Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Movie Review: Jurassic World (PG13 – 124 minutes)

I'll apologize up front - this one is long, but I really want to rave about how much I loved this movie - also, spoiler alert!
There are just a handful of movies over the course of my life that I can remember being truly ‘blown-away’ by.  The first Jurassic Park was one of those.  Remember the first time you saw it?  Back when CGI was new, and you’d never before seen dinosaurs look quite that real on screen? 

The book Jurassic Park was written by Michael Crichton in 1990, and was really about 75% science, explanations, and figures.  By the time he wrote The Lost World in 1995 – he had realized that his books make great movies and had started to write more visually.  The plot was simple:  billionaire funds research to clone dinosaurs and build amusement/zoological park to display them.  Things go wrong, people get eaten.  That’s it, but that was more than enough to capture the imagination. 
The first movie was released in 1993 (yes, 22 years ago if you can believe that) and was directed by Steven Spielberg with digi-dinosaurs by ILM and practical dinosaurs by Stan Winston.  It was magnificent, and if you re-watch it now, it still holds up as brilliant and terrifying.

Lost World: Jurassic Park was also directed by Spielberg and released in 1997 – it started where the book did, but diverged in several ways.  In this one, InGen decides to recoup some of their financial losses from the first story by snatching some dinos from Site B (where the dinos were bred and raised before moving over to Isla Nublar where the park was) and taking them to a park in San Diego – things go wrong, people get eaten.

Jurassic Park III was directed by Joe Johnston and had almost nothing to do with the other two – a couple loses their son on Site B, and cons Dr. Alan Grant to help them find him – it has almost no plot, and is basically people getting chased by dinosaurs – which is still really fun to watch.  Things go wrong, and people get eaten. 

Jurassic World takes place 22 years after the original (hooray for accurate timing!), and InGen has finally gotten the park on Isla Nublar up and running.  For details on the park, be sure to visit their website, which features a map and descriptions of all the attractions – http://www.JurassicWorld.Com – seriously.  They are making tons of money, but their costs are still through the roof.  The park gets 200,000 visitors a day, but they see a big bump every time they have a new attraction, so the scientists (lead by good old Dr. Henry Wu – who survived the first movie) have decided to Frankenstein themselves a brand new dinosaur by splicing together a whole bunch of different DNA (seriously, who thought that was a good idea?).  

Billionaire Simon Masrani is the owner and stops by to check on the progress of said FrankenDino.  Claire Dearing, the park’s operations manager, lets him know that the Idominous Rex is doing just fine…except she’s attacking the glass of her enclosure, and has killed her sibling.  Masrani is not convinced about the enclosure, and requests that velociraptor trainer/expert Owen Grady come take a look at it.  Currently Owen is busy with his buddy Barry, attempting to train the velociraptors (Charlie, Delta, Echo, and Blue) to follow commands.  InGen operative Hoskins stops by to convince the ex-Marine Owen that they should be using the raptors as military weapons.  Owen and Barry have the same reaction as the audience, “Are you out of your mind?”   

Meanwhile, Claire’s two nephews, Zach and Gray, have come by to spend the weekend with her because their parents are getting a divorce (important character development backstory to get you to care about the kids and not just cheer for dinosaurs!).  She doesn’t really have the time, so she passes them off onto her assistant Zara.  The kids wander through the park, seeing all the big time attractions – the Mosasaurus pool, the T-Rex feeding, and the tiny Triceratops rides.  Seriously – the main level of the park looks just like Universal Studios, just with dino-stuff everywhere instead of just in the Jurassic Park ride gift shop.

Claire heads over to Owen’s trailer (he lives on the island in a trailer?) to request that he come look at the enclosure.  There we learn that they went on one date, but it didn’t go well (more character development!). Owen heads up with Claire to see the enclosure, and they use the thermal scans to check the enclosure for the I-Rex.  She doesn’t appear to be in there, and Owen notices claw marks up the side of one of the walls.  Since it appears she got out – Owen and two guys wearing Star Trek red shirts head in to check it out.  Turns out she was in there; she just evaded the heat scans (one of her superpowers thanks to DNA splicing), eats one dude, chases Owen out, and eats the other guy.  Owen evades her by covering himself in motor oil so she can’t smell him.  She takes off into the woods.

Masrani argues with Hoskins about whether or not to use the raptors to hunt her, Masrani to his credit, refuses to allow raptors loose in the park, and instead sends out a heavily weaponed team.  Well, that doesn’t work, because the I-Rex has clawed out her tracking device and camouflages into the trees (another DNA splicing super-power!).  She wipes out the whole team so Masrani heads out in his helicopter with another big gun.  As panics sets in, the good Dr. Henry Wu is revealed to be working with Hoskins, snatches a suitcase full of embryos and heads off the island via helicopter, once again escaping with little to no repercussions for his actions.

