Reviews May Contain Minor Spoilers

If you're reading a review you should expect to hear some spoilers. I try to keep them to a minimum though.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

This is the second film in the Jurassic Park franchise that I haven't seen since it was released in theaters. It didn't take me long to realize why.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) is based on Crichton's first sequel that Spielberg himself requested.

Ian Malcolm is approached by Jurassic Park creator, John Hammond, to lead a team into the breeding site for Jurassic Park on Isla Sorna. He is adamant that Jurassic Park should be destroyed and forgotten. It is only when he finds out his girlfirend is on the island that he rushes a team in to save her. Unfortunately, Hammond's company Ingen has sent in another team of ruthless hunters to salvage the project and set up a new park in San Diego.

This film rushes from action scene to action scene using flimsy pretenses. The characters have zero intelligence. They drag a baby T-rex around knowing that the parents will come and kill them (if they feel like it). I'm actually surprised they used as many real models as they did, but it was only 1997. CG technology hadn't progressed that much in four years.

Okay guys, what's the dumbest way to handle this?
Our Heroes
Ian Malcolm steps up to the hero plate while trying to save his girlfriend from the horrors of the park. He has slightly more intelligence in that he wants to just leave, unfortunately his libido seems to get in the way of his brain.

Eddie Carr is the team's field equipment expert. He earns his place on my heroes list for showing the most brains under pressure and saving all the other characters. Naturally this mean he gets pointlessly eaten by the curiously judgemental T-rexes.

Idiotic Observers
Kelly Malcolm is Ian's daughter who is a former gymnast. She misinterprets her inept Dad when he tells her "not to follow him" and then to "ignore him." Remember in my Jurassic Park review when I noted that neither of the kids got really annoying. Kelly does almost nothing for most of the film, before kicking ass and then promptly dropping from the film.
Found You!

Sarah Harding is dumb. She is a wildlife photographer and sometimes dinosaur specialist sent to document the inhabitants of Isla Sorna. Unfortunately, she spends most of her time trying to save a baby T-rex by way of killing as many people as she can. Her actions lead to almost as many deaths in the movie as Nick's.

Nick Van Owen is a former member of green peace and current idiot. He comes up with such brilliant ideas as: releasing a plethora of trapped dinosaurs in an inhabited camp and goign off by himself to find a com room while being hunted by raptor. I'm pissed this dunce survives.

Corporate Foes
Peter Ludlow is Ingen'sa CEO and the blood sucking lawyer of this movie. This time they decided to make him a villain like lawyers usually are. In doing so, he pretty much loses all survival instinct.

Roland Temblo is a South African big game hunter. He's presented as a villain, though he may not be all that bad. He wants nothing more than to face a T-rex one on one. This confrontation occurs off screen while we get to see out main characters dragging a T-rex baby around and a minor villain being eaten. I can't help but think a much better film involving Ronald Temblo was occurring just off screen

It may not look like much, but its a marvel of spatial incongruity.
The T-Rexes have had their baby stolen and are pissed. Sort of. They seem to be pissed enough to eat minor character, but strangely fill up when the main characters come around, weird. ALso, they can see things that don't move, they may be getting a head start on that whole evolution subplot in Jurassic Park 3. Still, two monsters equals twice the scare right? Right ?!?

The Velociraptors are there. They're basically thrown in because they were popular. They would be scary if the area the humans encounter the raptors in made any sense spatially. The Isla Sorna visitor center is a magic world of convenient trap doors and bizarre passages. Its no wonder the raptors lost, the plot convenience in their action scene alone still confounds me.
This is the closest to 'wonder' we get. Lame.

Overblown Atmosphere
Hay! Hay Guys! You seen my kid? I really need to hire a babysitter.
Okay, its mostly the same music and design, but everything seems a little off. Partly because there isn't any magic. No scene of wonder as we witness the dinosaurs for the first time. No character to be amazed at their grandeur. We never really see more than a few dinos at a time and they are pretty much always a threat.

In the End
There are two ends. One involves a deus ex machina helicopter which leads into the infamous T-rex in San Diego scene. Neither of these are satisfying and both of them are abrupt.

It even surprised me how much of a mess this film is. I wonder if it even had a script. It seems to be made up of the skeleton of The Lost World novel and the pieces of the original Jurassic Park novel that Spielberg couldn't fit in to the first film. This film is bereft of any meaningful thought or original ideas. It feels like a rehash made to finance a better film. I'm sorry to say that this may be Spielberg's worst film, but I'll reserve judement until I've seen them all.

