It's just like taking a stroll through the woods...65 million years ago
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is directed by J.A. Bayona and stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, both of who reprise their roles from Jurassic World. Fallen Kingdom also stars Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, and Ted Levine. Jeff Goldblum makes a brief appearance as Dr. Malcolm.
I had no business liking Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as much as I did, even going so far as to think to myself that it may be the best Jurassic movie since the first one. Now, I didn't love it; it still serves as another fine example of how the Jurassic Park franchise has evolved into one of the most creativity deprived and lazily written franchises still going on today, but the movie works quite well in certain areas, and its ending sets up a framework for a sequel that I'm honestly looking forward to and am praying Colin Trevorrow doesn't screw up.
The story of Fallen Kingdom is set three years after the collapse of Jurassic World. The dinosaurs roam free on Isla Nublar, but are in danger of becoming extinct once again, as the island's volcano is nearing an eruption. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former operations manager at Jurassic World, has created the Dinosaur Protection Group to generate support for the dinosaurs, but her efforts are in vain as the U.S. Senate decides that the dinosaurs will be left to die. Shortly afterwards, Claire is contacted by John Hammond's former partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) and goes to his estate, where she meets with his aide, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), and learns of a plan to rescue the dinosaurs. Mills emphasizes the importance of saving Blue, the last living Velociraptor, so Claire decides to recruit the help of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who helped train the Velociraptors on the island. Owen and Claire are accompanied on their trip to the island by the Dinosaur Protection Group's systems analyst Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and paleo-veterinarian Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda).
What I just described plot-wise is only the first half of the movie, the second half resembling a dinosaur haunted house scenario that tries to stimulate the horror roots of the franchise. You know, the terror and suspense to be had knowing a dinosaur is right around the corner and will eat you if you're not careful enough. The only previous time that the Jurassic franchise has embodied anything horror-related was the velociraptor kitchen scene from the first film, and for the first example of how Fallen Kingdom continues the franchise's streak of bad writing, I'm here to inform you that there is a scene late in the film in which our heroes must stay hidden from a raptor on the hunt.
But I'll get to more of the bad writing later. In the mean time, I do want to discuss how at least, on paper, Fallen Kingdom looks like a repeat of The Lost World, in which a group of humans go to the island entirely populated by dinosaurs and attempt to bring them back to the mainland. I do not categorize this as a low point, however, because I will take any and all attempts to improve upon the concept inherent to the no good sequel that is The Lost World, attempts that I think Fallen Kingdom very much succeeds at. Granted, characters behave like idiots much like in The Lost World, but what's different this time around is that all forms of idiotic behavior in Fallen Kingdom are rightfully punished, a rare kind of satisfaction we didn't really get with the previous four films.
- Fallen Kingdom accepts its identity as a massive product of entertainment that needs to be seen by audiences nationwide, not at all caring to be something that artsy-fartsy viewers would watch and perform a thorough analysis of later on. It knows it is pure escapism, and that is how it works best. J.A. Bayona brings some new nuts and bolts to the dinosaur thrills to spice them up, such as in the opening scene, when appropriately timed lightning flashes show us a T-Rex is on its way and about to make a meal out of the hapless man that has no idea what is right behind him. The entire volcanic eruption scene is also a lot of fun, one because it's a different type of action sequence we hadn't seen before, in which all of the dinosaurs are on the run, and two, because volcanoes are something we reasonably associate to the kind of landscape that dinosaurs lived on 65 million years ago. While not all of the dinosaur action can win points for originality or freshness, there's enough here that feels different so as to not seem like we're going through the Jurassic Park motions again.
- It continues to amaze me, time and time again, how amateurish the writing is for this franchise, with Fallen Kingdom continuing that losing streak. Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly tag team it on the screenplay, and it's clear that neither learned anything from Jurassic World, insisting on recycling even more moments from Jurassic Park like the raptor scene I described earlier. The villains are kind of hilarious; they're money-grubbers who just want to exploit the dinosaurs for profit, about as interesting as a cartoon villain hell bent on taking over the world. Fallen Kingdom also brings back a plot point from the villain in Jurassic World: training raptors for military combat. I don't know why Trevorrow and Connolly thought this was a good idea to bring back, because neither seemed to realize that military raptors won't work; there are too many variables to take into account, like feeding the raptors and the fact that they're not impervious to bullets.
The movie also has a series of deus ex machina moments, with characters, both human and dinosaur, showing up to resolve a conflict and re-enforce my belief that Trevorrow and Connolly are both lazy writers who don't want to put the time and energy into making us fear for our main characters and believe they are in real danger. A little girl about to be eaten by a raptor? Here comes Owen to save the day! Say, remember when Dr. Alan Grant came by to save Hammond's grandchildren from the raptors in the kitchen? Wait, what? That didn't happen? Oh, that's right! Steven Spielberg didn't have a deus ex machina moment for such a famous scene, and that's why we love that kitchen scene so much.
In the end, there were moments where I thoroughly disliked Fallen Kingdom, moments that made me angry at Trevorrow and Connolly for their questionable writing skills and moments that reminded me of how this entire franchise is handicapped by the reputation of the first film. That's not a knock on Jurassic Park; that's a knock on how every film afterwards has been unable to do enough to fully distinguish itself from Jurassic Park and be that sequel like what Aliens is to Alien or what Terminator 2 is to The Terminator. However, when thinking about everything I saw in Fallen Kingdom from start to finish, I came away feeling like it has put the franchise in a bit of a better place, in the sense that it has set up a sequel that will have no reason to not be at least good. Maybe that's to suggest that Fallen Kingdom is a bit of filler material for the next movie, but hey, it's pretty darn entertaining filler material, and it generates optimism that this trilogy can end on a special high note.
(If there was a grade in between a B and a B-, that is the grade I would give this movie. I decided to round down because of the screenplay).
Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should
Jurassic World is directed by Colin Trevorrow and stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Steven Spielberg served as executive producer.
There is next to nothing about Jurassic World that could properly justify the reason for its existence. I mean, its very title ought to be a giant enough clue that this is supposed to be Jurassic Park on steroids, with more dinosaur breeds, more dinosaur action, and an even greater sense of wonder for all the dinosaurs. Jurassic World succeeds, to some degree, with those first two things, but falls flat on its face with the last one. Granted, the original Jurassic Park struggled with awe and wonder, but it at least knew how to be a spectacle of pure popcorn entertainment, and it had the luxury of Steven Spielberg's careful directing hand. Jurassic World, on the other hand, firmly believes that bigger means better, while cashing in on your childhood nostalgia by replaying almost exact moments from the first movie.
During the late stages of production for Jurassic Park III, Spielberg came up with an idea that he believed could take the franchise to a whole new level, claiming it to be the best story idea since the first film. Spielberg hoped for Johnston to return as director, but Johnston declined. Following Johnston's announcement were issues with getting the script together, with producer Frank Marshall and others making announcements basically saying, "We've got an idea, but no script" or, "We're still working on the script." Colin Trevorrow and co-writer Derek Connolly kept working to get the script in order, their efforts being advised by Spielberg and David Koepp. The final result was a story that is a direct sequel to Jurassic Park, but accepts the events of the next two films as canon.
And that story is this: A new dinosaur theme park called Jurassic World has been built on Isla Nublar, where it has successfully operated for years. Brothers Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) Mitchell visit the island to meet up with their aunt, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as the park's operations manager. Claire's hectic work schedule prevents her from spending time with her nephews, so she assigns her assistant, Zara (Katie McGrath), to watch over them. However, the boys sneak away to explore the rest of the park on their own.
Meanwhile, US navy veteran Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), works as a trainer for the park's four velociraptors, when he is summoned to help take a look at one of the park's genetically engineered dinosaurs: the Indominus Rex. The I. Rex, using camouflage to fool Owen and the others, manages to escape from its enclosure and make its way into the island's interior. As the I. Rex goes on a rampage throughout the island, Owen and Claire set out to find Zach and Gray, who have ventured into one of the island's restricted areas.