Zach and Gray are out in a gyrosphere, exploring – they ignore the evacuation command (What?!) and take off into the woods, where they get involved in the middle of an awesome I-Rex/Ankylosaurus battle.  They barely escape and take refuge in the original Jurassic Park welcome center to have blatant callbacks to the original picture.  There they find a jeep to head back to the park.  Owen and Claire are looking for the kids, and find that the I-Rex seems to be killing apatosaurs, probably because she preferred when they used to be called brontosaurs. 

Masrani and his two copter-mates find the I-Rex, and attempt to take it out with the big gun.  She decides the best way to evade them is to crash into the ‘aviary’, which releases all the pterosaurs, and they in turn cause the helicopter to crash.  The pterosaurs, finally out in the open, immediately head down to the park to terrorize the guests just as Owen and Claire find Gray and Zach.  Zara unfortunately gets picked up by a Pterosaur, which then gets eaten by the Mosasaurus.  I suppose if you’re going to go out…that’s the way to do it.

Hoskins finally decides to use the raptors with or without Owen’s assistance, so Owen decides to help – which results in the scene you couldn’t get your mind around from all the trailers, Owen apparently riding with a pack of raptors.  They find the I-Rex, but then there is the big reveal of her last superpower - communicating with raptors, thanks to raptor DNA spliced in there. Instead of thinking of Owen as their ‘alpha’, suddenly they think of the I-Rex as their alpha, and the attack team immediately becomes the hunted.  

After a whole mess of running, screaming and eating, Owen, Claire, and the boys end up back in the main part of the park, cornered by the I-Rex and the raptors.  Owen tries communicating with Blue, who seems reluctant to attack him, especially when he removes her camera headpiece.  Then the I-Rex shows up and tries to get the raptors to attack the humans, but Blue refuses, causing the I-Rex to attack Blue. The other raptors attack her, and the humans scramble away.  The raptors are no match for the I-Rex, and Gray states offhandedly to Claire that they “need more teeth”.  Claire calls up to the control room to unlock the T-Rex paddock and uses a flare to lure the T-Rex out of its pen and toward the I-Rex.  You then get one of the coolest battles ever, but the T-Rex and her useless forearms are still no match for the I-Rex and her very useful forearms.  Just at that moment, Blue comes back – gets a slow-motion entrance, and helps the T-Rex overwhelm the I-Rex, pushing her back towards the pool, where the Mosasaurus has apparently been just biding her time and waiting for an opportunity to jump up and grab a larger bite to eat.  As she drags the I-Rex into the pool, the T-Rex takes off, Blue has a moment with Owen, then heads off into the forest.  Owen and Claire get the boys off the island to where they reconnect with their parents, and the final shot is of the freed T-Rex, overlooking the island and roaring her approval.

Since I was not familiar with Colin Trevorrow as a director (previous to this, he had only done Safety Not Guaranteed), I was a little concerned with how this movie would look.  But Spielberg was on hand as producer, and the movie turned out fantastic.  By now, you’ve already heard how well it did, and I have to say, those numbers are completely justified.  It’s incredible.  I did end up caring more about the animal characters than the humans.  The front act of the movie tries really hard to get us to care about these people, and that part is really clichéd and uninteresting.  The last act is fantastic dino-action and amazing dino-performances, and really saves the whole movie.
  • Chris Pratt and his safari vest give the best Indiana Jones audition ever as Owen.  Listen, I’m not saying we need an Indy reboot – we don’t.  But if they insist on doing it, it needs to be Pratt.  Owen is one-note, adventure guy, but Pratt pulls that off with the same likability he gives everything.  He is capable of more layered and interesting, but it’s not needed here.  And even with seeing it all over the trailers, watching Pratt motorcycle ride with that raptor pack is thrilling.

  • Bryce Dallas Howard plays the uptight businesswoman cliché that is Claire.  She’s all about the business, so much that she doesn’t think of the dinos as animals, just as assets, and has no time to spend with her family.  Also – the subplot of her sister, played by Judy Greer, calling her and insisting she needs to settle down and have kids of her own was insulting.  Claire becomes more interesting as the movie goes on, not because she grows as a character, but because she runs to and from dinosaurs wearing white high heel pumps, which we can all attest is impossible. 

  • Irrfan Khan plays the slick billionaire-owner Simon Masrani, and he, while a cliché, does a good job making his cliché interesting.  He seems to have a pretty good sense that danger is imminent, but is also confident in the systems in place to protect the island, the visitors, and the animals.  Once that confidence rolls into cockiness at his own helicopter-piloting, he’s pretty much doomed.

  • I was very happy with the return of BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu.  He’s still thrilled with his own genius and DNA manipulating-ability.  He’s super confident that he’s responsible for creating all these animals, and that they have no rights because they were already extinct.  And once again, he escapes just in time, and with embryos, so I would love to see him as the god-complex having villain of the next one.

  • Vincent D’Onofrio, so excellent as Wilson Fisk on Netflix’s Daredevil, plays the most one-note of one-note villains in this who again – is only interesting due to the skill of D’Onofrio.  He’s so convinced that the raptor squad will be a great military weapon that it makes you wonder if he had no clue what had happened previously on the island.  He witnesses Owen stop the raptors once time and is absolutely convinced he can control them, which even Owen states he can’t do.  You will cheer when he gets his.

