Tag Archives: movie review

I Can’t Just “Watch Movies” Anymore

It’s no great secret that being a writer — well, being an artist at all, but specifically being somebody who spends a lot of time thinking about storytelling — warps the way you see the world a bit. In fact, part of my general unease of late centers on the fact that the real world functions so very decidedly unlike a story.

Still, it’s hard to help how you think, and while I’m hairline-deep in the editing process trying to make my drivel readable and coherent (a task that seems more in need of a blowtorch than a laptop most days), I can’t help seeing story everywhere I look. They say that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; but what does that mean when every problem you see looks like it could be solved with a bit of narrative restructuring?

Anyway: my wife and I are sitting down last night watching Wonder, one of those feel-good movies designed to play on your heartstrings at the expense of a satisfying narrative. (See also: Parenthood, This is Us, or any other contemporary drama starring a big cast with a troubled family and scored with the sounds of a sweet, sweet soulful acoustic guitar. My wife will give me heck for not liking the movie. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just don’t feel satisfied by it. Emotions are not my thing since I’m basically a robot in a skin-suit. But it was fine. HONEY IT WAS FINE.) And, as we’re watching, in my head I’m silently going down the list.

Call to action: check.

Meeting the mentor: check.

Crossing the threshold: check.

(What? This is how I watch movies now.)

And we get to the final third of the movie, and — no big spoiler here — the family dog gets sick, gets taken to the vet, and dies. (Okay, spoiler-for-everything alert — if the family pet is shown to be exceptionally adorable or loyal in the first act, it will die by the third act. Call it Chekhov’s Canine.) I jump up from the couch, pointing like Sherlock Holmes discovering the crime-solving clue, and shout “THE WHIFF OF DEATH!”

See, I’ve been reading Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!, and I know that there comes a moment toward the second half of the story where somebody or something close to the hero dies, reminding the hero of their mortality and spurring them to make the change necessary for the resolution of the central conflict. Snyder calls this the “whiff of death,” and for whatever reason, I forgot about it, or wasn’t expecting to see it in this movie, or maybe it’s vacation so we were a couple of adult beverages in and I got a little enthusiastic. Anyway, the moment dropped like a a blue whale falling through the stratosphere and I HAD TO POINT IT OUT TO SOMEBODY.

My wife is unimpressed. She’s puzzled, and a little affronted, since she’s in her feelings watching the dad come home, sad-faced and apologetic, to deliver the bad news to the kids. It’s kind of a bolt-from-the-blue moment in the story. The dog isn’t really relevant to the narrative at all. But I saw it — and SEE it — for what it is: a cattle prod up the posterior of the protagonist to get him hustling into the final third of the movie. I try explaining this to her with lots of full-bodied gesticulation and noises about character development and guttural grunting. “THE WHIFF OF DEATH,” I exclaim again, both hands flung out toward the TV in a can’t-you-see-it gesture.

“Yeah,” she says. “The dog died. It’s sad.”

Which is right, too, I guess.

I have no idea how the movie ended; writing was so much on my brain by that point that I had to stop watching in favor of jotting down several book-saving ideas that I had failed to write down earlier in the day because I am an idiot.

Just kidding: (spoiler alert!) everything works out okay for the kid in the end, and everybody in the kid’s orbit learns some important lessons about life. See? It’s uplifting, and not at all like real life!

Now to figure out what we’re going to “watch” tonight.


Terrible Reviews: Batman vs Superman

Superhero movies have been pretty good lately, right? The latest Batman flicks have been pretty stellar, right?

Despite the (negative) hype, my wife and I figured we’d give this one a try. Shoulda believed the hype. I don’t even know if I can use my typical format for reviews on this one; I need a new format.

Spoilery-type things ahead, though I don’t know that that will deter you at all.

Phase one: I have no idea what is happening

Does this movie draw upon the previous Superman movies (which I didn’t see) for all their exposition? The first hour of this movie jumps around like a caffeinated flea. We’re in Gotham seeing Batman’s parents gunned down (AGAIN). We’re in Metropolis watching Superman and some big bad wreck the city, including a building Batman owns (I think?). We’re in the desert watching a sting-gone-bad end with Superman rescuing Lois Lane (more on that later). Now we’re in Lex Luthor’s building and Batman is tapping into Luthor’s server for … reasons? Something something we both hate Superman?