The good news is that Jurassic World is the best sequel to Jurassic Park. The bad news, however, is that "best sequel to Jurassic Park" is no kind of majestic compliment, especially when you take into account the glaring lack of inspiration for The Lost World and the Syfy Channel quality of Jurassic Park III. And given that nearly fifteen years had passed since Jurassic Park III, there was absolutely no excuse for this film to not be at least somewhat better than The Lost World and Jurassic Park III. Even though it is better than those two films, it still feels like a far cry from Jurassic Park, going through a lot of the same motions we've seen time and time again, and showing no interest in doing something brand new or at least imaginative with its dinosaur world.
- Chris Pratt is, without question, the best part of Jurassic World, bringing charisma and plenty of spunk to a movie that features far too many one-dimensional characters. Pratt proved in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy that he has the chops for playing a leading man in a summer blockbuster, and here, he does whatever he can to bring some vigor to a role that could have so easily been "generic action hero" had it been assigned to the wrong actor.
- The dinosaurs chomping on helpless humans is pretty entertaining, but nothing takes the cake like a fight near the end involving the I. Rex, a T. Rex, and the velociraptors. My inner Godzilla/giant monster fanboy was having the time of his life watching the dinosaurs ripping each other to shreds, and though it's not the first dino vs. dino fight in the series, it's the best one by miles. The thrills are handled with much more care, effects-wise, than the two previous films and don't boil down to just "humans running away from hungry dinosaurs." Tthe dinosaur action, overall, provides an enjoyable ride that will keep you amused for two hours, and when taking everything else into account, that's enough to suffice.
- Nothing has hamstrung the Jurassic Park franchise more than lazy, inept writing, and that issue rears its ugly head once again here. We don't need to make too much fuss about how the plot is basically an overblown rehash of Jurassic Park, but I do feel the need to discuss that one-dimensional character business a little bit more. The worst one-dimensional character in the bunch is the human villain, the head of InGen Security Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), who seeks to use the velociraptors for military operations. This guy is bad news from the first moment we meet him, and absolutely nothing changes for him over the course of the film. He's just a greedy bad guy. Nothing more and nothing less. Meanwhile, Zach and Gray serve no purpose to the film other than to fill the "child/children in danger" role that has been included in every film so far in the franchise. Them two being in danger is the only reason that Claire has for running around with Owen, and I applaud Bryce Dallas Howard for doing the best she can to not make her character seem totally useless.
So yeah, the flat characterization is one sign of the lackluster screenplay, with another one being the number of moments taken straight out of Jurassic Park, such as a T-Rex eating a goat and our two main characters tending to an injured dinosaur. These moments don't come off as paying homage to the franchise's first film; instead, they come off as lazy repetition, suggesting that screenwriters Connolly, Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver didn't want to spend time thinking up original ideas, so they decided to recycle old ones, thinking to themselves, "people liked seeing these moment in Jurassic Park, so they should like seeing these moments in our movie too!" How in the world did this screenplay take so long to get figured out?
It's probably a little too harsh to call Jurassic World a mediocre summer blockbuster. It has the right kind of leading man in Chris Pratt, and the CGI effects are top notch, right where the franchise needs them to be in order to be successful. But the kind of screenplay that the movie has would easily lay the groundwork for a mediocre summer blockbuster, making it all the more appalling that it took this long for the movie to get made. They waded through potential idea after potential idea, just to arrive at a final product that looks highly derivative of Jurassic Park. Though Jurassic World is far from being one of the worst summer blockbusters I've ever seen, it ought to be further proof of how creativity and originality have evaded this franchise for years. The worst part of it all is that Fallen Kingdom has shown no signs of improvement.
Recommend? If you're a huge fan of Jurassic Park and the franchise as a whole, then go for it. Otherwise, I'd only recommend it for a fairly diverting two hours.
That was totally wicked!
Incredibles 2 is directed and written by Brad Bird and stars the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, and Samuel L. Jackson, who reprise their roles from the first film. Newcomers to the cast include Huck Milner, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Jonathan Banks, and Sophia Bush.
The world wanted it. Fans of the first Incredibles movie had been demanding a sequel for years, and finally, after 14 years of waiting, Braid Bird and company grant our wish and deliver us a follow-up to everyone's favorite superhero team from 2004. While the mystery of how and why three Cars movies were released before The Incredibles got a sequel is anyone's guess, let's just let bygones be bygones and be thankful that Bird and Pixar were listening to our cries for an Incredibles sequel. After The Incredibles, Bird continued to show his animation prowess with the release of Pixar's Ratatouille in 2007. Around the time of Ratatouille's premiere, Bird mentioned that he was open to an Incredibles sequel, but that he would only do it if he could find a way to make the sequel better than the original. No definitive news of a sequel came about, until March 2014, when Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that an Incredibles sequel was in the works.
After The Incredibles was released in 2004, the 21st century superhero renaissance kicked into high-gear; the Marvel Cinematic Universe took the world by storm, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy became one of the greatest trilogies released since 2000, and by 2018, every superhero imaginable either had a film or was soon going to get one. The benefit that The Incredibles had by being released in the early 2000's was that superhero movies were still in a bit of a funk, many of them trying to be dark, depressing films that were allergic to fun. And while the X-Men films, Sam Raimi Spiderman movies, and the Hellboy films are the most notable exceptions, probably no one in the early 2000's could have imagined that superhero movies would one day go on to be fun, exciting blockbusters that could accumulate gargantuan box office numbers without even breaking a sweat. The Incredibles stood out from the early 2000's crowd, because it was both animated and a whole lot of fun.
Brad Bird faced the difficulty of making a sequel that would be a worthy follow-up to The Incredibles and also distinct from the mega-lineup of superhero movies that had been dominating cinemas for the majority of the fourteen years after The Incredibles. With that said, should we be surprised then that it took this long for The Incredibles to get a sequel? Why would Brad Bird want to rush the sequel he knew everyone had been clamoring for for years? Let us not forget: Bird's original idea for The Incredibles started back in 1993, and besides, it's not like Bird wanted to spend the next fourteen years doing nothing but putting together Incredibles 2.
Incredibles 2 kicks off right where the first film ended: the Parr family getting ready to take on the Underminer (John Ratzenberger). They attempt to stop the Underminer from robbing the Metroville Bank, but their efforts fail; the Underminer escapes, and the city suffers hefty damages. Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks) relocates the Parrs to a motel, but informs them that his "Super Relocation" Program is being shut down, leaving the Parrs with just a matter of weeks to find regular employment. Bob, Helen, and Lucius are contacted by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a die hard fan of superheroes and the owner of a corporation called DEVTECH. Winston, along with his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), propose a publicity stunt in order to get the public back in favor with Supers. They choose Helen to lead the stunt and insist that she do so as Elastigirl. Helen accepts the offer, moving with Bob and the kids into a new home provided by Winston. During her assignment, Helen discovers the Screenslaver, a masked villain who uses screens to brainwash viewers. While Helen is away on her assignment, Bob stays at home to watch over the kids; Bob discovers that Jack-Jack has powers, but he struggles to keep the baby under control. Meanwhile, Dash struggles with math homework, and Violet faces trouble with her boy crush from the first film: Tony.
The plot should tell you that Incredibles 2 puts greater focus on Elastigirl, but at the same time, it expands upon the world of Supers that was only lightly touched upon in the first film. A brand new group of Supers is introduced to us, the most notable member being Karen / Voyd (Sophia Bush), who can create voids and is a big fan of Elastigirl. We only saw the names and faces of other Supers before; now we get the chance to see them in action alongside The Incredibles and Frozone. This is a smart screenplay decision on the part of Bird, because there should be more to the plot than strictly The Incredibles kicking ass.