  • Ty Simpkins as Gray and Nick Robinson as Zach are as useless as any of the kids in these movies.  I know we get the backstory of the parents’ divorce to make them more human to us so that we care about what happens to them, but I still didn’t.  Also – Zach is given this weird trait that he’s super into girls, but only stares at them, and Gray is really precocious and into dinosaurs.  Also, I don’t care how old you are – if you are on a dinosaur island, and you ignore the order to evacuate, you deserve to get eaten.

  • French actor Omar Sy, who was last seen as Bishop in X-Men Days of Future Past, plays Owen’s right hand man, Barry.  Barry also has a relationship with the raptors, but even more than Owen, he’s convinced that they are wild animals, and they have no control over them.  He keeps trying to persuade Hoskins that he is wrong, to no avail. 

  • Lauren Kapkus and Jake Johnson play Vivian and Lowery, two tech support folks who spend the movie in the control room, trying to get things back where they need to be.  Lowery gets called out by Claire in the beginning for wearing one of the original Jurassic Park shirts, which she states is in poor taste, because people died there.  Vivian and Lowery also have one of the funniest moments in the movie as she goes to board an escape chopper, and he stays behind to help.

  • That’s it for the humans, but in terms of the non-human characters – the Mosasaurus is pretty great, but her main driving character trait is hunger, and that’s driven by how close edible things are to her pool, so she’s not that interesting.

  • The Idominous Rex is a compelling character, and she’s wonderful – even though she’s pretty one-note.  From the first discussion in her pen stating her traits, and the fact that she killed her sibling, as well as the revelation that she is white, she’s evil for the sake of evil…or perhaps because she was genetically engineered that way.  Once released, and she starts killing for sport, she’s sealed her role as the lead villain in the movie.  As we start to see her use each of her various skills in the open, we cannot wait for her final fight, and perhaps are rooting for her just a little bit – hey, everybody loves a good bad guy.

  • The Tyrannosaurus Rex had been pretty much the headline dino in the first two movies, and was outshone by the Spinosaurus Egypticus in the third.  She is barely in the first half of this movie, as Zach and Gray just catch the slightest glimpse of her through her display window.  When Claire finally goes to her for help at the end, she gets an amazing hero-shot reveal.  As the door to her pen opens, she slowly steps forward, so we only see her eyes at first.  It’s brilliant and so exciting – and actually really reminded me of the Universal Studios Jurassic Park River Ride, where the full body T-Rex attacks just before you head down the final waterfall.

  • I read an article prior to seeing the movie that posited that Blue was the most compelling character in the movie, and after seeing it, I have to agree (you can read it here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/06/12/the_best_female_character_in_jurassic_world_is_a_velociraptor.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_fb_bot ).  Blue continues the trend of this summer of great female action leads after Spy, Mad Max Fury Road, and the 15 minutes Scarlet Witch gets in the end of Avengers…this one just happens to not be human.  Blue starts out as aware of her situation; coordinating her group, and dealing with Owen as her alpha.  Once released, and used as a weapon – she is more than happy to take the I-Rex as her new alpha against the humans who manipulated her.  However, once Owen gets threatened, and she realizes his respect for her was very real, she turns on the I-Rex to protect him, and chooses her own role as the movie closes.  She’s beautiful, she’s spectacular, and the slow-motion hero entrance she gets just before the finale fight is fantastic.  She’s my favorite character in the movie.

The movie is wonderful – it homages the first movie perfectly, without trying to out-do it.  I would have loved some Jeff Goldblum in this, but the truth is that Ian Malcom would not set foot anywhere near that island, and is probably campaigning somewhere for it to be shut down. It starts slow, just to get the story going, but once it picks up – it really picks up.  It is interesting that several paleontologists have pointed out that we now know velociraptors had feathers, so why don’t the ones in this movie have feathers?  Well, as pointed out by Jack Horner, the paleontologist who was the reference for the Alan Grant character in the book and served as a consultant on the first movie – that’s for the sake of movie continuity, after all – real velociraptors are about 3 feet tall – and the ones in the movies are Utahraptors, which were bigger.  But, Utahraptor does not sound nearly as cool as velociraptor.  Go see it – see it in 3D, and prepare to cheer for the dinosaurs.

9 out of 10 – exceptional summer entertainment!  Gained points for Pratt, gained points for the raptors.  Lost points for Howard’s heels, but they held up, so maybe that’s a gained point?  Lost points for the ‘petting zoo’ and ‘riding area’ shown as part of the park.  I had a visceral, gut reaction to that scene.  Children are shown riding on Triceratopses that have little saddles and aggressively hugging little apatosaurs, it made me so upset for those little dinos!  Gained points for scenes of raptors full-out running, which we really had not seen in any of the movies up to this point. Also - gained big time bonus points for the return of Mr. DNA who comes, "From your blood!"

Bonus Video 1:  Raptor Training?

Bonus Video 2:  Jurassic Park Honest Trailer

Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews!

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