Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. J.A. Bayona

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Jeff Goldblum, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Rafe Spall, Ted Levine, Justice Smith, Toby Jones, BD Wong, and Isabella Sermon.

I have a huge amount of reverence for Jurassic Park. It was easily one of my favourite movies growing up. I had it recorded on VHS from a television broadcast, and I watched it constantly. I wore that tape out. That being said, when I saw the two sequels at the same age, I instantly forgot them. These were not movies that I had on repeat. When Jurassic World came out, I did really enjoy it. It played on the nostalgia I had for that first movie. Yes, it took me down a well trodden path, but one that I was happy to stroll down. Going into Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I was worried that we would just get a re-tread of The Lost World, a film I have no reverence for. Smartly they’ve decided to take the franchise down a different path, but with all the possibilities available it’s surprising that this is the story they have chosen to tell.

We pick up six months down the road from Jurassic World. The dinosaurs are free, and have been left alone on Isla Nublar. Problems have arisen though when a dormant volcano on the island suddenly becomes active. Bryce Dallas Howard returns as Claire, who is heading a charity campaigning to save the dinosaurs from certain death. When government officials decide to leave the dinosaurs to their fate, Claire is approached by Benjamin Lockwood, John Hammond’s business partner who helped usher in the cloning technology. He has a plan to save the dinosaurs, and get them to a sanctuary. He needs Claire’s help to locate the creatures on the island. To rescue Blue, the last raptor, they will need to enlist the help of Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady.

The trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was perhaps the worst cut trailer I have seen all year. It seemed that it showed too much, but in fact it only showed footage from the first 50 minutes. It’s a shame though because this is defiantly a film of two halves, and for me the first half was more interesting, but I knew every beat before I went in. The second half of the film is baffling. It’s clear that they were keen not to repeat what has come before, and it’s commendable that they have laid the track for future entries, but I just can’t understand why they have chosen this particularly story to tell. The film changes tracks so abruptly from huge summer blockbuster to episode of Primeval, you’d think that the production had ran out of money. This all adds up to a soul crushingly dull cinematic experience.

I enjoyed the first half of the movie. It’s a logical extension, even if it’s the same plot as The Lost World. The set pieces are all excellently executed, the combination of animatronics and cgi are far superior from those in the first Jurassic World. There is some gorgeous imagery here, both awe inspiring and heart breaking. It’s all fun stuff, and Chris Pratt excels doing his best Indiana Jones routine. It’s a shame that all this, although enjoyable, felt so boring. If you had seen the trailers then there are no surprises for the first hour of the movie. The film pretty much climaxes at the end of this half. To the point that there is a clear moment for an intermission to be inserted. When the film resumes, the stakes have been reset. The scale is smaller. The tone of the film has changed, shifting from high octane action to small scale horror. It’s a bold move. It’s a move that doesn’t work. The elements of horror at the end of Jurassic Park worked because Spielberg had spent the whole movie teasing the raptors, but never showing them. Here we’ve already seen the raptors, we’ve already seen hundreds of dinosaurs, all with the ability to kill our protagonists. It’s all so predictable, even the film’s biggest twist is telegraphed from early on.

It’s by no means a poorly directed film. I think Bayona stages the set pieces well, and manages to draw tension from the settings. Where the film really fails is with its lead characters. Gamely played by Pratt and Howard, their return to the franchise largely feels unnecessary. There is no character development, and their scenes together are largely unforgettable. Toby Jones, Rafe Spall, and Ted Levine flesh out the cast, but they are caricatures of film villains. This is fine during the blockbuster spectacle, but when the film shifts to something more intimate the character work needed to be more nuanced. The repetitiveness of the beats of this film, and in fact, the entire franchise is starting to tire. There are too many scenes where our characters are faced with a snarling dinosaur, only for a bigger snarling dinosaur to save their lives by attacking it. The writers may have been trying to branch the story out in new directions, but they have created something which is both predictable and dull.

Fallen Kingdom is more like two separate episodes of the Jurassic World series stuck together. They are both so different in scale and scope. There are some well staged action sequences, and the film has to be admired on a visual level, it looks beautiful. They’ve looked to branch out in a new direction, but the surprise is that this is where they decided to go with it. The ending promises more to come, but it was a dull and predictable slog to get there.

4/10

Avengers: Infinity War

2018, Uncategorized

*I have tried my best to avoid spoilers In is review, but would recommend seeing the film first before reading if you want to go in knowing nothing*

Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Chadwick Boseman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Benedict Wong, Anthony Mackie, Karen Gillan, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Dave Bautista, and Pom Klementief.