- Incredibles 2 is about as fun, maybe even a little bit more fun, than its predecessor, thanks to some exhilarating action scenes. Hold on. Great action scenes in an animated movie? Who would've thought? But it's true, I tell you; the action is as explosive and entertaining as in any other high-quality superhero or action movie, with terrific lighting and swift movement. And because it's animation, Bird can get away with making action scenes, like Helen chasing a train, as colorful and as involving as he wants. In live action, the colors, the way Helen twists and turns her stretchy body, and the pure excitement of it all, it may all just be too much. But under the guise of computer animation, Bird does whatever is necessary to make the action look fluid and have it be jam-packed with excitement.
- Incredibles 2 is also loaded with humor, largely from Jack-Jack, who loves to make things more difficult for everybody. Some of Jack-Jack's powers include firing lasers and travelling across several dimensions, and because Jack-Jack has such a wide variety of powers, it's impossible to say what kind of a Super he is. Being a naive baby, it doesn't feel right to call Jack-Jack annoying for all his troublemaking, and given his heavily limited role in the first film, it was a given we would see more of him in the sequel. Jack-Jack confronts a raccoon (a Looney Tunes-style fight scene that I thought was the funniest part of the entire film), keeps Bob up late at night, and even makes friends with Edna Mode. Though the lion's share of the comedy stems from Jack-Jack, each of the other Parrs and Frozone get their humorous kicks in.
- The one and only place where Incredibles 2 falls short is its villain; Screenslaver is a far cry from Syndrome, with Screenslaver's true identity being totally obvious from the get-go. Screenslaver has no memorable bad-guy lines, nor a thought-provoking motivation, and he is responsible for Walt Disney Studios having to send out a warning message to theater-goers that the film contains flashing lights capable of causing epileptic seizures. There is an entire fight scene with flashing lights going on in the background, and it's a bummer that not everyone can watch it, because it is a very neat looking fight scene. But anyway, Screenslaver is a meh villain that, on paper, has some potential, potential in how he operates through screens, which opens the door on commentary of how our own screens (phone, TV, etc.) can hypnotize and control us. But since there's no indication that Incredibles 2 takes place in the year 2018, I suppose that kind of commentary wouldn't make a whole lot of sense.
In this day and age where sequels and reboots are popping up like weeds, it is a welcome sight to see a sequel like Incredibles 2, one that everyone actually wants to see. We've been demanding it for years, and Brad Bird did not disappoint. It's not quite on The Incredibles' level, but is that really much of a surprise? Incredibles 2 doesn't need to be as masterful as it's predecessor in order to thrive in every department it functions in, serving up another blast of colorful fun, bolstered by Brad Bird's always reliable direction and bucketfuls of good humor. Incredibles 2 will easily be one of the most riveting experiences you'll have in a theater during 2018, and since a third Incredibles film is sounding like a strong possibility, hopefully we won't have to wait until 2032 to see it.
Recommend? Yes! Be warned though, the movie does have flashing lights that can cause seizures.
2004 Pixar: The Incredible Mind of Brad Bird
The Incredibles is directed by Brad Bird and stars the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Jason Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and Elizabeth Pena. The film won two Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Sound Editing.
In 1999, Brad Bird kicked off his directorial career with The Iron Giant, a movie that tanked so hard at the box office, it would seem like the miracle of the century for Bird to be entrusted with a film by Pixar, a studio who at the time was coming out with animated classic after animated classic. But strictly mentioning The Iron Giant's box office numbers isn't telling the whole story; The Iron Giant has gone on to be regarded as an animated classic, right alongside several of Pixar's earliest films, and Bird had conceived an idea of a family of superheroes back in 1993, back when he was attempting to break into the film industry. At first, Bird intended for this idea to be nothing more than a comedic superhero movie, but at the time, Bird had been struggling with things going on in his personal life, and according to Bird, some of those struggles trickled into his superhero idea.
Thus, we have our foundation for what would eventually turn into The Incredibles: the first Pixar film to not center on non-human characters like toys, bugs, or fish. Brad Bird retained much of his staff from The Iron Giant and found working with computer animation quite challenging. The animation crew was faced with considerably the most difficult thing to animate with computer animation: human beings. New technology needed to be created in order to successfully animate the kind of human anatomy needed for this kind of film: realistic skin and hair, clothing, and any other basic body movements you could think up (something as simple as lifting your arms up and down). All of these complications had Disney wanting a live-action version, but John Lasseter insisted on staying the animation route.
I do like to mention all of these production notes because sometimes, we get so wowed by what we see on screen that we may not give as much thought to how many hours of work went on behind the scenes. Some of our favorite childhood films have stories about how production was an absolute hell, which should enhance our appreciation for our favorite films, because it's our little way of saying to everyone who worked on our favorite childhood films, "Your hard work resulted in one of my fondest childhood memories, and for that, I am forever thankful." In the case of The Incredibles, I fondly remember seeing it for the first time ever back in 2004 in a theater with my whole family. Upon walking out, I remember stating how I wished I had superpowers, because I was so enthralled with everything I had just witnessed on screen, wishing that I could be one of The Incredibles.
I've seen the film a couple more times since then, and upon watching the film yet again, just so that I could have it fresh in my mind for Incredibles 2, I was amazed at how much in the film seemed intended for adults. Before I elaborate on that, here's what we've got with the story: Superheroes, otherwise known as just "Supers", work to fight crime and keep cities safe. One of these Supers, Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), also known as Mr. Incredible, enjoys his crime-fighting lifestyle, using his super strength to catch criminals. However, public opinion eventually turns against superheroes, as superhero activities result in many cases of collateral damage, such as Mr. Incredible rescuing and injuring a man who was attempting suicide. The government initiates a program that forces Supers to abandon all future superhero activities, in exchange for them living quiet, peaceful lives like average citizens.
Fifteen years later, Bob Parr has married Helen Parr (Holly Huntger), who is formerly known as the body-strecthing Super, Elastigirl. The two have three children: Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack. Violet is an insecure teenager who is capable of turning invisible and creating force fields. Dash is a reckless young boy who possesses super speed. Jack-Jack is a baby who appears to have no powers. Bob works a white-collar job at an insurance agency, and though he loves his family, he detests the mundanity of his job and his suburban lifestyle. Bob goes out some nights with his friend Lucius Best (Samuel L. Jackson), formerly the ice-powered Super known as Frozone, as the two attempt relive their "glory days." Bob eventually gets fired from his job, but shortly afterwards, he receives a message from a mysterious woman named Mirage, who gives Bob the chance to take on a mission in which he will be sent to a remote island and fight a robot called the Omnidroid. The mission gives Bob the chance to become Mr. Incredible again, and though the action helps Bob improve his relationship with his family, he soon finds out there is a greater evil at work, one that forces his whole family to embrace their superhero identities.
- The power that The Incredibles has in terms of being equally appealing to both children and adults is nothing short of impressive. But like I just said, there is much more going on in the film that would grab the interest of the adults in the crowd. Bob Parr's job serves as a microcosm for the monotony of the American workforce; his entire workplace is designed to look like a dreary, colorless place that might as well have a banner that reads, "Where Dreams Go To Die." The villains have no hesitation towards using deadly force against the Parr children, who in return, have no problem with killing any of the villains, such as Dash outrunning several attackers and making them crash their flying vehicles, the attackers' deaths being a foregone conclusion. The portrayal of the villains in The Incredibles is like a satire of those undeniably harmless villains we may remember watching during Saturday morning cartoons. In addition, The Incredibles is a satire of the entire superhero genre, breaking down our conventional understandings of the genre and posing scenarios we may not have ever imagined, like superheroes getting married and having children as well as the possibility of superheroes becoming illegal. And while all of this is going on underneath the surface, there's plenty of high-octane fun to keep the kids entertained.
- Speaking of fun, that's another thing that The Incredibles is so good at: being fun. Every member of the Parr family and Frozone get a chance to show off their powers and have a shining moment. The movie always maintains its sense of fun, while also throwing in appropriate bits of humor whenever the situation calls for it. Brad Bird would go on to show in some of his later films, such as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol that he is quite the talent with directing action that looks clean, flashy, and memorable.
