Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Delivers Dino-Sized Thrills & Scares

jurassic world fallen kingdom poster

The latest film in the Jurassic Park films, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, has finally been released here in North America. Many of the reviews have been downright negative and nasty, and honestly, for the most part, it’s undeserved. The fifth Jurassic Park film is an exciting and suspenseful film that adds to the film series.

Taking place three years after Jurassic World, the latest sequel follows up on the disaster that befell the live-dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World. Now abandoned, the park and the island it is on has been overtaken by dinosaurs. However, the island has an active volcano that threatens the lives of the dinosaurs. A worldwide debate opens up over whether or not to save the endangered animals. Some believe nature should take its course and drive the dinosaurs to extinction again while others have taken up the cause of the dinosaurs.

own and claire and indoraptor

An obvious homage to Jurassic Park

One of that movement’s leaders is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), former operations manager of Jurassic World. She is approached by a Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) who represents Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a former partner of Jurassic Park’s creator John Hammond. Lockwood wants to evacuate the dinosaurs to an island sanctuary and enlists Claire’s help. She in turn recruits her ex-boyfriend, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a former raptor wrangler. Once they get to the island, the volcano erupts and as shown in trailers that revealed too much of the film’s plot, they are betrayed by Mills. He only wants to evacuate the dinosaurs to sell them on the black market and has also spearheaded the creation of a new hybrid dinosaur, the indoraptor. Now it’s up to Owen, Claire, and a couple of colleagues to stop Mills’ plans.

jurassic world fallen kingdom

All hell breaks loose in Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom

For the fifth film in a film franchise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is surprisingly fresh and exciting. It has plenty of thrilling and suspenseful scenes, as well as some unexpected heart-breaking moments. One thing that sets it apart from the other films is that it brings up the notion of whether or not these prehistoric animals have rights. They were artificially created so are they entitled to be protected as an endangered species? The film presents both sides of the argument fairly and it leaves you conflicted. You see the majesty of these creatures, but know that they should not be alive now. Is it right to share our current world with them? Why defy nature again? Some of these messages get lost in the action and dinosaur action, but they stay with you nonetheless. Then an unusual twist comes up with Lockwood’s young granddaughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), that adds a new wrinkle to the film series.

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Jurassic World Dominates The Summer

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For the third weekend in a row Jurassic World is the box office champion having beaten off challenges from Inside Out and Ted 2. To date the film has earned $500 million in North America (and over $1.2 billion worldwide) making it the biggest film hit of the year, which is an amazing feat considering it’s the fourth film in a disregarded franchise.

Think about it. Of the three Jurassic Park films, only the first one is considered a classic, while the two that followed are seen as inferior, even though Steven Spielberg, the director of the first film, helmed the second one. The last film, Jurassic Park III, came out fourteen years ago and is a weak entry in the series. With such diminishing returns, the amount of time since Jurassic Park III came out and the thin credentials of Jurassic World’s director, Colin Trevorrow, not much was expected of the fourth film.

In fact, when the trailers first started making their way through the Internet, many kept snarking about how fake the dinosaurs looked and how dumb the idea was that the film had trained Velociraptors. The Summer of 2015 was supposed to belong to Avengers: Age of Ultron, remember that film? Well, to say that Jurassic World defied expectations is a gross understatement.

The question is why is it so successful? There are many reasons and theories. There’s nostalgia for the first film, which has endured for all this time and broken gyronow the second film has come around to being recognized as a worthwhile sequel. So the public appetite was there for more adventures at Isla Nublar. Another reason has to do with the universal (no pun intended) appeal of dinosaurs. Out of a crowded summer schedule filled with superheroes and explosions, the sight of majestic and deadly dinosaurs was welcomed by those wanting something different. This leads to another reason; maybe the public is getting tired of superhero films. Avengers: Age of Ultron was over-marketed just like last year’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and although it was a huge success it didn’t match the original film in terms of quality and box office returns. The likely culprit for that has to do with that film’s merits and word of mouth. Then that leads to a final point, the word of mouth about Jurassic World and weaker-than-expected competition gave the film legs.

irex rampageBut the underlining reason for its success is that it’s a downright fun and well-made film. Jurassic World doesn’t have any pretensions and it isn’t a perfect film, but it accomplishes what it was supposed to do, being thrilling and entertaining. The textbook example of a summer film. Some may think it’s too early to declare Jurassic World the King of the Summer, but consider what’s left; Terminator: Genisys, Fantastic Four, Pixels. Seriously, can anyone expect these films to fire the imagination? Maybe Ant-Man and Minions will be contenders, but as of now Jurassic World rules the summer!

