are tough but ordinary guys, and the bad guys are ruthless and foolish but also ordinary, and the dinosaurs are just plain old awesome, terrifying, and also the ones you're rooting for in the end.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom surprised me by being A: fun, B: lots of fun in a weird 80's Spielberg classic action movie kind of way; C: so much fun that I decided this may be the all around most enjoyable Summer flick in a veritable locust swarm of Summer blockbusters so far this year. And it probably won't do as well because, frankly, this is a really fatiguing year for over-the-top action movies, and people can only take so much. Plus, it's not a perfect movie by any stretch. There's a large swathe of people these days who can't see movies for fun anymore, and their sense of verisimilitude about rampaging genetically recreated dinosaurs will no doubt become deeply incensed at the relatively straight forward and not too critical plot bits that used to serve quite nicely in a world where geek culture hasn't become a writhing mass of purile discontent.

Here's the bottom line, though: my son loved it, and we as a family loved this movie. It was well worth watching, and if you're like me you know exactly what I mean. Take the kids, and have a great time. Note that there are some scary bits so if your kid is (unlike mine) a bit sensitive to some dinosaur violence, keep that in mind. Overall though even the most heinous bits in the movie were surprisingly discreet in how they were filmed....the only people with truly gory deaths all deserved it, in other words....!

Solid A, for Apatosaurus!


Seriously, it was a fun movie, but there were a few things that I did find amusing and/or annoying, specifically the "dinosaur in the bedroom scene" which was (I felt) clearly set up to help promote the movie in the trailers more than anything.

Also, it did feel like The Bad Guy Eli Mills did snuff his mentor with a pillow less because he really thought that was a good idea and more because we really needed him to do something distinctly more heinous in the film to frame him as a genuinely bad dude, even though selling dinosaurs on the black market was enough. It was that later moment, when he rather compellingly points out that what he's doing is not all that different from what the heroes did in the first move....on paper, at least. So even as the heroes wrestle with the moral greyness of the repercussions of their actions from the past, we the audience are at least smug in knowing that he Done Bad and will pay by being eaten at some point. Oddly, I don't think the heroes are ever given a chance to figure out that Mills really was a murderer* before he gets his comeuppance.

Good parts in the movie included a doped up Chris Pratt as Brady trying to escape prycolastic lava flow and then outrunning a volcano. I imagined there must be geologists out there pulling their hair out but I was thinking, "Wow this feels like a movie that is Indiana Jones in all but name."

The film's judicious and effective manipulation of heart strings with the dinosaurs, who continued to be characterized as just Very Dangerous Animals who were also kinda the good guys of nature was intriguing fun, and effective to judge from my kid and wife's enjoyment of the movie. Except the Bad genetically engineered Indo Raptor. Screw that dude!

The pacing was also great, and only a few bits at the beginning and a bit later on were "slow." I also  LOVED that the movie was only 2 hours and 9 minutes long. I really miss the days when most movies were around 2 hours in length. Huge plus.

Overall....not as pretentious (or portentious**) as Jurassic Park: Lost World, and a better overall film I felt than the first Jurassic World (though that was a hard film not to enjoy as well). It's decision to present as an action adventure of the most traditional kind was a welcome relief from the superhero soap operas Disney is otherwise assailing us with constantly, and it was really nice to have a movie where the heroes' mortality was relevant to the tension of the film, and you could actually understand what the heroes' physical limits were.

*Well, except for the part about leaving them to die in the volcanic explosion of course. They had that on him, too.

**Even with Ian Malcom's bit the movie was not half as "woe betide the madmen of science" as prior films, thanks to its extremely generous dive into the deep end of pulp villainy and "we do bad because it's quicker and gets us richer" approach to the whole thing.

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