- Brad Bird wanted to make sure this film was great, and because of how much time and effort you can tell was put into this film, major flaws are nowhere to be found. Everything from animation to story to action is handled with the utmost care, which should have been definitive proof to the world that The Iron Giant was no one-hit wonder and Brad Bird is no box office fluke. I'm guessing Pixar just flat-out ignored The Iron Giant's box office results when taking Bird's superhero family idea into consideration, understanding that Bird had the animation chops, and all he really needed was a more organized and focused marketing campaign.
So in 2004, a family of superheroes would have seemed like a very out of left field idea for Pixar, who before The Incredibles, won the world over by applying heart, wit, and creativity in some unusual places: the toys in a young boy's bedroom, a colony of ants, and a motley crew of fish. But heart, wit, and creativity are the backbone of Pixar, and all three of these things are on full display in The Incredibles, a movie that, while not revolutionary in the way that Toy Story was, is full of incredible brains and incredible fun, capturing that magical quality of being as rewarding to children as it is to adults. I say the movie leans more favorably to adults, but in typical Pixar fashion, they find a way to make it work well for both sides. I and many others will never tire of quoting several of the film's terrific individual scenes (Frozone's "Where's My Super Suit?" scene is easily one of the greatest scenes in Pixar history), scenes that all work together to create a masterful whole that delivers one of the greatest waves of ebullience you'll ever experience in an animated film. I know this will sound incredibly lame, but I have to say it anyway: The Incredibles is an incredible film, from incredible start to incredible finish. You did an incredible job, Brad Bird.
Recommend? Heck yeah, if by some miracle you haven't seen it already.
Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions
Jurassic Park III is directed by Joe Johnston and stars Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, and Michael Jeter. '
Jurassic Park III is a better sequel than The Lost World, but that is in and of itself no kind of meaningful achievement. The Lost World is a no-good follow up to the vastly superior Jurassic Park; the quality gap between those two films is so wide, it's impossible to fathom that both movies were directed by the same guy. Spielberg figured he would not direct another film in the franchise after The Lost World, and Joe Johnston had originally expressed interest in directing The Lost World, being told by Spielberg that he could direct a third film if one were to happen. And since The Lost World, by some other worldly miracle, grossed over $600 million worldwide, Universal decided a third film was in order, now with Spielberg serving as a producer and Joe Johnston sitting in the director's chair.
Here's the thing: Jurassic Park III doesn't feel at all like a Jurassic Park movie, one that is backed by rampant advertising and is deserving of a worldwide release. Quite the opposite actually: Jurassic Park III feels more like a Syfy Channel dinosaur B-movie of the week, one that you're likely to catch on a random Tuesday night and also just happens to feature Sam Neill's Alan Grant from Jurassic Park. What does put Jurassic Park III above The Lost World, however, is that Jurassic Park III accepts what it is and rolls with it; it knows it's not going to be anywhere close to what Jurassic Park was, so instead of trying to be some almighty spectacle that would have the foolish audacity to try and stand up to Jurassic Park, it settles for being nothing more than a fun, straight-forward dinosaur adventure, one where little thought is given towards writing and special effects.
The story of Jurassic Park III follows Dr. Alan Grant, now famous because of the Jurassic Park incident, as he struggles to explain why paleontology is still relevant, despite there now being actual dinosaurs. Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda (Tea Leoni) Kirby, a seemingly wealthy couple, approach Dr. Grant and tell him they will help fund his research if he does one thing: join them on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna. Dr. Grant reluctantly agrees, his assistant Billy (Alessandro Nivola) agreeing to join him on the trip. While on the plane. Dr. Grant learns that the Kirbys plan to actually land on the island, resulting in Dr. Grant getting knocked out by one of the accompanying mercenaries, Cooper (John Diehl), and waking up to find out that they did indeed land. Suddenly, a Spinosaurus approaches the group. The group attempts to escape on the plane, but they end up hitting the dinosaur and crashing in the forest.
The Kirbys reveal the truth to Dr. Grant: they are actually a middle-class divorced couple that tricked Dr. Grant into coming to the island in order to help them find their missing son Eric and Amanda's boyfriend Ben, who have been missing on the island for eight weeks. The group finds Ben's corpse, but no sign of Eric, giving them hope that he is still alive. As the group searches for Eric, they must avoid the Spinosaurus, as well as a pack of hungry, intelligent raptors.
Right from the start, it's clear to us that we are in for a bumpy ride: the opening scene shows Eric and Ben parasailing around the waters of Isla Sorna (despite Isla Sorna being a restricted area), until their boat crew is eaten by dinosaurs, forcing Ben to send he and Eric drifting towards the island. The green screen for the parasailing, especially as we watch Ben and Eric drift towards the island, is so painfully obvious that it hurts a little bit to look at. And while I don't think the effects get that bad for the rest of the movie, the careless attitude put on display for the special effects, the one thing you'd think these Jurassic Park movies would want to do right, ought to have been the kiss of death for the franchise and not its insertion into cold storage for the next 14 years.
- Jurassic Park III manages to dish out some entertaining sequences and an all-around sense of fun, with a new mash-up of dinosaurs that we didn't see in the previous two films, primarily the Spinosaurus (even though it is so obviously substituting for the T-Rex who gets axed off pretty early on) and a flock of Pteranadons. These two dinosaurs lead to some fairly entertaining sequences, and honestly, it's more entertaining than the few thrills found in The Lost World.
- The raptors are back in action; this time, the movie takes more time to emphasize that the raptors are incredibly smart and know how to work together in packs, such as setting a trap with a dead body in order to try and lure one of the Kirbys out in the open. It's unfortunate that the raptors in Jurassic Park III end up being quite the disappointment, no raptor scene coming even close to the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park. Well, one raptor scene is memorable, memorable for being the worst moment in the entire franchise: Dr. Grant falls asleep and has a brief nightmare in which he sees Billy with a raptor head that exclaims, "Alan!" The raptors are the closest thing that the movie ever comes to having an antagonist (not the Spinosaurus because much more of the plot is dependent on the raptors), though the climactic encounter with the raptors at the end of the film is perhaps the most anti-climactic thing in the entire franchise.
- Oh gosh, the writing. The characters aren't complete idiots like they are in The Lost World, but there are a series of horrid plot contrivances, such as the use of a flashlight battery in order to power up a camera, as well as an ending that is about as forced as any ending could be. We're also bombarded with repetitive dialogue (the Kirbys non-stop say to each other, "We'll find Eric! We'll find him!") that wears old incredibly fast. The screenplay for the film is presented as if screenwriters Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor all procrastinated until the night before their final draft was due: the result feels rushed, sloppy, and above all else, lazy. I guess that's what happens when you don't try to live up to Jurassic Park's name.
There are plenty of not very nice things you can say about Jurassic Park III: it has some awful special effects, it lacks any kind of meaningful depth, and it continues to prove that writing has evolved into the franchise's most glaring weakness. One thought kept coming back to me the whole time though: "At least it's not The Lost World." And Jurassic Park III is nowhere near as bad as The Lost World; it's fairly entertaining from start to finish, and at a brisk 92 minutes, it never overstays its welcome. The movie is "bip bap, dinosaur action, and done." Maybe it was better suited for the Syfy Channel. Then again, maybe not. There have been some real, real, real stinkers on the Syfy Channel.
Recommend? Yes, if you love and adore the Jurassic Park franchise or if you're in the mood for a quick, 90 minute burst of fun.
We can only hope in some small way, our time here will be remembered.
Dinosaur is directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton and stars the voices of D.B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Hayden Panettiere, Samuel L. Wright, Julianna Marguiles, Joan Plowright, and Della Reese. It was released by Walt Disney Studios and was the most expensive theatrical release of the year 2000.
