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Why I Cry at Kids’ Movies


I was watching the latest episode of This is Us with my wife the other night (why I continue to watch this show is beyond me; it’s genetically designed to pull at its viewers’ heartstrings at the expense of anything like a compelling narrative). And as Mandy Moore sat there munching on a candy bar as she received the news her husband had died, I glanced over at my wife. Tears streamed silently down her face, her brow knit up like a Christmas scarf your mother made when you were six. And I turned back to the show and just watched, not crying. Not that I felt nothing, but I wasn’t impacted so deeply by what I was seeing.

Maybe it’s because I know the show’s goal, like the Greek tragedies of old, is to get under my skin and tap into the emotions I’m not supposed to express in my walking-around life. The entire raison d’etre for This is Us is to make its viewers bust a tear every week, to give us a blubbering, tear-streaked catharsis. I know that, and I have feelings about that goal (I think it’s cheap, but more on that another day), and my viewing of the show is as a result inescapably cynical.

It made me think: what was the last movie I really cried at? Adult movies (yeah, what I meant there was movies for grown-ups) don’t really do it to me anymore. My wife swears I cried the first time she made me watch The Notebook, but I remember it differently. And I can still get a little misty towards the end of Titanic, a movie about which I’m as cynical as it comes.

But no; what makes me cry these days are kids’ movies.

bingbong

Pretty sure this purple jerk Disney/Pixar cooked up is responsible for more adult tears than an ocean full of Titanics.

Show me The Lion King and I will weep manly tears as Simba noses at Mufasa’s body, trying in vain to wake him up. Inside Out gets me every time when Bing Bong throws himself off the wagon so that Joy can escape the black hole of memory. Shoot, I cried the first time I saw Frozen when Anna sacrificed herself to save a weeping Elsa, and Elsa threw her arms around her sister’s frozen statue. Don’t even get me started on A Dog’s Purpose. I had to leave the room. (I haven’t seen Up. I don’t plan to. I’ve heard stories.)

They didn’t always do this to me. In fact, I would have laughed at a version of myself who cried at kids’ movies, before I became a version of myself who cried at kids’ movies. (Actually, that’s not true. I still totally laugh at myself for crying at kids’ movies.)

And I think I know why I cry at kids’ movies.

It’s because I’m a parent now. And being a parent changes your perspective.

Time was when I could watch a kids’ movie and just, y’know, watch it. As a movie. Here’s a protagonist, here are their struggles, here’s how they deal with them. Strife happens, as strife happens to all, but a resolution is reached. Bing bang boom, kids’ movie over, no tears.

Now, no longer. Now, a kids’ movie comes on and I can’t help viewing it as a parent. Not in that is-this-thing-appropriate-for-my-kid-to-watch-or-should-I-be-calling-my-congressman-about-it kind of way. Rather, I watch it, and either subconsciously (or other times, entirely deliberately) project my kid onto it.

The Lion King: I’m not crying because Mufasa has died. I’m crying because Simba’s father has died, because the center of Simba’s world is gone, and now Simba has to navigate the world without his role model and mentor. And it hits me. WHAM. What would it be like for my kid if he had to go through life without me?

Inside Out: I’m not crying because Bing Bong disappears forever. I’m crying because something that makes Riley young and adorable and sweet just kind of fades out, never to be recovered. Not only does Bing Bong die (and man it’s hard to take ANY sort of post about anything serious seriously [yeah, that’s grammatically correct] when you’re repeatedly typing out “Bing Bong”), he gives himself up knowing full well what it means: that a little part of Riley’s imagination dies with him. WHAM. What will my kid become when she stops obsessing over Minnie Mouse and My Little Ponies?

Frozen: I’m not crying because Anna dies for her sister. I’m crying because for a heartbreaking moment, Elsa knows that she has lost her other half, the sister who’s been her only family for most of her life. WHAM. What will my kids be to each other when my wife and I are gone?

And there’s only so much of this WHAMming that a parent can take before we start to leak from the eyes at the merest hint of strife befalling our kids — or the kids we subconsciously project onto the kids in these movies.

My daughter’s latest obsession is the My Little Pony movie. It’s hard to live in our house for more than a few days and not come away quoting the flavor-of-the-month they’re watching (and the list is long: Cars, Wreck-it Ralph, Curious George, Boss Baby, Finding Dory, The Little Mermaid, Ice Age, Moana, Lego Batman, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, stop judging me this list is not exhaustive), but I’m managing it so far with this one. Not only because something in my soul still manages to HATE My Little Pony since the days when my sisters loved it, but mostly because I don’t want to have to explain to my wife why a handful of animated magical horses have moved me to tears when a perfectly good show for grown-ups doesn’t.

But the day is not far off.

I only hope I’m already chopping onions when I inadvertently catch the emotional moment.

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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.

AND SPEAKING OF WASTED: Lois Lane.