Waldermann Rivera

 

Jurassic World Proves That The Jurassic Park Series Isn’t Extinct

JW poster Jurassic World is what a great summer film should be! After the disappointments of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Tomorrowland, Jurassic World comes roaring along and shows everyone the meaning of the term summer blockbuster. It’s everything that a film of its type is supposed to be: exciting, awe-inspiring, adventurous, and sprinkled enough with messages to go with the popcorn. It’s rather amazing to think that the fourth film in a franchise would reinvigorate it especially when the last film in the franchise, Jurassic Park III, signaled that the film series had run its course. Jurassic World takes place over twenty years after the first Jurassic Park. That failed dinosaur theme park from the first film has been reborn as the mega successful Jurassic World. Yet, despite the park’s popularity, the owners are concerned with keeping the park profitable. To remedy this, some bonehead comes up with the idea of genetically creating new species of dinosaurs as if regular dinosaurs weren’t spectacular enough for the masses. mosasuarActually this train of thought is bored easily. A case in point is when two of the film’s young characters Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) and his older brother Zack (Nick Robinson) visit the park. In one valid in the film. One observation made by the film is that our society is rather fickle and scene they’re at an aquatic stadium similar to what we find in SeaWorld. The star attraction is a huge Mosasaurus , while Gray is excited to see this gigantic leviathan chomping on shark bait, Zack is distracted with his smartphone. That is so true with many people today, they’re only interested in what’s next. And it’s this mentality that leads to disaster in Jurassic World. The two siblings could’ve been your typical annoying kid characters, but they actually work. Through them, we empathize with their wonder and vulnerability. One of the best moments is early in the film when Gray first enters the park. The famous John Williams score adds to the rousing feeling as he takes in sweeping views of the world-class resort. We don’t see any dinosaurs but the scene is supposed to evoke the joy and wonder that a young child has when first panicvisiting a theme park. Think about it, when first entering these parks, a visitor doesn’t automatically see the star attractions, but the visitor is mesmerized by the architecture and the promise of what’s to come. Director Colin Treverrow is able to convey this POV and makes us wish the park actually existed. Later, when the boys are imperiled by rampaging dinosaurs we feel their fear. Some of those tension-soaked moments come close to rivaling what Steven Spielberg accomplished with the early Jurassic Park films. Even though he can’t capture Steven Spielberg’s magic touch with the camera, he gives it his all. irex pteros Anyway, to keep enticing visitors the park’s owners have a new dinosaur created in their labs, the Indominus rex. It’s a mean, pale, towering behemoth that is a Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor mix on steroids. As in the first film, the scientists meddled with nature and in trying to make cooler dinosaurs created a nightmare. The I-rex turns out to be unusually intelligent and lethal. Demonstrating this is how it’s able to use camouflage and trickery to enable an escape from its compound. Once it breaks free, it goes on a sadistic killing spree and murders dinosaurs and humans alike for sport. This isn’t your typical dinosaur running amok. The Indominus rex is one of the best dinosaur creations ever seen on film and is certain to be regarded as a classic monster. By the way it so easily outwitted and outfought humans, it was hard to be certain that the good guys would win. Plus, the film allowed time to have the characters and audience mourn for a dying sauropod, an unfortunate victim of the I-rex. It was a good touch. raptor whisperer However, even though the Indominus rex seems unbeatable, the park’s ace in the hole is Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), an expert Velociraptor handler. He is hands down the best and most interesting character. Grady is cool, savvy, and of course, no one in charge listens to him. Often, he knocks heads with the park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is the Mitchell boys’ aunt. She is the typical corporate shill that only cares about profits. But she changes her ways as the film progresses and she grady and co.finds out that the new dinosaur is out of control and her lost nephews are in harm’s way. The banter between her and Grady was surprisingly funny in a cornball, cliché-ridden way but it was funny at times. There was this scene where she and Grady are tracking the boys and she’s running around the jungle in a business suit and high heels (and it’s film miracle that she is able to outrun dinosaurs in the heels). To show that she is willing to get rough to find the boys, Dearing hysterically adjusts her suit by rolling up the sleeves and loosening her jacket. Some may find all this eye rolling but it worked. The film is chock full of implausibilities like Dearing’s high-heel jungle sprints. Consider that the park’s owner (Irrfan Khan) is the only person capable of flying a helicopter and as CEO is allowed to take part in an assault of the I-rex. Then there is unbelievable fact that the boys are able to jumpstart a jeep left rotting for twenty years with old gasoline! Or how about cell phones and radios that never work when they’re needed? Adding to this is InGen security expert Josh Hoskin’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) outlandish idea to weaponize Velociraptors. These are not guard dogs but unpredictable wild animals as he soon finds out. Still it was an interesting subplot about the military applications of genetically created dinosaurs. This could be a direction that a sequel can explore. raptor dogs One of Jurassic World’s best features were naturally the Velociraptors that Grady handled. Through hard work, he has limited control over the dinosaurs, but it’s precarious. Nevertheless, one fist-pumping moment is when he takes off in a motorcycle at night to hunt the I-rex and the raptors join him like a pack of dogs. Unfortunately, it all backfired for the humans because being that the Indominus rex was part raptor it was able to assume an alpha role and had the raptors attack the human hunters. But despite their betrayal, the raptors, led by one called Blue, in the end turn on the I-rex in the climax. And boy was that one epic battle, especially when Dearing unleashes a Tyrannosaurus rex to join in the fray. It was a tribute to those epic kaiju films where monsters like Godzilla, teamed up with Rodan and others to fight Ghidorah. That fight had one of the film’s final messages which was by working together two different parties were able to survive. Jurassic World is a great gem of a surprise. It may not be in the same league as the Spielberg films, but it’s a tremendously enjoyable romp that shows that the world of Jurassic Park still has much to offer viewers. José Soto  