The most tempting thing to do right away when discussing Disney's 39th animated feature film is to immediately start gushing about how stunning the film's CG animation looks together with the film's live-action backgrounds. And heads up, there will be some gushing about the animation later on in this review, but for right now, I am not going to discuss the quality of the animation in length. What I want to start with instead is my fascination about the reasons as to why Dinosaur isn't held in higher regard. More specifically, why it isn't ranked on one of the upper tiers of Disney animated features. I mean, the animation is treated like it's a pioneering feat in the field of computer animation, but it's easy to figure out as to why no one put such a badge of honor onto Dinosaur for its animation: Toy Story already won the world over by being the first ever feature length computer-animated film, so pretty much every future computer-animated film afterwards owes Toy Story at least an ounce of credit. In addition, I'll bet whenever anyone said "dinosaur movie" in the 1990's and early 2000's, the first movie that would come to mind would be Jurassic Park or any of its sequels. And then if that weren't enough, the phrase "animated dinosaur movie" would likely bring The Land Before Time to someone's mind, that film coming out in 1988.
How should I put this then? Dinosaur is like that one poor kid in gym class who never gets selected to be on one of the teams. Who wants to be the computer-animated film? I'll take Toy Story. Who wants to be the live-action dinosaur movie? You're up, Jurassic Park! Well, who would like to be the animated dinosaur movie? Nope, going with The Land Before Time. Sorry.
With so much money going into the film (the unofficial amount is $200 million) and with more trivia facts of "the movie was originally going to do this" than you could count, it's reasonable to call Dinosaur something of a colossal disappointment. You can't put that much money into one movie, only for people to look back on the film years later and reply with, "meh, just watch it for the animation." Also, Disney did away with some of the original ideas, such as the film being much darker and violent in tone, as well as making it into a stop-motion animation film. Disney saw how successful Toy Story was with computer-animation, therefore going the safe route by using computer-animation instead of stop motion, and doing whatever else they thought would make Dinosaur more commercially feasible.
Here's what's going on story-wise: Dinosaur opens with an attack by a Carnotaurus (basically a T-Rex), forcing an Iguandon mother to abandon her eggs. One of the eggs survives, being washed away and ending up on an island populated by lemurs. One of the lemurs, Plio (Alfre Woodard), watches as a baby hatches from the egg. She gives the baby dinosaur the name Aladar, deciding to raise it despite objections from her father Yar (Ossie Davis). Some years later, Aladar (D.B. Sweeney) has fully grown and is living happily with all of the lemurs. But one night, a meteor shower strikes and destroys the island. Aladar, Plio, Yar, and a few of the other lemurs are able to escape in time, but they now must travel through the mainland and find a new home.
Aladar and the lemurs travel across the desert-like wastelands, eventually running into a herd of dinosaurs led by Kron (Samuel E. Wright). The herd is on a journey to the "Nesting Grounds", a valley claimed to have been untouched by the meteor strikes. Aladar and the lemurs befriend two elderly dinosaurs: a Brachiosaurus named Baylene (Joan Plowright) and a Styracsaurus named Eema (Della Reese), who are struggling to keep up with the herd. As the herd pushes onward towards the Nesting Grounds, they must avoid a series of predators that are following close behind: a group of Velociraptors and two hungry Carnotaurus.
Dinosaur was the only film produced by special effects company The Secret Lab, which was shut down a year after the film's release due to being too expensive. There's a much larger tale at work behind why The Secret Lab was a massive failure for Disney, so for the truly curious: I point you in the direction of this article. The sudden shutdown of The Secret Lab is another factor to take into account when trying to figure out why Dinosaur isn't regarded as any kind of animated classic, already on top of everything I said earlier. This all begs the question: Does this film have anything going for it?
- If you haven't guessed already, the primary high point - and pretty much the only thing going for this movie - is the animation. No, it may not be any kind of cinematic milestone, but there are just so many gorgeous looking shots:
The movie turns its world of dinosaurs into a spectacle of massive proportions, relying on a nice balance of close-up, mid, and long shots to keep its characters in focus while ensuring there is still a sense of wonder behind it all.
- Almost everyone says the main issue with Dinosaur isn't that it's undermined by films that achieved breakthroughs in CGI and animation. Rather, almost everyone says Dinosaur suffers from ineffective writing and dull plotting. For myself, I had the most trouble with the lemur characters, who basically do nothing for the plot after their island is destroyed by the meteor shower. They just follow Aladar and the other dinosaurs on their journey, only offering little bits of advice here and there whenever the plot finds it convenient for them to do so. Other than that, I didn't find anything else about the plot to be bothersome. The movie goes along at a brisk 82 minutes, and I never found myself to be the least bit bored.
So when considering everything, I probably have a more unpopular opinion of Dinosaur. I found it to be an amusing movie that is loaded with visual grandeur, moving along at a fast pace that keeps the movie from being the least bit dull. The problem is the dismay that comes with learning everything that went on with the production, how so many early ambitions were all for naught and how The Secret Lab ended up being a depressing chapter in Disney's history book. There's just too much going on behind the scenes and too many other films that come to mind to allow Dinosaur to stand out on its own, leaving it as a more middle-of-the-road entry in Disney's ever-growing film library. Quite a letdown if you ask me. This film had the potential to be so much more.
Recommend? I would still recommend it because of its stunning animation.
Hang on, this is gonna be bad
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is directed by Steven Spielberg, written by David Koepp, and is loosely based on Michael Crichton's 1995 novel The Lost World. The film stars Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Vince Vaughn, Richard Shiff, and Vanessa Lee Chester.
I always expect nothing but the best from Steven Spielberg. How could you not? The man has proven to be one of the most talented film directors in history, spearheading some of the most classic, memorable films to ever be released: Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler's List, and of course, Jurassic Park. What then exactly, do you think you'd feel if Spielberg came out with a movie that was not all that good? Anger? Disappointment? Repugnance? Spielberg has never been notorious for having a long string of bad movies the way M. Night Shyamalan has been; even some of his more maligned films like Temple of Doom and Hook have clusters of people that will give those two movies the seal of approval. Now, when it comes to The Lost World: Jurassic Park, there's no denying it: this second installment in the Jurassic Park franchise is the worst movie that Spielberg has ever directed.
Following the success of Jurassic Park, Spielberg took a rare sabbatical from directing, spending time getting his new DreamWorks studio up and running. Fans of the Jurassic Park novel pressured Michael Crichton into making a sequel, which Crichton refused. Then in March 1994, it appeared that Crichton had given in to fan pressure, announcing he was intending on making a sequel novel that would likely translate into a sequel film. Spielberg was announced as director of the film sequel in November 1995, and thus, The Lost World was off and running.
The fact that Michael Crichton originally had no intention of making a sequel novel was the seed that sprouted into one of the biggest problems with the eventual The Lost World movie: a glaring lack of inspiration. Crichton went about making the novel as nothing more than providing a service to fans, as opposed to thinking up clever and creative ways to expand upon the world of dinosaurs he introduced in the Jurassic Park novel. That lack of inspiration from Crichton I think rubbed off on Spielberg, who, according to some stories, grew more and more disenchanted with the film as production went on. I'm sure Spielberg had it made up in his mind that the sequel wasn't going to be anywhere close to what Jurassic Park was, and like what Crichton did with the Lost World novel, Spielberg did with the Lost World movie: give the people what they want. The only trouble is, the passion and desire are not there like they were with Jurassic Park.