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.


Terrible Reviews: Ghostbusters (2016)


So, the Ghostbusters reboot is out. And it’s gonna be hard to talk about the film without also talking about the six-hundred pound elephant in the room, which isn’t an elephant so much as it’s the manifestation of insecurities accumulated over decades.

There’s a bit of controversy around this film. I don’t know if you’ve heard. It has the dubious distinction of being the most downvoted trailer in film history, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t a thing until somebody who was determined to hate the movie went and counted to solidify his point. And, much like politics, the reasons for that largely depend on whom you ask.

Ask somebody who’s optimistic or indifferent about the reboot, and they’re likely to say the people downvoting the trailer and panning the film before it ever saw the light of day are antifeminist manbabies who, uh, tickle themselves to Pete Venkman getting slimed every night before they tuck in. These misogynists, they would have you believe, are just butthurt about the beloved franchise of their youth being repurposed with a female cast, and they are VERY VERY ANGRY ABOUT IT.

Ask somebody who’s not happy about the trailer, and they’ll blame it on any number of things: that the special effects look dopey, that the jokes aren’t funny, that the performances look flat, and the list goes on and on. Then there are those who insist that the film is “ruining their childhood” by remaking something that should never have been touched again, as if films, once they’re made, should get cast in bronze and locked in a hermetically sealed chamber until the rapture comes and Jesus himself uncorks them all for his own jolly consumption.

Then, of course, there are the actual misogynists, who literally say that it’s a bloody travesty for their beloved film to feature women in the lead roles.

Here’s the thing, though: It’s actually pretty damn tough to compare the 2016 Ghostbusters to the original, because they are not in any way the same film. They share the same conceptual core, the same nougaty center of “oddball scientists fighting ghosts and saving New York from the supernatural,” and pretty much diverge in every other way.

Whatever. Let’s get to the (spoiler-free!) review first, and we’ll get to the gender meta-analysis later. And I’ll go ahead and disclaim now that the original Ghostbusters is comfortably one of my top-5 films of all time. (And I didn’t hate this reboot.)

The Good:

Whatever else this film might be, it’s designed to be a summer blockbuster, which means action, some laughs, and a big, climactic showdown, probably one that causes millions of dollars in collateral damages and destroys most of a city.

And this film delivers that. The action sequences are pure eye-candy, with the redesigned but classic proton-packs slinging hot ghost death around willy-nilly, and a full load-out of new gizmos and doodads for the ‘Busters to show off. Proton Grenades, a Proton Shotgun, Proton Pistols … it’s all good and it’s all fun. (We’ll discuss the merits of this stuff later, but the visuals are top-notch.) McKinnon’s fight sequence with her Proton Pistols was a total wow-moment in the film, and her character is sure to be an audience favorite.

The comedy will be a sticking point for some people. The original had a dry, deadpan humor to it; this film is much more in the trenches. There’s slapstick. Poop and fart jokes. Ridiculousness. And a lot of people will hate that. But this film knows what it is, and that humor fits right in with the tone of this film, which is goofier than the original right from the start.

Then, the showdown. Buildings get smashed. Ghosts run amok. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, and it looks pretty great. I almost just typed that the final baddie was a bit ridiculous, but then I checked myself. We’re talking about a film in the original whose final showdown was with the StaPuft Marshmallow Man. So forget it. Last showdown is right in line with the tone of the film.

Finally, a note on the story: the main through-line of the story gets established a lot sooner in this film than in the original. Within the first twenty minutes or so, we see the guy (who will later become the big bad) messing around, acting weird, and his role is gradually fleshed out. In other words, we get an idea of what’s actually feeding the problem much earlier in this film than we did in the original (where we don’t really learn about Zuul or any of that until after the halfway point), and I think this film is better for it.

The Bad:

For me, the film has one critical flaw, and that’s the pacing. It’s forty-five minutes into the film (almost halfway) before the ‘Busters catch their first ghost, which is too long for my tastes. Those first forty-five are spent introducing characters, investigating hauntings, and in short, getting the team together. I felt like the introduction of the central two characters (McCarthy and Wiig) was entirely too drawn out, while the other two (McKinnon and Jones) get relatively little intro: then, all of a sudden, the four of them are together, on a gig, busting a ghost … and THEN the film takes off.

A related, but lesser, complaint is the development of these characters. Only one character really changes through the events of the film, and that’s Wiig’s — but the change doesn’t come at the climax of the film, rather it comes in the first thirty minutes. The film’s climax is therefore not transformative for any of the protagonists, which leaves a story wonk like me a little disappointed. Come to think of it, I could just as easily say the same of the original film, sooo….

Then there’s all those weapons I mentioned up above. Storywise, they’re a waste: the McKinnon character rolls them out, not because the proton packs are inefficient, but “just in case”. Every character gets one, and every character waves their altered boomstick around during the final showdown. They’re nice eye-candy, but that’s about it: in fact, the only non-proton-pack weapon that ends up having any story significance is a freakin’ Swiss Army Knife.