In Defense Of The Lost World: Jurassic Park

stegosaurisNow that Jurassic World has been released, there’s been increased interest in the past Jurassic Park films. It’s a common consensus that the first Jurassic Park film is a timeless classic and that Jurassic Park III is an inferior entry in the film franchise. The first sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park is constantly lambasted by many critics and fans as being another disappointing sequel that can’t compare to the original. Personally, I disagree with this common assessment, The Lost World: Jurassic Park was a terrific summer thrill ride that has so much merit.

This doesn’t mean that this film is as good as Jurassic Park. No, the original film is superior because of it explored many themes about man and nature. Then what cemented its status among film classics was its then-groundbreaking fx. The Lost World: Jurassic Park doesn’t have such lofty themes although there are some and its fx may now seem like old hat. But the film delivered the goods in being a grand adventure film with relatable characters and intense action scenes.

Let’s examine that closer. The film, like the Michael Crichton novel it’s based on, focused on Ian Malcolm malcolm and others(Jeff Goldblum), the slightly eccentric scientist who accurately predicted that bringing dinosaurs to life was a bad idea. Malcolm was one of the most endearing characters from the first film thanks to Goldblum’s performance and once again he shines as the scientist. This time, he is asked to go to another dinosaur-infested island off the coast of Costa Rica to rescue his girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore). She was shown to be a very capable scientist who could take care of herself. Other new and memorable characters included photographer Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), big game hunter Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), and Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard). One thing that was interesting is that with Ludlow this film had a true villain that lasted for most of the film. Ludlow was John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) greedy nephew who wanted to exploit the dinosaurs to create his own theme park.

hunting dinos

In light of all the controversy parks like SeaWorld are going through with alleged neglect and abuse charges with their animals, this animal exploitation theme is explored fully in this film. Stressing this point are the distressing moments when herds of frightened dinosaurs are hunted and captured by Ludlow’s team. This animal conservation motif was the overriding message in this film. It may not be as complex or profound as chaos theory, but it is still a valid point.

However, this film didn’t get bogged down and or come off as too preachy with its message about leaving nature alone. That was because the film was adorned with exciting sequences where humans are threatened by dinosaurs. trailer attackChiefly, a couple of Tyrannosaurus rexes who hunt the humans after Ludlow has their infant T-rex captured. There’s this chilling and captivating moment when Malcolm and his companions are trapped in a trailer that the t-rexes attack. It was just as terrifying as when the Tyrannosaurus first appeared in the foreboding rain in the original Jurassic Park. Another scene worth mentioning is when the same dinosaurs creep up on Ludlow’s camp at night and the frantic fleeing of the humans that followed. It was very gripping and full of dark humor. A case in point is when a T-rex steps on a hunter and the squashed human is stuck on the animal’s paw as it pursues other humans. This chase scene led to a return appearance of the dangerous Velociraptors that made their mark in the original. The followup scenes where the raptors use the tall grass to close in on the hunters evoked the terror that director Steven Spielberg so expertly showed in Jaws.