Next up: I'm not sure, but it won't be A.I. I need a pallet cleanser.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Jurassic Park

A defining moment of my childhood and the reason I have never gotten over my childhood obsession with dinosaurs.

Jurassic Park (1993) is the first collaboration between Steven Spielberg and acclaimed writer, Michael Crichton.

While moving a giant steel cage, a man is dragged in and slain by the beast inside. Meanwhile, a corporate agent meets Dennis Nedry about stealing embryos for a competitor. Due to the death of the worker, Jurassic Park owner, John Hammond, hires archaeologist Alan Grant and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler to ensure his investors. His lawyer, Donald Gennaro, brings along chaotician Ian Malcolm. Once at the park, Alan and Ellie see live dinosaurs wandering across the field. Soon they're on a tour of the park with Hammond's grandchildren, Tim and Lex. Unfortunately this coincides with Nedry's plan to escape with the embryos, which involves shutting down the power to the park including the fences.

That summary does not do justice to that movie at all. The magic of this movie really stands the test of time. The CG is still absolutely phenomenal and puts to shame many high budget features twenty years later.The characters are relatively simple, but each has a part to play and even some growth to do as the story unfolds.

Our Heroes
Alan Grant is an archaeologist who hates children. Naturally, this means he's going to be the one getting Lex and Tim back to the Visitor's Center while dodging all the predators. He's a brave and intelligent, if abrasive man. He is Ellie's boyfriend, though they share surprisingly little screen time. He's played by underrated actor Sam Neill who seems to love bad scripts. This is one of his few good roles and he really stands out as the unlikely action hero.

Ellie Sattler splits off from the tour group to care for a sick triceratops. However, this doesn't keep her safe since she must help get the power back online. She flirts a bit with Ian and forces Alan to chat with the kids. She is also surprisingly versatile when faced with Jurassic Park's most cunning foe.

Idealistic Observers
Ian Malcolm is a sarcastic cocky 'rock star' scientist, though I may need to add quotes to scientist as well. Ian Malcolm is a womanizer with a heart of gold who claims to be "always on the lookout for the next ex-Mrs. Malcolm." Malcolm is the fool of the film who claims to know it all, but actually has little to offer. Even his injury leads to perhaps the most comedic death in the film.

Richard Hammond is a rich old man with a dream. He is also fairly comedic with his boisterous rich old man schtick, but he grows more tragic as the park turns more nightmarish.

Lex is the hacker vegetarian granddaughter of Hammond who learns to hate dinosaurs. Unlike many children in films, she actually proves to be more of an asset than a liability by the end.

Tim is a representative of every nine year old who managed to get their parents to let them watch this film, though I may be projecting. A lot. He is knowledgeable about dinosaurs, but not more than any obsessed kid. He's a bit precocious, but he hold his own against some of the most vicious dinos and manages not to be cocky about it.

Fierce Foes
Dennis Nedry is the starting villain whose MacGuffin allows the real terror to start. Ironically, he is killed not by one of the major antagonist Dinos, but by a seemingly insignificant one who is only mentioned once before her appearance.

The T-Rex is the big bad of the piece. She is huge and unstoppable. She starts the killing and is the most visible (she even appears in the logo sort of). The animatronics and CG combined make this an amazingly realized beast which is astonishing for 1993.

The Velociraptors are the hidden menace. They are unseen until near the end, despite being talked about from the start of the film. They are also the most directly threatening to out protagonists. Their intelligence is their weapon, which makes them the most tenacious of all the killing machines in the park. They're also my favorite dinosaur, although they're a composite of a few dinosaurs ( Deinonychus and the smaller real-life Velociraptor) which is a result of incomplete archaeology at the time.

Mesmerizing Atmosphere
As was mentioned earlier, the entire film is gorgeously set and shot. The mixture of practical effects and CG is something later films should have taken a harder look at. Plus, I defy anyone to listen to the John Williams score and not feel the excitement of heading into the awesome park. The entire package is irresistible and that's why people still love this film 20 years later.

In the End
The last ditch escape. Dino on Dino battle. Get to the chopper!

The blend of action and horror is something few films manage to emulate. The use of two primary antagonist dinosaurs with both having their own charms and horrors is a brilliant idea. Even as DC and I were re-watching this and criticizing it, we still both thoroughly enjoyed it. There are certain moments that are over the top and ideas that don't come off so well. Samuel L. Jackson's scientist and the Australian big game hunter are pretty stereotypical, but don't distract too much. These are minor things that really don't get in the way of this marvelous film. I think I've gushed enough. If you haven't seen this film, see it!

Next up is a movie that destroyed a friend of mine's love of dinosaurs: Jurassic Park: The Lost World.