Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jurassic World (2015) movie review

Overall verdict: 6/10

The Good: Epic soundtrack that pays tribute to the original by John Williams, maintains a sense of tension, numerous homages to Steven Spielberg's original Jurassic Park film, clever parody of the modern blockbuster movie.

The Bad: forgettable characters, instances of sub-par special effects, cliched story premise, falls back on messy shaky-camera action, much untapped potential.

3D Readiness: Post filming 3D conversion.
IMax-ability: Fast paced shots of combat and intense action may not lend well to imax viewing

Dinosaurs. They filled me with wonder in the innocent childhood days and still continue to do so even though scientists have claimed the Tyrannosaurus looked like a giant chicken. No, really I could name at least 30 dinosaurs by the age of 4 and tell you the difference between an Allosaurus and a Megalosaurus. They are supposed to have feathers. But kids do not want to see Big Bird with teeth. They do not want to see dinosaurs as they were many million years ago, they want to see dinosaurs as we think they should be seen.

Enter Jurassic World. The culmination of a dream that began with the ill fated Jurassic Park. Technology has allowed scientists to extract DNA and clone the once extinct thunder lizards. Where Jurassic Park was an old school safari, Jurassic world is the highly commercialised Disneyland with Dinosaurs, where paying customers could kayak down a river of feeding Brontosaurs, ride a gyro-sphere among the Triceratops,  pay a fortune for a cola, and just bask in the awe of these great creatures. But test audience did not want raptors the size of a turkey or T-rex with feathers so in cam frog DNA to make them look like how they do in the books and minds of people. People did not just want to "bask in awe" so the dinosaurs were turned into sideshow freaks and made to entertain with their babies being molested in petting zoos, their basic mealtimes making the Facebook page of a hundred gawking audience members. Heck, some even tried training them to do tricks but even that is not enough. Enter the Indominus Rex, a genetically spliced mutant dinosaur.

What we have here is something that would split the audience. Some would call it an abomination, others would call it awesome. It is bigger, louder, fiercer, faster, yet it feels hollow and incomplete; all style and less substance. It's got teeth, its got a ferocious roar, but it lacks bite. A creature whose traits were dictated by focus groups and market research instead of a respect for the originals. A creature made of borrowed elements from the originals yet the guys who made it forgot what it was that made the originals so great and memorable.

I am talking about the movie here. The very movie which the Indominus Rex acts like a parody of. No one are impressed with old school animatronic effects the same way people in the movie are not too impressed with the old school Tyrannosaurus Rex. So in came modern technology, in the movie's case in came 3D CGI, and the creators went wild with it. Some say they went overboard with it the same way scientists went overboard with the predatory trails of the Indominus Rex.

 Someone is making a point here it seems. Very clever. Whether it was intended or not, Jurassic World is exactly the kind of blockbuster movie that the indominus Rex was meant to parody. It is bigger in scale, with CGI special effects used to portray the fully functioning theme park and creatures within. It is fiercer, with more on screen deaths, there is more gore to push the PG13 rating and we finally get to see what would happen when soldiers fight dinosaurs. It is definitely faster; though clocking in at 124 minutes, I felt that the movie just flew by like Pterodactyl.

Somewhere in there there is this kid and his teenage brother. Their aunt runs Jurassic World and starts off as an obnoxious "corporate adult too busy for the kids" type. There's is this funny Indian billionaire who loves flying helicopters, and then there is Star-Lord! Look it's Peter "StarLord" Quill and he's training Velociraptors instead of hanging out with a talking racoon and his alien tree. Wait.......he's not Star Lord? Owen Grady, you say? But he is the exact same Star Lord character, right down to the mannerisms, the body language, except that instead of a laser gun, "Owen" here has a hunting rifle. You're not fooling anyone Star-Lord.

Simple statement: If I can't even remember your characters names, then those characters are not at all interesting. We do get some archetypes that many can relate to such as the aunt character who is your typical family member who was always too busy for the children. Caught up in the corporate world, she was never there for her nephews as they were growing up, never got to know them. And though they visited her, she'd rather make a sales pitch to executives relegating baby sitting duties to an assistant. This I like. Strong family themes were a staple in previous JP movies and it is nice to see that they kept something right. This, alongside Michael Giacchino's musical tribute to John Williams, saves this movie from becoming just another mindless modern monster flick.

Sadly the rest of what made Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park great gets lost in messy frantic CGI action. Spielberg allowed the camera to linger on the dinosaurs, keeping things out of frame to ramp up the tension then delivering full on, clear and steady dino fighting action. Colin Trevorrow, on the other hand, seems to have taken reference from Michael Bay and JJ Abrams. Frantic camera shots neuter the dinosaur action, wide shots are so wide that you can't make out much detail, and keeping the dinos out of frame just feel like those old low budget cheats to save on the special effects budget. You even have wholly unnecessary lens flare on jeep headlights.

Not that the CGI was perfect, it is not. Industral Lights and Magic (ILM) does great effects for technology (see Star Wars, Transformers, Iron Man etc) but when it comes to creatures, they fall short from the standards set by studios like WETA or MPC. It shows in the overly saturated shots of dinosaurs in the daytime. For example, the initial appearance of the velociraptors seemed a tad unfinished with the raptors looking a little out of focus from the rest of the scene.

I give this thumbs up for the music, the acting and jab at the state of modern blockbusters. The family theme was good though underdeveloped and that CGI could use some work. Re-watching Jurassic Park immediately after this only brought a sense of disappointment to my heart. Even judged by modern standards, Jurassic Park stands the test of time. While Jurassic World may never achieve that timeless classic standard, it entertains it jolts, and it gives the modern blockbuster audience exactly what they want. Sadly.

*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: B-
Story: C+
Acting: A-
Characters: D+
Music: B
Replay value: C
"Brains": B+

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