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But the big highlight for me with this film had to do with its last act. Many people deride the moment when a captured Tyrannosaurus rex escapes into the streets of San Diego, but it was great! It was a clear tribute to the old Willis O’Brien classic The Lost World and more recent kaiju films. The images of the T-rex rampaging through a crowded street, attacking a city bus and eating hapless people still bring a smile to my face. Spielberg knew what would please fans and their inner youth who would revel in the spectacle of rampaging dinosaurs in our cities. It may be a tacked-on final act, but it was downright entertaining!

Putting aside these compliments, The Lost World: Jurassic Park does have its faults, which I won’t go into here. It’s worth noting that while it’s not as good as the original this sequel had many features that improved upon the first Jurassic Park. It was more thrilling, had more dinosaurs and naturally had better fx. Maybe it’s time everyone gave this film a second look and see why it’s a fun film.

Lewis T. Grove

 

 

The Wonder Of Jurassic Park

JP logoWith the re-release of Jurassic Park in theaters, renewed interest in the twenty-year-old film has arisen. Putting aside all the raves about the 3D conversion process used in Jurassic Park’s re-release, many have come to realize or remember how monumental it was when during its initial release.

During the summer of 1993, one couldn’t go anywhere without seeing that iconic logo with the t-rex skeleton. The film was a marketing dream with its realistic dinosaurs that were instant hits and helped sell dinosaur-related merchandise. The previous three films that had similar cultural impacts were Jaws, Star Wars and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Many of its delightful and revolutionary aspects are taken for granted nowadays, notably the extensive use of CGI (computer generated imagery) that brought the dinosaurs in the film to life. The visual effects process had been around for a few years and came to public awareness with films like TRON, The Last Starfighter, The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But the effects wizards working on Jurassic Park went the extra mile at the behest of its director Steven Spielberg.

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Originally, the dinosaurs were to be a mix of animatronics (done by Stan Winston) and the offspring of stop motion animation, go motion animation (to be done by Phil Tippet). However, Spielberg wasn’t quite satisfied with the limited scope of go motion. The dinosaurs in screen tests didn’t look convincing enough. Animators Mark Dippe and Steve Williams presented to Spielberg a test reel featuring the famous t-rex in Jurassic Park for the first time as a CGI. That was all Spielberg needed to see. Tippet quickly adapted, and he and his team of animators re-trained to become CG animators.

The impact of seeing those realistic dinosaurs in the big screen cannot be overstated. Audiences were floored when brachthe first full shot of the brachiosaurus in the park was unveiled. Probably the closest experience from seeing dinosaurs recreated on the silver screen that compares to it is way back in the 1920s when the dinosaurs in The Lost World  terrorized audiences. With Jurassic Park, while more educated audiences knew that dinosaurs sadly no longer existed, they found themselves wishing they did and this was the closest they would get to witnessing realistic recreations.

The use of CGI is commonplace today and has been since the 1990s, which can lead to an unjust dismissal of the film. Jurassic Park also masterfully blended that process with Winston’s animatronics (as seen when the t-rex first appeared in the rain) and CG was also used in subtle ways. For instance, there was a scene where a female stunt double for actress Ariana Richards has her face replaced by an image of the young actress.

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There have been many attempts to recreate that phenomenal film in the way that left people speechless as to what was possible to do on film. None, not even Jurassic Park’s sequels, were able to do that, though there were many admirable attempts. Part of the reason is that people have come to anticipate CG marvels when seeing a film. It’s when a CG is done poorly that it registers and believe it or not there are tons of films that come out today with CG effects that are inarguably inferior to what was accomplished with this twenty-year-old film.

raptorsBut it would be a mistake to celebrate Jurassic Park just for its ground-breaking effects and topnotch marketing. It took a genius of a filmmaker to bring Michael Crichton’s epic novel of the same name to the silver screen. There are many divergences from the novel, but if it were to be filmed as it was written, the producers might’ve had an R-rated film on their hands with many unlikable characters. Spielberg and the writers were able to soften the story, while still keeping the book’s thrills and scientific curiosity, and injected a sense of wonder and fleshed out the characters. It was their efforts that made sure that the film wasn’t just an effects extravaganza. The story and characters mattered and that is one of the main reasons why the film still endures today.

 Lewis T. Grove