Well, this is it. The beginning of the end. It’s a journey that started 10 years ago with Iron Man, and has since grown into the box office behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’ve seen Earth’s mightiest heroes team up in Avengers, we’ve been to space for some cosmic adventures in Guardians Of The Galaxy and Thor, and most recently we’ve been invited into the amazing world of Wakanda in Black Panther. Here, they all combine to take on their biggest foe to date, Thanos. The big bad that has been drip fed through the whole series. We know that we still have Ant-Man and The Wasp, and Captain Marvel to come before Avengers 4 brings phase three of the MCU to a close, but this feels monumental nonetheless. Going into the movie it felt like the stakes had never been higher, as there was a real sense that anything could happen. We had entered the end game.

Infinity War follows Thanos. An 8ft, ripped, purple alien born on Titan. Thanos is hell bent on balancing the universe. To him, this means invading planets and killing half of the population residing on them. His ultimate goal is to kill half the universe, and to do this he needs to collect together the infinity stones. 6 stones from the beginning of the universe which when united together give the holder unlimited power. Two of these Infinity stones are on Earth. One is the time stone which is in the possession of a Doctor Strange, and the other is the mind stone which is nestled in Vision’s forehead. Thanos sends his most trusted minions to Earth to retrieve these two stones, whilst he sets out in the universe to find the others. Standing in Thanos’ way are the Avengers, last seen fighting each other in Captain America: Civil War, the Guardians of The Galaxy, Spider-man, Doctor Strange, and the people of Wakanda.

The scale of this movie is huge. It’s ambition is unmatched in the modern day blockbuster. Just looking at the cast list alone is enough to make the jaw drop. Fittingly the Russo brothers decided to film Infinity War entirely on IMAX cameras, and I was lucky enough to see it on an IMAX screen. It truly is mesmerising. Thanos looks huge on screen, and the size adds an extra bit of weight to the action unfolding in front of you. This is event cinema, and considering we get about three MCU movies a year, that is quite a feat. For the film to work, the stakes had to feel real, and for the stakes to feel real the audience had to believe in Thanos. We’ve seen glimpses of him before in Post-credit scenes and GOTG, but these fleeting appearances never gave across the sense that this was a villain to be reckoned with, so it was a bold move when writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely declared that he was to be the main character for Infinity War, even bolder considering that he is entirely CGI. The character is so richly written though, and Josh Brolin plays him so brilliantly, he easily owns the movie. From the opening sequence he is imbued with a sense of weight and gravitas which has previously been lacking, setting up the darkest MCU movie thus far.

Infinity War could have ended up as a complete mess, or just a collection of five minute scenes that give each character their due, but doesn’t hold together as a film. The fact that the fine balance has been expertly walked between story and character is testament to the skills of both the writers and directors. It’s a far from simple plot, with many strands, but it all works, and every character is given their moment to shine. The character interaction is spot on too. It’s rumoured that James Gunn came on to write all the dialogue for the Guardians, and if that’s true, it’s a smart decision and works fantastically. These characters feel like the characters you know and love from their separate movies, and finds joy in watching them interact. If this is the darkest MCU movie, it still remains laugh out loud funny. It’s smart as well that the original avengers get their own little teams to lead, without spoiling it, Thor, Cap, and Iron Man are mostly kept separate, each leading their own story thread. It means that we aren’t watching a rerun of what’s come before, they are mostly with characters they’ve not met before which keeps it fresh. Best is watching Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, trying to macho it up against Thor.

If this is the biggest MCU movie in terms of characters, it’s all the biggest I terms of spectacle. The action is stunning. It’s worth the extra to see it in IMAX, or the biggest screen you can find. The Russo’s continue to manage to make the action dynamic, funny, and ingenious whilst including some great character beats. They get the escalation right too, for a film which breaks into fights almost every 20 minutes, by the time you get to the climatic battle, it still feels big, and manages to hit the emotional beats hard. I felt like the climax of Black Panther was a little underwhelming, and it seems they may have been holding it back a little for the climax of this film. If the film does go in directions that you don’t always expect, and it’s a long watch, it is also completely satisfying. I walked out of the screening numb, I’m going to have to see it again just to completely absorb it.

Infinity War delivers in spades. If this is part one of the end. I can’t wait for Part Two. There are so many ways in which this film could have been rubbish, but it’s just not. If you don’t like previous MCU movies this isn’t for you, if you like the MCU you’re going to love it. There are more spoilerific discussions to come, but for now, it’s a towering achievement. I loved it.

10/10