The Lost World takes place four years after the Jurassic Park incident. The dinosaurs from the park now live free within their own ecosystem on Isla Sorna, another island fairly close to Isla Nublar. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a survivor of Jurassic Park, goes and meets with John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who explains to Malcolm that Isla Sorna was where the dinosaurs were created, until a hurricane forced InGen to abandon the island and move the dinosaurs into Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. InGen is now run by Hammond's nephew, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), who is sending a team to Isla Sorna in order to capture the dinosaurs and bring them to a new theme park in San Diego. Hammond wishes for Malcolm to join another smaller team, in hopes of documenting the dinosaurs and create public support against human interference on the island. Malcolm refuses, until Hammond tells him that his girlfriend, paleontologist Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), has already made it to the island. Malcolm then heads to the island with field equipment expert Eddie Carr (Richard Shiff) and video documentarian Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), and the three quickly meet up with Sarah. The InGen team arrives just a little bit later, capturing several dinosaurs, until Malcolm and his team sneak into the InGen camp and free all of them (after learning of the San Diego theme park idea). The dinosaurs, including two adult T. Rexes, destroy both groups' equipment and vehicles. The two groups decide then to team up, evading the dinosaurs and looking for a way to get back home.
- The Lost World has more dino-action than Jurassic Park, resulting in some genuine thrills that once again allows Spielberg to show off impressive CGI and animatronic work. The climax is one of the T-Rexes breaking free from captivity and rampaging around the streets of San Diego, my personal favorite moment being an homage to Godzilla: a quick shot of several Japanese tourists running through the streets, yelling in Japanese, "I left Japan to get away from this!" Spielberg intended to save the San Diego sequence for another film, but he figured he would not direct another film in the franchise, so he decided to put the sequence in this film. The T-Rex stomps on some people and gobbles up some others; it's good stuff, even if it isn't entirely fresh.
- The one place that The Lost World goes horribly wrong is its screenplay, with David Koepp getting sole credit as screenwriter. I'm wondering if Koepp forgot that he was a co-writer for Jurassic Park in the four years between the release of that movie and the release of this movie, because an admittedly interesting premise goes almost completely to waste with unnatural dialogue and a host of characters that behave like complete idiots. The issue with the dialogue is that several characters, especially Sarah Harding, like to talk about stuff in total word vomits, as if everyone was trying to rush through their lines as quickly as possible because they all knew the movie wasn't going to be very good. The hyperactive speaking of dialogue kills the intrigue to be had in several conversations and makes you feel as if you're missing several important plot points.
But the characters! Holy crap! I just LOVE how several of the characters openly boast about how they have years of experience in their fields, yet act like this is their first day on the job. The InGen team is led by Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), but he doesn't know how to tell one dinosaur species from another while his group is on the hunt. Are you kidding me? How is your LEADER unable to tell one dinosaur from another? Shouldn't he know each dinosaur species by heart before the hunting team goes to the island? Shouldn't that be a reason why he is the leader of the team? But Tembo's incompetence isn't quite up there with the stupidity put on display by Sarah Harding. To start with, Sarah interacts with a baby Stegosaurus, despite knowing full well that the protective parents are literally a few feet away. After that, she and Van Owen find an injured infant T-Rex, and decide to take it back to their trailer to tend to its wounds. While Sarah means well with taking care of the infant, she completely ignores the fact that the parent T-Rexes can follow the infant's blood scent from far away, resulting in the parent T-Rexes finding the trailer and sending it tumbling over a cliffside. Later when the two groups get together, one of the T-Rexes finds the group camping out for the night, because Sarah had the infant's blood on her jacket. Why is this all Sarah's fault? Because she openly talks about the T-Rex being one of the most fearsome predators ever, yet she doesn't discard her jacket, despite knowing full well she got the infant's blood on it. It wasn't the dinosaurs that killed the humans. It was stupidity that killed the humans.
- The other low point is how largely unfocused the film seems, especially while on the island. Scenes go back and forth between the members of the two groups, but not with much care towards a sense of plot progression or anything resembling meaningful character development. It's as if Spielberg and company just filmed various scenes they thought would look cool, thrown them all into a blender, and whatever mush came out, they would call it the final cut.
Look, making a sequel is tough work, especially when that sequel is to the ultimate 90's blockbuster, Jurassic Park. While The Lost World provides some more dinosaur thrills that should please the most undemanding of fans, the film has no true inspiration, no fiery passion from its director, and no excuses for its horrendous screenplay. The whole movie feels obligatory, like it's something that had to be made because Jurassic Park was such a huge success, and not something that anyone really wanted to make. And while there are far worse sequels out there than The Lost World, I'm stumped to think up other sequels that are as uninspired as this one. If one day this film somehow becomes lost, I doubt the world will miss it very much.
Recommend? No. The only way I'd think you'd enjoy it if is if you loved and adored Jurassic Park and don't set your expectations very high.
Some things start out big, and some things start out small, very small
The Good Dinosaur is directed by Peter Sohn (in his directorial debut) and stars the voices of Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, A.J. Buckley, Steve Zahn, Jeffrey Wright, and Frances McDormand. It is the sixteenth film released by Pixar Animation Studios.
The unfortunate thing about The Good Dinosaur is that it will forever be known as one of Pixar's inferior works, especially considering how the movie was Pixar's next feature after Inside Out, the movie that got Pixar out of a skid that lasted a couple of years and helped the studio return to form. 2015 was the first year in which Pixar released more than one feature film, though I'm not sure how any reasonable person could go into The Good Dinosaur thinking it could top Pixar's earlier 2015 film Inside Out (which I've raved about on a countless number of past reviews but have yet to actually review...), given the latter film's creativity and how much it offers to both kids and adults. No way could the good Pixar animation workers exert that much brain power over the span of one year.
None of that is to say that The Good Dinosaur is bad. It's just that the movie doesn't reach the lofty heights that we came to expect from practically every Pixar feature, until the release of the first Cars proved to the world that the people of Pixar are human beings and can't dish out utterly fantastic works every year. The Good Dinosaur is like eating the leftovers of the most delicious, mouth-watering meal you had from the night before: it still has that good taste, but it just doesn't taste as good. Not only that, but this is a Pixar film that I think can be appropriately labeled as a pure kids film, one that doesn't have a highly intelligent subtext like a lot of Pixar's early works - films like Toy Story that have a lot going on underneath the surface - those films being family-oriented as opposed to being aimed at children. But despite being better suited for kids, adults can walk away from The Good Dinosaur feeling amused and not like they just tragically lost 93 minutes of their lives.
The Good Dinosaur takes place in an alternate history, one where the asteroid that would have hit Earth and wiped out all of the dinosaurs instead passes safely over Earth. Some million years later, Apatosaurus farmers Henry (Jeffrey Wright) and Ida (Frances McDormand) celebrate the birth of their three children: Libby (Maleah Padilla), Buck (Marcus Scribner), and the runt Arlo (Raymond Ochoa). While Libby and Buck prove to be successful in doing farm work, Arlo struggles with his chores, due to his timid nature. Libby and Buck are allowed to "make their mark" by putting a muddy footprint on the family's food silo. Hoping for Arlo to make his mark, Henry assigns Arlo the task of catching the thief that has been stealing food out of the silo. Arlo is able to catch the thief: a feral young boy. However, Arlo finds himself unable to kill the boy, deciding to let him go free. Angry, Henry makes Arlo join him in their pursuit of the boy. Henry and Arlo get caught in a storm, but Henry saves Arlo before being swept away and killed by a flash flood.
Back home, Arlo is forced to take on a heavier workload. He finds the boy once again stealing food out of the silo, and, blaming the boy for his father's death, chases him until both fall into the river. When Arlo awakes after being swept away, he finds himself far from home and joined in company by the young boy. Arlo and the boy, later discovered to have the name Spot, eventually band together and embark on an adventure to get back home.
You can easily see that The Good Dinosaur deals with morals about standing up in the face of fear and being brave, as Arlo finds himself in a series of dangerous situations and needing to gather up the courage to keep moving forward. "Finding your inner courage" is a common theme in movies, especially those geared towards the younger set. But learning to be brave, I think we can all agree, is something we should teach to children; they can't stay in their timid shells forever, because the world is full of uncertainty, and kids should learn how to handle adversity whenever it strikes. That is to say there are several good messages contained within The Good Dinosaur. What's keeping me from considering the messages a high point is the execution.