The Tough-to-pin-down:

Chris Hemsworth’s character is a big question mark for me. He’s so over-the-top stupid that it really stretches disbelief that the characters would allow him to stick around. Then again, he has some so-stupid-it’s-hilarious moments (the phone in the aquarium for example) which kinda make me rethink complaining about him. So he’s hard to nail down. Then again, my wife points out that he is the male equivalent of a worthless secretary hired just for her looks, so I guess that’s just my gender-blinders falling right into place.

Then there are the ghosts themselves. A lot of folks complained when the trailer came out that the effects on the ghosts looked lame or cheap. Hogwash, if you ask me. They look a little over-the-top, maybe, but this entire MOVIE is over-the-top. Still, the first ghost they catch is not so much a ghost as a freaking winged green devil monster. Maybe I’m nitpicking too much, but that seems less “ghost” and more “demon”. Regardless, in their first attempt to capture a ghost, they go up against this monstrous thing and they bring it down with relatively little trouble. It felt a bit like too big of a victory, too early, against too powerful an adversary.

Outside the Frame:

I said at the outset that you can’t really talk about this film without acknowledging the gender controversy. You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned it at all (well, a little bit around the Hemsworth character). There’s a simple reason for that: gender couldn’t be less of a factor in the movie. Which kind of makes this film the height of a feminist accomplishment.

How’s that, then? Easy. The protagonists are women, but it doesn’t matter that they’re women. The film would work just as well with the original cast of Spengler, Stantz, Venkman and Zeddemore as it does with these four ladies, as it would with any four male actors from today, as it would with any permutation of players and genders. That’s because these characters are not strong female characters, they are simply strong characters who happen to be female. There is no chest-beating, bra-burning moment of “look what we women have accomplished! See how we have thrown off the patriarchy!” No, these are simply capable women, going about their business, kicking ass and saving the day. They don’t need to prove how “feminist” they are. They just do it.

Then, there’s the fact that the film is a reboot (not a remake). Obviously it will be compared to the original, even though to do so is an exercise in futility. This will never be the same as the original, which means that the haters crying that the movie got remade at all will never be wrong. Still, the movie pays homage to the original in the form of cameos from the original cast and callbacks to well-known gags from the original. You still have the hilarious moment when they crank up the “unlicensed nuclear accelerator” in a backpack for the first time, and the other characters slowly edge away. Rehashed again is Bill Murray’s yank-the-tablecloth-off-a-set-table gag that he can’t resist, only this time it’s Kirsten Wiig being dragged out of a restaurant by security, grabbing the tablecloth as a last resort. Some will claim that these callbacks show the film is unoriginal, that it’s simply scavenging the corpse of the first film. Nonsense. They are little head-nods to fans of the original, they are winks-and-nudges to the folks who recognize them for what they are.

The Verdict:

The fact is, this is a perfectly ordinary film. It’s not going to change your life. It’s a good time with some funny ladies and some pretty excellent explosions and light shows along the way. There’s nothing earth-shattering going on here, outside of the sheer balls it took to retool the original so completely. That said? It isn’t a bad film. Not on its own merits and not by dint of re-inventing a film that, truth be told, probably didn’t need to be reinvented.

But when did “need” have anything to do with the movies being made in Hollywood? This is a perfectly good film with a lot of controversy around it. The fact is, your experience of the film will almost certainly depend on the baggage you bring to it. If you come to the film determined to compare it to the original, you’ll be disappointed. This film isn’t trying to improve upon the original; it’s trying to spin the yarn anew for a younger generation. If you come to the film with a more or less blank slate, you’ll have the chance to enjoy a visually delightful take on a true classic.

I’ll reiterate here something I said when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out, and the purists were jawing about “IT’S NOT A SEQUEL IT’S JUST A REMAKE,” “YOU CAN NEVER IMPROVE UPON THE ORIGINAL HUR HUR HUR”. Which is: at the end of the day, Ghostbusters is not just a film, it’s a franchise. Movies, TV shows, video games, toys, motherfargoing Ecto-Coolers. And that franchise? However much you may love it? However much it may have influenced you in your youth? It owes you nothing. Star Wars owes you nothing, and Ghostbusters owes you nothing. If you loved the original and think any new take on it is an abomination? Well, for yourself, you’re right, and this film isn’t for you. But if you are willing to take a chance on something a little different, a little less heteronormative (and I just broke the word bank with that word), then hey, holy sharknado, you might have a little fun along the way.

Finally, just look at this viral photo of Kirsten Wiig greeting some young fans at the red carpet:

If the looks on those little girls’ faces don’t make this film worthwhile, then I don’t know what does.

All images are the property of Columbia Pictures.


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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