I mean, my wife and I were having a bit of wine while we watched, but I don’t think I can blame my disorientation in the first third of this film on that. It’s everywhere all at once. There’s very little substantial dialogue. I felt lost, and not in that ooh I bet this will all make sense later kind of way, but in that I’m drowning in flash and spectacle but I don’t know what any of it means kind of way. It doesn’t help that entirely too much of the film is spent in Bruce Wayne’s trippy dreams, which constantly snap you right out of what little narrative there is, here.

Also, there’s a dark-haired, femme-fatale-ish woman running around dropping little turdlets around the plot (she steals Batman’s computer-info-stealer, and then gives it back to him, because why not), but no, her presence isn’t explained either.

Phase two: I am confused at everything that is happening

Luthor is a criminal mastermind, I get that. And I know it’s canon that he superhates Superman, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why, in this movie, he’s out to get Superman, outside of a vague indignance that Superman is literally a god among men and he has an ideological problem with that. But okay, he puppet-masters Batman and Superman into fighting each other, though he doesn’t seem to have a dog in this fight (he hates Batman too, seeing as Batman stole all his kryptonite for the fight). Then, hallelujah, Batman and Superman throw down, and hey, howdy, this is pretty awesome, but then all of a sudden the fight stops. Why? Because it turns out Batman and Superman have the same mother (okay, their mothers share the same NAME, but it would have been way better if they shared the same mother), and for some reason Batman stops an inch short of turning Superman into a kryptonite shish kebab when he learns this. I mean, a moment ago I hated you and everything you stood for, but now I don’t, because we both have manpain?

So the feud between these guys — the feud which serves, not incidentally, as the title of the film — lasts all of about twenty minutes in this 150-minute spaghetti-plate of a movie, and then they team up to take revenge on Luthor, because c’mon, good guys are good guys and bad guys are bad guys and there is NO OTHER WAY TO BE (just kidding, Marvel’s Civil War shows us a good way to have good guys fight each other which totally doesn’t suck). And it’s a good thing they did team up, because Luthor, realizing that his two nemeses have teamed up against him, spawns a terrifying demon (how he knew how to do this is another thing that the film won’t be bothering to explain, because fargo you for asking), which really looks like one of the orcs from Lord of the Rings, except that it can belch fire.

Never mind that Luthor doesn’t actually seem to have any control over this thing, nor does he seem to care. What does he expect to happen after it kills Superman? What would stop its rampage? Does Lex Luthor just want to destroy the whole world?

Who the hell knows.

Phase three: I no longer care what’s happening

Batman should be dead as hell. The Orc from Hell punched Superman through some buildings and shot Batman’s plane down with a laser beam from its mouth, and then it comes crashing in for the kill, but NOPE, it’s Wonder Woman-ex-machina to the rescue.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Wonder Woman is pretty badass here. But once again, this movie drops the ball by letting things happen which should never happen. She goes toe-to-toe with the baddie — arguably as well as Superman, for that matter. Her shield can fend off its mouth-laser, and her sword can actually draw its — blood? lava? whatever — it’s so effective, in fact, that she lops the thing’s hand off. Now, maybe it’s me, but if your sword can lop the Orc from Hell’s hand off, then it can lop off his other bits and pieces too — like, I dunno, his head — but no, she stands back and lets the thing grow a new hand (and for all the world, as it re-grows the hand, it looks like he’s giving them all the finger. If that’s not a perfect metaphor for this movie, I dunno what is). And it takes — guess who — Superman making a heroic sacrifice by wielding a kryptonite lance of Longinus to take him down.

In short, Wonder Woman is in this movie to save Batman’s life, and that’s about it, which raises the question — couldn’t the movie have just been fifteen minutes shorter and removed her entirely? It’s not like they let her have the killing blow against the big bad or anything. She seems wasted.


I mean, Lois Lane in this film is single-handedly working to set back female characters by decades. The central issue (I think) that starts the whole film off is her getting duped into playing along with a CIA sting that goes sour, from which Superman has to save her. Then, Batman realizes that the way to get to Superman is to go through his girl, so he tosses her off a building — and Superman has to save her. Finally, they go to fight the big bad, but it isn’t working. They need the kryptonite Excalibur, which Lois thoughtfully chucked into an indoor pool. So she dives in after it, but then the building collapses and traps her in the pool — AND SUPERMAN HAS TO SAVE HER.

It’s like the filmmakers wanted to earn some feminist street cred by including Wonder Woman and legitimately letting her kick some ass in this kicked-over anthill of a movie, but then they ruin it by punching themselves in the nuts with all the ways they made Lois Lane suck.

At the end of all this? Superman is dead WAIT NO OF COURSE HE ISN’T and this fools exactly nobody in the viewing audience, so what’s the point, really?

The Verdict:

I heard the negative buzz circling around this thing and I took it with the proverbial grain of salt. Like the recent Ghostbusters, it seemed that many people had made up their minds to hate it before it ever premiered. A lot of that was due to Ben Affleck assuming Batman’s mantle, and, well, I have no brand loyalty, so I didn’t care about that. Films owe us nothing, after all. But the stink on this thing is legit, and it’s not even Ben Affleck’s fault.

This movie is bad. I wish I had a more creative way to say it, but I already feel silly having taken all this time to write about it (originally I thought this review would be about 300 words, but it turns out, there’s a lot to dislike about the movie).

You want your Batman fix? Go back and watch The Dark Knight again.

I give this movie one-and-a-half burning Batman brands in your forehead.

The film and its characters and all the lovely images above are property of DC comics and Warner Bros. Pictures, and are obviously not created or owned by me.

71 Ways The New Star Wars is Exactly Like the Original Star Wars

My wife and I went to see Star Wars VII again the other day. (It holds up just as well on the second viewing. In fact, it’s maybe even more enjoyable, because you start to pick up on things you missed on the first go-round; like the training droid Luke used in Episode IV that Finn tosses aside while hunting for parts in the Millenium Falcon.) We went specifically to give the film a close viewing to see if we could discern any more about what’s going on with Rey, what’s going on with Kylo Ren, and — well, honestly, it was just so good we both wanted to see it again.

We noticed on first viewing that the new film is very much an homage to the first film, sharing not just similar themes and plot arcs, but often very specific details in common. So we came home and watched episode IV again, just to contrast and compare. And because we’re both that guy when it comes to movies and stories and nerd stuff, we took notes.


Seriously, a lot of notes.

Here, then, are 71 ways that Star Wars IV: A New Hope and Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens are basically the same movie.

There are spoilers below. These things are not necessarily in order (but a surprising number of them are).

  1. Opening shot of a ridiculously big starship flying over an alien planet.
  2. A robot that talks only in bleeps is prominent, especially in the opening scenes.
  3. The robot is given a super-secret map by its owner.
  4. The bad guys invade. They wear masks and believe in a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy.
  5. The bad guys pretty much rout the rebels they’re attacking.
  6. The Big Bad Guy (henceforth BBG) shows up, intimidates a ton of people, but doesn’t actually do any fighting himself.
  7. BBG straight-up murders a defenseless man because he doesn’t like what the guy has to say.
  8. The robot narrowly escapes capture by the faceless bad guys.
  9. The robot is separated from its owner.
  10. The robot becomes stranded alone on a desert planet
  11. This desert planet should, by all accounts, cripple the robot’s wheel-based propulsion, but doesn’t, because movies.
  12. The bad guys begin a hunt for the robot on the desert planet. You’d think they’d be able to use scanners or scopes to find it, but movies.
  13. The robot’s first encounter is with a scavenging alien critter who wants to sell the robot (maybe for parts).
  14. A young, somewhat dashing hero-type liberates the robot from its captors.
  15. This hero is exceptionally dusty, because he/she does dirty, manual labor to scrape out a meager existence.
  16. The robot follows the hero home like a little lost puppy.
  17. This hero’s parents are absent.
  18. The hero discovers that the robot is involved in the rebellion and gets hyped.
  19. The robot’s secret cargo points the hero toward an ancient, long-lost Jedi Master.
  20. C3PO slaps R2D2 around, perhaps a little more than is necessary.
  21. C3PO thanks the Maker, and it feels a little forced and weird.
  22. The hero drives a red, hovering vehicle.
  23. The hero gets attacked by local brutes.
  24. The hero is revealed to have a convenient set of piloting skills.
  25. The hero is presented with Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber by a mentor figure.
  26. The BBG is revealed to have once been a good man who was later seduced by evil.
  27. The BBG is a little more consumed than his cohorts with finding the robot.
  28. The BBG force-chokes a subordinate officer over losing the robot.
  29. Extreme and gratuitous violence by the bad guys drives the hero to leave the home planet.
  30. The BBG personally tortures a captive from the earlier raid for information.
  31. The hero escapes from danger by Jedi mind-tricking a hapless stormtrooper.
  32. There is a bar full of weird aliens of dubious persuasion.
  33. A hero seeks passage off the planet and away from the Empire with a pair of shady guys.
  34. Han Solo’s debts catch up with him.
  35. Han straight-up murders a dude to escape capture or death himself.
  36. The female lead finds herself in the hands of the enemy.
  37. The interrogated female has “considerable resistance” to the BBG’s mind probe.
  38. The bad guys reveal that their newest base of operation is also a weapon capable of blowing up entire planets.
  39. The bad guys blow up entire planets, partly out of revenge, partly as a show of force.
  40. Shady aliens in the bar rat the hero’s presence out to the bad guys.
  41. The Millenium Falcon is where the Band of Heroes comes together.
  42. The Millenium Falcon, on first sight, is described by the hero as, basically, garbage.
  43. Han Solo bristles at the heroes’ unrecognition of the Millenium Falcon’s awesomeness.
  44. The hero escapes the desert planet aboard the Millenium Falcon.
  45. The Millenium Falcon, soon after escaping the desert planet, is caught by hostiles in a tractor beam, and the heroes find themselves in an unfriendly situation.
  46. The captured prisoner sasses the BBG interrogating him/her, and pays a price for it.
  47. Chewbacca punches out a bad guy captain to gain access to a restricted area on the enemy base.
  48. The Band of Heroes goes looking for the captured female on the enemy base.
  49. The BBG “senses the presence” of the mentor/father figure in the Band of Heroes.
  50. The captured female turns out to be just as capable of kicking ass as her “rescuers”.
  51. Han Solo has a bad feeling about this.
  52. A Stormtrooper, probably named Wilhelm, dies to the sound of a well-known film scream.
  53. The mentor/father figure separates himself from the Band of Heroes to disable a critical part of the enemy base.
  54. Heroes shoot the controls to a mechanical door; this causes the door to operate in their favor.
  55. The mentor/father figure engages in dialog with the BBG about his wicked ways.
  56. The mentor/father figure deliberately lowers his guard to the BBG.
  57. The BBG then straight-up murders the mentor/father figure.
  58. The Millenium Falcon goes to pieces inside (circuitry bursting into flames etc) during an escape attempt.
  59. A high-ranking bad guy doesn’t entirely trust the BBG.
  60. The rebel base is disguised in a series of caves and ruins on a forest planet.
  61. The rebels hold a big-ass strategy meeting to figure out how to destroy the bad guys base/weapon.
  62. Han Solo offers the hero a job as an alternative to going on the quest.
  63. A member of the Band of Heroes bails out of the quest to save his own skin.
  64. The rebels attack the bad guys’ base/weapon in tiny fighter ships as opposed to bringing in heavy artillery.
  65. The attack is focused on a video game weak point in the base’s construction.
  66. There is a minute-to-minute countdown all through the final sequences as the big bad enemy weapon prepares to fire.
  67. The BBG points out to his cohorts (and himself) that the Force is strong with the hero.
  68. In the final skirmish, the villain is neutralized for this battle — but not killed.
  69. The ally who left for selfish reasons comes back to aid the hero at the enemy base.
  70. The enemy base/weapon is struck by a few strategically well-placed shots from an ace pilot.
  71. The enemy base/weapon explodes in dramatic fashion.

So, this is all good fun. Of course, the films are also very different. The hero is not a whiny teenager but rather an ass-kicking desert girl. The villain is dark and terrifying, but is also incredibly vulnerable. The plot lines are more layered, more intertwined. And, my god, the film and its special effects are absolutely gorgeous.

It’s clear to me that this film is a sort of love letter to fans of the original series who were disillusioned with the prequels. “Look,” Episode VII says, “We see and respect the source material that you love so much, and we’re going to treat it lovingly and with respect.”

Only a year and a half until the next one.

See something we missed? Something we got wrong? Let me know below.

*Runs away making lightsaber noises*

A Non-Review Rave on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I’ve just seen the new Star Wars movie, and waiting the two days after the opening to see it was … difficult. I’ve been avoiding social media pretty carefully to make sure I didn’t ruin any of the movie for myself. (Spoiler alert: there are no spoilers in this post.)

But anyway, I’ve seen it. And … I’m not going to write a full review right now, or maybe ever, because I have a feeling more talented people than I will surely have that covered.

What I will say is that this guy:

Kylo Ren

Image lifted from starwars.com.

has just absolutely taken the heart of me.

I thought I knew what good and evil were in the Star Wars universe. I thought I knew what I could expect from a villain. But I did not.

Upon the first viewing, Kylo Ren strikes me as certainly the most interesting villain in the Star Wars universe so far (including good ol’ Darth Vader, though that’s maybe Lucas’s fault for making the prequels so … weird), and possibly one of the most interesting villains in recent blockbustery cinematic history. He has a terrifying, yet imperfect, control over the Force. He’s bad, but not in the way you expect him to be bad.

He’s vulnerable. Which is something no Star Wars villain has ever been, really. They tend to be invincible, until they’re not. Not so, Kylo. His quest leaves him scarred inside and out. And while his identity is not a mystery — we learn about halfway through the film who he is — what is a delightful mystery is what has happened to him to make him who he is.

A mystery for the future films to explain, no doubt.

But let me dispense with any possible spoilerating. The movie is as good as advertised. I suspected this about five minutes into the film, but knew it to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt thanks to my wife: my wife, who is as much a Star Wars fan as a cat is a fan of trying to murder you on the stairs (not so much seeking it out, really, but if the opportunity is there — well, why not). She leaned over to me about twenty minutes into the film and whispered, “I think I’m really into this.”

Me, too.

Now, having just come in from seeing the movie, I hope you’ll excuse me. I just … I just need a minute.

Terrible Review: Jurassic World

Who doesn’t love a good monster movie? I’m a bit late to the party with this one, but I hope you’ll forgive me. Finding childcare to go to the movies while my wife is working full-time is not the easiest of tasks, but we finally did it, and got the chance to sneak away and see the film we’ve been dying to see all summer.

Jurassic Park 3 v. 1.2: THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL

Er, I mean, Jurassic World.

This is the part where I’d usually say something like “there be spoilers ahead”, but seeing as the movie has been out for, what, like six weeks now? It’s on you if you are trying to stay unspoiled and ended up here. Instead, this is me being extremely upfront about NOT saying “spoiler alert.” Totally not saying it.

Let me say upfront that I had mixed feelings about going to see this film from the first trailer. I mean, I saw this promotional image:

And my first thought was, so the raptors are allowing Starlord to ride a bike within scenting distance — hell, within shredding distance — and they haven’t served him up with a side of motorcycle tires? How am I supposed to take this seriously? But then I remembered that I was going to a blockbuster summer film, and “taking it seriously” was the last thing I should be doing. It’s got Chris Pratt, and that one girl from that one movie (Zero Dark Thirty, right?) (I’m kidding, I know she isn’t Jessica Chastain) (but only because I leaned over to my wife during the film and made a joke about how she might find Osama in one of the dinosaur caves, and she was all like “you know that’s not Jessica Chastain, right?). I loved Jurassic Park the first, I didn’t mind Jurassic Park the second, and I don’t even remember Jurassic Park the third (it had pterodactyls or something, maybe), so this one was guaranteed to at least hold my interest for the space of an afternoon.

Well, buckle up, and spray yourself down with anti-raptor juice. You didn’t bring your anti-raptor juice? Oh. Well… just stand downwind, I guess.

What’s Awesome?

  • The special effects. No, really. Perhaps the computer-generated Indominus Rex and its less invented-name kin lack some of the magic of the practical robots and puppets from the original, but things have come a long way from the pseudo-lizard CGI monstrosity sloppily hacked into the streets of San Diego in The Lost World. The only moment I had where I thought, boy, that looked fake was toward the opening, where they had an extreme close-up of a hatchling busting out of an egg. Aside from that, everything looked really well done, and more importantly, was edited smoothly into the scene and cleanly acted by the cast to give it all a seamless appearance.
  • The Top-Billed Cast. Chris Pratt’s performance is charming and charismatic as ever, while disparate enough from his showing in Guardians of the Galaxy to show some range, which is nice. Bryce Dallas Howard and her high heels started off obnoxious but then sort of grew on me not unlike a series of barnacles on a moored ship, and I’m not sure if that’s a result of the writing or the actress. Either way, a pleasant surprise. I also felt that their inevitable love connection, while obligatory by dint of their presence in said summer blockbuster franchise, had its share of chemistry. I didn’t hate them together, is what I’m saying, not that I went to see this film looking for the love story angle.
  • The Showdown. This film, perhaps more than the others, follows the Big Bad construct — the one major villain that everybody must band together to stand against. For comparison, the first film was kind of about the danger of dinosaurs as a whole (the raptors had some kills, the T-Rex had some kills, and that one thing with the umbrella on its head got to eat Newman); the second film had a lot of human antagonists (the bald guy trying to up the wow-factor by opening a park in San Diego… and screwing it up by unleashing the T-Rex on the city, and don’t forget bumbling paleontologist Julianne Moore who seriously makes every mistake ever); and the third film was… god, who even remembers? Pterodactyls, right? …Anyway, everything in this film is tied to the Indominus Rex, a genetic invention that (of course) gets loose and wreaks hell on the park. The film ends with not just humans banding together, but the other dinosaurs on the island getting a piece as well. Believable? Fargo, no. But fun as hell.
  • The Comic Relief. Some might argue that there was too much of it, but I found myself laughing out loud just when tension reached a high point due to what I felt was some brilliant comic relief. The bit parts played by Jake Johnson (of New Girl fame) and Lauren Lapkus (of Orange is the New Black) were glittering gems of giggles for me, but Pratt and Howard had their moments too. The director struck a nice balance between showing just how fargoed the park was and not taking himself too seriously to have a good time.

What’s Not So Awesome?

  • The supporting cast. Outside of the two leads, name a character and they’re pretty awful. The kids? Wanted to shoot them. The military dude trying to subvert the project and turn dinosaurs into a weapon? Completely one dimensional and boring; he might as well have been twirling an oiled mustache rather than lugging around his ridiculous gut. The parents outside the park? Snore. I can’t even figure out why these characters are present. There’s a subplot about the parents getting divorced, but really, who gives a sharknado? I can barely bring myself to care about the obligatory romance between Generic Male Lead and Generic Female Lead, I can’t be bothered with an offscreen relationship on the rocks.
  • The gimmicks. Okay, remember a while ago when I said you can’t take a film like this seriously precisely because it’s a big summer blockbuster? Yeah, that only goes so far, because a film still has to maintain its audience’s willful suspension of disbelief. This film takes that and chucks it out the goldfingered window.
    • The gyrosphere.Nope, uh-uh, no way. A free-rolling, user-operated pinball amongst dinosaurs that are probably better than five tons? Forget it. They take this thing under the feet of (what I think were) brontosauri, five stories tall. The liability would be crushing. Not to mention how inefficient it seems for the sheer number of visitors to the park. And all it takes is a few beers (don’t pretend they aren’t selling alcoholic beverages at the park) and you’ve got a couple of drunk rednecks playing Atlasphere with these things. Oh, you don’t remember Atlasphere?
    • Kayaks. Down the river. Again, around the feet of dinosaurs who, if spooked or upset or even simply careless, could crush a person like godzilla crushes cars. I don’t care how neat the idea is, it would never, ever, ever happen.
    • Raptors in formation with the motorcycle. I mentioned it already, and yeah, I get it; they’re trained, he’s the Alpha, and it’s that eye-catching WOW moment from the preview. But, sorry, no. Ask Siegfried and Roy how things go when you get ONE well-trained animal in a semi-controlled environment, and then ask them if they’d take a platoon of somewhat-trained flesh-eaters out on a HUNTING MISSION. By all means, send the raptors, but if I’m the trainer I’ll be leading the hunt from an armored vehicle, thanks very much.
  • The mini-reversal. Toward the end of the film, while the raptors are out on the hunt for the big game, they track it down, move in for the kill, and … suddenly they start talking to it — in dinosaur chirps and clicks, mind you — before they turn on their human caretakers. Because the Big Bad “had some raptor in him.” Look — the Indominus was enough of a stretch to begin with: Camouflage? Check. Ability to control its body temperature to fool thermal cameras? Check. Mental capacity to stage an elaborate prison break? Check. More teeth than an alligator with dental implants? Check. And I know that things have to go “from bad to worse”, but by that point, the park is a smoldering ruin, the body count is in the hundreds, and the movie is already at the hour and a half mark. You just don’t need the raptors joining up with the Big Bad. And to make it even dumber, THEY TURN RIGHT BACK after they dispatch the military guys because of course they do.

What’s Hard to Quantify?

  • The science. This is a sticking point for lots of critics of the film. I don’t think it is for me. Because if you start with the premise of reanimating dinosaurs after millions of years of extinction, nothing is too much of a stretch. (Splice them with frog DNA? Lizard DNA? Potato DNA? Why not?) For me, I think every film in the franchise is monster flick first, science-fiction imaginarium second, but some don’t see it that way, and would like to see the film being more scientifically sound. Bollocks, I say. Who cares if raptors were nowhere near the size they are in the film, or if a lizard the size of Indominus would never be able to support its own weight? THEM DINOSAWRZ ARE SCARY IN THE MOVIE.
  • The kids. Why does the franchise keep involving kids in the movies? The only time the kids didn’t suck bowling-ball sized eggs was in the first film. (I still laugh my donk off seeing the little blond kid get blasted off the high-voltage fence.) Since then, what have we had? An adopted gymnast whose gymnastic training allows her to best a raptor in hand-to-hand combat? Shenanigans! Some kid who managed to survive in the wilderness with dinosaurs for several weeks using… what, his charm? (Seriously, I don’t remember the third movie at all.) And now this film, with the nerdy kid whose encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs helps him NONE, and the goofy-looking older brother who shamelessly makes eyes at every teenage female within groping distance despite his girlfriend at home who totally loves him?Seriously, we know this isn’t the kind of movie where they’re going to let a dinosaur eat the younger-than-adult familial relations of one of the lead characters, so why are they even here? Just to get traumatized and make me want to stab their eyes? Maybe this kind of stakes-raising works for some in the audience, but not me. The only way they do work is by making Claire scramble and find her inner high-heel wearing badass to save them, but even that’s kind of a cop-out. I think it’d be more compelling if she just released the beast without having family members thrown into a fridge first.

The Verdict:

Shortcomings aside, this film was easily the most fun I’ve had at the cinema since the raw we’re-having-fun-in-here-and-you-can-either-come-with-us-or-gtfo-who-cares-if-it-makes-sense whimsy of Guardians of the Galaxy. I hate to compare this film to that; it feels lazy seeing as they share the same star. But summer movies should be, above all else, enjoyable and action-packed and visually impressive, and Jurassic World fits the bill on all counts.

And you don’t even have to have seen the prior films to understand anything going on with this one. But honestly, who hasn’t seen the prior films, or at least the original Jurassic Park? Sidenote: I recently learned that my own father, who is responsible for much of my education in blockbuster film, hasn’t seen it. So… yeah. Seriously, just go see it.

All images are property of Universal Pictures. Except for that one from American Gladiators, which is property of MGM Worldwide.

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