- The animation is fantastic as it always is with Pixar. The colors and textures of the backgrounds look very realistic, which, I'm sure if seen in 3-D, would be one of the most aesthetically pleasing things your eyes would've seen from an animated movie in recent memory. Meanwhile, Arlo and the other characters are very much cartoon-looking, with adorable eyes and stretchy body types that would model something out of a Looney Tunes or Tom & Jerry cartoon. This dichotomy between the photo realistic backgrounds and the cartoonish display of the dinosaur/human characters may seem off-kilter, but they really do mesh together well.
- The thing that diminishes my liking towards The Good Dinosaur is the fact that the movie is a force-it-down-your-throat tearjerker. Poor Arlo gets trapped, thrown around, and tormented in almost every way imaginable, to the point that it becomes too much. The movie doesn't earn your tears the way that other emotional and sweet-natured Pixar movies do, this movie going for a much cheaper approach that is along the lines of, "This poor dinosaur! He's getting in trouble every where he goes! Isn't that just the saddest thing ever?! Come on, you gotta cry! Why aren't you crying yet?" Arlo will be put into a situation even worse than one he was in before, because the movie wants to do everything in its power to get some tears out of you, never hesitating to go to whatever lengths imaginable to make you cry.
Aaaand I think that's just about it. The Good Dinosaur is a pretty quick movie and one that isn't all that deep, so there just isn't as much here to say as there would be with other, more layered Pixar movies. Children should love and adore The Good Dinosaur, and adults should find it a fun, colorful adventure as well. It may be an unrelenting tearjerker, but the good this movie offers does outweigh the bad. One other good thing I can say about the movie is that it's up and above a lot of the kiddie junk that comes out these days. Thank God that Pixar cares about entertaining children in a thoughtful and respectable manner, you can't say that about every studio.
I have a bad feeling about this
Solo: A Star Wars Story is directed by Ron Howard, written by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, and stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany.
When George Lucas sold Lucasfilms to Disney back in 2012, I never would have imagined the Star Wars franchise falling from grace the way it seemingly has in recent months. The success of The Force Awakens back in 2015 had me dead-convinced that Star Wars was about to take the world by storm the way again just like it did back when the original trilogy was first released. By all means, Episode VII had the franchise all set up for another fun and memorable trilogy and seemed to swerve the franchise into a more optimistic direction, given the way the prequels pissed everybody off. Then came Rogue One, a movie I personally was not a fan of, but I'm sure was a nice nostalgia blast for die-hard Star Wars fans. And then came The Last Jedi, a movie that I happened to like a lot, and one I was admittedly shocked to see get such a bitter reaction from audiences. But as for Solo: A Star Wars Story, I am finding myself better understanding those complaints people were starting to have back with The Last Jedi: Disney is driving the Star Wars universe into the ground and exploiting it for all its worth.
The first problem presented to us by Solo is that the movie has no real reason to exist; we all loved watching Harrison Ford as the charming, sarcastic gun-slinger back in the original trilogy and then as a charming, sassy old man in Episode VII. Now, did we know everything about where Han came from and things like how he met Chewbacca? No, but it's not like all of the Star Wars faithful felt as if their lives were incomplete and would ever think any less of Han Solo because his backstory stayed relatively unknown. Don't tell that to Disney, though; they will milk the Star Wars cow for all it's worth, and seeing how their current plans show they have no intentions of deviating from anything and everything that ties in to one of the franchise's episodes, they will take up a Han Solo backstory movie the first chance they get. I'm aware that George Lucas was planning a young Han Solo film well before he sold Lucasfilms, but if I were him, I would have put it off until I saw what exactly the new state of the franchise would turn out to be under Disney's control.
So anyway, the plot of Solo begins on the world of Corella, where orphaned children are forced to live their lives as thieves. Two of the children, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his lover Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), are able to escape with a stolen sample of a powerful hyperspace fuel called coaxium. Han and Qi'ra use the coaxium to bribe an Imperial officer into letting them board a transport, but Qi'ra is captured just before she can get on board. Han vows to one day return and reunite with Qi'ra. He then joins the Imperial Navy.
Three years later, Han finds himself an infantryman, fighting in a battle, where he encounters a group of criminals led by a man named Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Beckett and his group have Han arrested for desertion, and Han is thrown into a pit with a beast: a Wookie named Chewbacca. Han is able to persuade Chewbacca to work with him, and the two are able to make an escape together. Needing extra help, Beckett takes Han and Chewbacca with him. From there begins a series of adventures for Han and Chewy, which includes Han being reunited with Qi'ra.
I'm hesitant to say that Solo contains spoilers, because if you've seen any of the trailers, you know that Han will get back together with Qi'ra and befriend Chewy and meet Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). We'll get to plot issues in a minute, but first, it's worth mentioning that Solo underwent a directorial change while the film was in production. Directing duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller left the project in June 2017, their firing being due to "creative differences." The duo wanted to turn Solo into a comedy film, but producer Kathleen Kennedy and the Kasdans were seeking only a dollop of comedy to the film. So after Lord and Miller got bounced, Ron Howard stepped in as director, and, reportedly, about 70 percent of the film needed to be re-shot. This directing change and the need for re-shoots tells me only one thing: this turned into quite a troubled movie.
- The best thing I can say about Solo is that it does have some fun set pieces, primarily a scene where the criminal group attempts to rob a moving train, easily the best scene in the entire film. There's enough on display to satisfy anyone who has come just for some entertaining Star Wars action, and, honestly, I feel like that's the group this movie is targeting the most. The cast boasts a lot of charm, especially Glover, who thrives in his role as a younger Lando. The bummer is that there just isn't a whole lot of Lando in the movie, which leads me to my low points.
- Lawrence Kasdan was a co-writer for The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, so seeing him as a co-writer here just has to make you feel at least a little optimistic. Now being a co-writer with his son maybe wasn't the best idea in the world, but given Kasdan's previous screenwriting credits, he absolutely deserves the benefit of the doubt with Solo. It pains me to say, however, that the writing for Solo is....I don't want to say it's terrible, but, let's just say that the writing is...problematic. Key pieces of the story, like how Han got to be known as Han Solo and his reunion with Qi'ra, are lazily handled, not at all given the time and care they should have been given. Han gets the last name of Solo when he is enlisting in the Imperial Navy, and he tells the Imperial officer that he "doesn't have a people." The officer tells Han then he will be known as Han Solo. Are you kidding me? One of the most iconic Star Wars characters ever gets his last name from one nameless officer's interpretation of Han, "not having any people?" Is that what George Lucas envisioned of Han from the beginning?
As for the reunion with Qi'ra, it's treated like it's some casual event that needs no build-up whatsoever, completely ruining everything that happens between Han and Qi'ra in the beginning of the film. Qi'ra simply walks up to Han at a party, no dramatic entrance or nothing, and says to him something that goes along the lines of, "Hey! We haven't seen each other for a long time, but we're back together now and it's, like, all cool and stuff!" Poor Emilia Clarke looks like she's cringing at the dialogue she's trying to say while smiling, while Ehrenreich just stands there not doing anything to help salvage this scene at all. Next time that happens Emilia Clarke, sick a dragon on Kasdan.
There's a lot more about the writing I could get into, but the only other thing I'll mention is that the screenplay hardly gives Lando anything to do, except for a bizarre but thankfully brief subplot involving his droid co-pilot L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) having romantic feelings for him. No. Just no.
- The movie also has issues with pacing, feeling incredibly tedious and at times like it's struggling to find something to do. While there are sequences of riveting action, they're interspersed with a series of uninteresting conversations that make the movie seem like it's dragging along. Plus, the movie plays several of its later scenes like they are multiple endings, and that had me instead wishing for the movie to be over as opposed to being invested in the final act.
I know it sounds like I thoroughly disliked Solo, but the truth is that I found it to be okay. It has some fun moments and some charming characters, and for a lot of people out there, that may be more than enough. However, I can't say I'd be too thrilled about having to watch Solo again one day down the road, because the troublesome writing and pacing do make it a more laborious task to sit through. But despite the fact that I found this movie to be okay, I am a little worried about Disney's mindset with the Star Wars franchise going forward. Are they going to keep churning out these origin stories, or are they going to think outside the box and get a little bit more creative about possible adventures to be had in the galaxy far, far away? It's still too early to say that Disney will be the death of Star Wars. Maybe they just need get through a little bit of trial and error before they can really start cranking out some great new material. But given the disappointing box office returns of Solo and its rather tepid critical response, I think it's clear that the world is going through some Star Wars fatigue right now. Whether the world will be relieved of that fatigue by the time Episode IX comes out is unclear. What is clear is that Solo has ended up being the target of a lot of new frustrations by long-time fans, and unless the Disney-led Star Wars can come into its own, those frustrations aren't going away anytime soon.
Recommend? Yes, if you're in the mood for some fun space action. I would also recommend it if you're a die-hard Star Wars fan.
An Adventure 65 Million Years in the Making
Jurassic Park is directed by Steven Spielberg and is based on the 1990 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, who also served as a screenwriter. The film stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, B.D. Wong, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, Joseph Mazzello, and Ariana Richards. It is the first installment in the Jurassic Park franchise and won over twenty awards, which included three Academy Awards for its visual effects and sound design.
1993. What a year for Mr. Steven Spielberg. 1993 was the year of not one, but two of the beloved director's finest works: the popcorn, special effects entertainment experience of a lifetime Jurassic Park and the hard-hitting, historical depiction of the Holocaust Schindler's List. Schindler's List is a review for another day, and with a fifth Jurassic Park film on its way, it's as good of a time as ever for me to go back and give Jurassic Park a full viewing for the first time since I was, I'm gonna say since I was 10 or 11. After all, if people didn't love and adore Jurassic Park back in 1993 and never let the film go on to be the highest grossing film of all time until the release of 1997's Titanic, why would you even entertain the thought of Jurassic Park getting a whopping four sequels and counting, with one of those sequels getting an even larger box office gross than Jurassic Park?
I have not come here to sing a song of praise for the movie's achievements in CGI and animatronics; there are more than enough people out there who have seen the movie and will tell you, "The dinosaurs look so cool!" What I will do in this review is tell you that while Jurassic Park is still great and hasn't lost an ounce of its entertainment value 25 years later, it maybe isn't as good as you think it is, especially when sitting next to Jaws, Spielberg's other "monster" movie that is almost impossible to ignore when discussing Jurassic Park. Jaws dwarfs Jurassic Park's thrills a little bit, because Jaws instills into us a very realistic sense of terror while maintaining its status as an interesting character study and a thrilling piece of popcorn cinema. Jurassic Park, meanwhile, does a masterful job in the popcorn cinema department, but is a little lacking in character development and in generating pure terror, mostly because we all understand that sharks are very real and capable of making headlines here in 2018, while dinosaurs going extinct 65 million years ago means we don't need to be fearful that a T-Rex may eat us for lunch the next time we go on a bike ride.
I will assume you've seen the movie and know the plot, but for those of you who may not have seen it yet (if so, I highly encourage you to go and see the film the next chance you get), I'll mention it here: Industrialist John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and his company, InGen, have successfully found a way to clone dinosaurs from dinosaur DNA found in mosquitoes that had been preserved in amber. The cloned dinosaurs are put inside a theme park called Jurassic Park on the Costa Rican island Isla Nublar. However, potential investors for the park demand that experts visit the island and ensure that it is safe for any and all visitors. Invited to the island are paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and chaos theorist Iam Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), all of whom are overwhelmed by the site of the living, breathing dinosaurs. The group is joined on their park tour by Hammond's grandchildren, Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello) Murphy.
The tour turns out to be a disappointment, with most of the dinosaurs failing to make an appearance. A tropical storm hits the island during the tour, and just as the storm is arriving, Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), the park's top computer programmer, deactivates the parks's security system in order to go and steal some of the valuable dinosaur embryos (in hopes of selling the embryos to one of Hammond's business rivals). The dinosaurs are able to escape with the power out and the security system down, and the tour group must now find a way to get to safety and avoid being eaten by the T-Rex or any of the other meat-eating dinosaurs.
- It's amazing how the CGI in Jurassic Park, a movie now 25 years old, looks tons better than the CGI in a large portion of action/adventure/sci-fi films today. Seeing the effects in a movie like this one makes me scratch my head and wonder, even with more advanced technology since this movie's initial release, how is it that there are still so many big-budget CGI-spectacles coming out today that look like they were shot over the weekend? There's no longer a true love for the craft, a love for the process of trying to make some giant, monstrous creature(s) look as scary and as realistic as can be. Thankfully there is always solace looking back and watching a movie like Jurassic Park, because it serves as a reminder that there was a time when the effort put into special effects by filmmakers was clear as day and shined through the cinema screen. Jurassic Park was an example of how CGI can enhance a movie, and not always detract from it.
- That T-Rex. Spielberg knew you wanted a T-Rex, and you better believe he gives you one. Every scene the T-Rex is in is the best part of the movie.
- Jurassic Park also keeps up a sense of humor to ensure that the movie is always fun, with a lot of the most memorable lines coming from Mr. Jeff Goldblum. You know the ones I'm talking about.
- Now then, what in the world is making me say that Jurassic Park isn't as good as everyone thinks it is? The answer is that the movie is weighed down by cynicism, cynicism that deflates the sense of awe and the general amazement that the movie should be overflowing with. The extent of the movie's wonder is the scene where the group first sees the dinosaurs, specifically a Brachiosaurus. In scenes that immediately follow, the group shows a skeptical attitude towards John Hammond, his work, and all of his hopes for what Jurassic Park could be. Dr. Malcolm criticizes Hammond's controlled breeding method (we are told all of the dinosaurs are female), stating the method will inevitably break down. Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler question the ethics behind the dinosaur cloning, and argue that man and dinosaurs cannot co-exist.
The park turning out to be a failure is no surprise. How else would a movie with dinosaurs be a summer popcorn blockbuster? The problem here is that the wonder behind seeing the dinosaurs turns to cynicism in the blink of an eye, with the eventual dinosaur outbreak not having the level of heartbreak that would come had the character's not turned to skepticism so quickly. Dr. Grant and Dr. Settler could have spent more time being overwhelmed by what John Hammond offers them, desiring to see as many of the dinosaurs as possible because Jurassic Park is a dream come true for them and their work. As the movie progresses, the two could slowly turn to skepticism as they keep thinking over everything they've seen, and it finally dawns on them that the park won't work. John Hammond could have remained in a stubborn state of denial throughout the movie, even as the park is falling apart around him. By the end of the movie, however, he would see how his vision ended in disaster, hence, the heartbreak that the movie leaves on the table. What the cynicism does is soften the blow of the park's collapse, turning the second half of the movie into a pure fight for survival, as opposed to a fight for survival where our characters come to think deeper about how dinosaurs would exist in the human world, something that would fuel character development and the suspense.
I'll tell you what though, cynicism or not, there's no denying that Jurassic Park has established itself as not just a dinosaur movie, but the dinosaur movie. Steven Spielberg has put together an entertaining popcorn film that is still loads better than the summer junk that has been put out there in recent years. The fact that there are still Jurassic Park/World movies being made today should tell you just how much people were fascinated by seeing these dinosaurs on screen back in 1993, and that Jurassic Park was that big of a deal. Like, almost Star Wars level-big deal. And while this franchise would develop a series of problems as it went along with its sequels, we will always have Jurassic Park to remind us why we started to love watching dinosaurs on screen and why they are titans of summer popcorn cinema.
Recommend? Yes. I'd recommend you watch it right away if you haven't seen it yet, because it's that popular.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: