Category Archives: Screen 8

Double Bill: Jurassic Park (1993) & Jurassic World (2015)

How they’re essentially the same film and why that’s the point.

Jurassic-World-park

The title of this post may surprise some amongst you given that the last time I did a joint/comparative review was my Gatsby vs Gatsby post back in 2013, but here I think a double-pronged approach is not only necessary, but important. Here I put in a disclaimer: I never saw Jurassic Park in its time, I think I vaguely saw it once as a kid and caught the opening twenty minutes on TV once but I had absolutely no memory of this film, the plot, the characters, nothing. So I saw Jurassic Park for the first time a week before I saw Jurassic World, both in 2015.

Jurassic Park, it is widely agreed, and I fall into this agreement, is a classic of cinema. It falls into the very particular genre of “summer blockbuster”. Coming from the director that invented the summer blockbuster back in 1975 it’s no surprise that Jurassic Park did well. However that wasn’t its only distinction. Jurassic Park heralded in the new age of CGI cinema, a fact I’m not sure we should be thanking it for. A theory that has been widely bandied about, and that is only gaining more traction, is that the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are an allegory for the CGI itself. I’ll come back to this later.

For the moment I can do nothing but agree with twenty years of criticism, Jurassic Park is fun, engaging and well written. Jokes and shots from the film have become cultural cornerstones. The suspense is built up from long before one ever sees a dinosaur and when you do they are just as terrifying as you could have imagined through the combined magic of animatronics and CGI. While the end is a little abrupt there’s enough of a heart to the story to still give it that feel-good Spielberg atmosphere even when your heart was racing in fear ten minutes earlier. The film just comes along and in its neat two-hour package and delivers its message – nature will prevail. Be that the natural world over the men meddling with it or the instinct to reproduce even in the most stubborn humans.

At this point I again have to confess – I did not watch the second and third Jurassic Park films, in a very large part because I heard that Jurassic World could easily be considered as somewhere between ‘reboot’ and ‘the only true sequel’ for Jurassic Park. In a way it’s both, but it’s also, perhaps most importantly, a remake of the original. Of course, this has been the main criticism thrown at Jurassic World – plot-wise and theme-wise it’s at best a remix of Jurassic Park. At the end of the day the dinosaurs once again rule the natural land and the humans decide that love and family are important after all. So what has changed in the last twenty years?

Accepting Jurassic Park and Jurassic World as parallel films trying to say very similar things allows us to examine the differences between the two and reflect on what that says about us an audience. Jurassic World wastes no time showing us its intentions. It’s making fun of us. Us as humans and us as viewers. The Jurassic World theme park has been built on the same site as the original, has the same dinosaurs and is still run by humans playing God with nature. Human arrogance and forgetfulness are an inexhaustible spring it seems.

What did the visitors to the park expect? That dinosaurs were suddenly less dangerous and that human technology became entirely infallible in the last twenty years? More to the point what did the viewers expect to happen when they went to a Jurassic Park film? Can you really criticise the fact that the plot arc of “dinosaur park, dinosaurs escape, fear ensues” was used once more – were you expecting to see a film with no dinosaur fights or escaped bloodthirsty animals? Complaining that it’s just another dinosaur movie is exactly what they’re laughing at you for. Just as those kids in the movie are on their smartphones ignoring the great T-Rex who horrified us twenty years ago the viewer is complaining that all we’re seeing is more dinosaurs. Except that in both cases: that is exactly what you’ve paid to go see.

Not even the T-Rex is expecting change - she still likes goats and red flares.

Not even the T-Rex is expecting change – she still likes goats and red flares.

Jurassic World is picking up the threads of that dinosaurs/CGI allegory that spans the film world and our real consumer environment and is laughing in our faces. The immense leaps forward in CGI that were brought to us by films like Jurassic Park, which used it sparingly and mixed with other effects have led here. Audiences consumed more and more of it until it became banal and boring. A CGI dinosaur just isn’t enough anymore and so what do we have to do? Add more CGI dinosaurs, make them bigger and better and scarier, have them ride through a forest with a motorbike. Even those who have hated this film cannot help but admit that the motorbike raptor chase was exhilarating and amazing to watch.

Not liking Jurassic World is like not liking mirrors because they show us aging. Somewhere along the line between 1993 and 2015 editing got snappier, dialogue got sarkier and less heartfelt, onscreen deaths got bloodier and we no longer accept the presence of a plucky teenage girl saving the day, rather allowing the female character to become a stereotype of a businesswoman in heels. Watching Jurassic Park is great but it has aged, the effects don’t wow like they did and everything seems rather quaint compared to Jurassic World. This is shown in great style in Jurassic World when the lost kids stumble across the original park with its clunky technology and old jeeps. The dinosaur bones that stood in the old welcome lobby have been replaced by holograms in the slick and shiny Jurassic World lobby. The original park, like the original film, is too antiquated to sell these days. This starts with the effects and works its way through the characterisation all the way to the dialogue. Mainstream cinema has come to rely on a kind of self-referential sarky one-liner type of dialogue. Just try to find an actual conversation in a Marvel film – you can’t, it doesn’t comply with the new standards of being “quotable” that is needed to get a film round the twittosphere. One particularly interesting change is that the enemy in Jurassic World is no longer simple human greed, but rather the army, like in James Cameron’s Avatar. Seems that in the last twenty years we’ve gone from fearing those who want money to fearing those who want weapons.

Are those good things? No, not necessarily, but they happened and that’s what we have to accept. They’re not necessarily bad things either. Early cinema-goers rejected colour and sound yet the wheel of progress rolls on. We can blame what we like, personally I think it has something to do with the presence of bite-sized video media. With ads getting ever shorter and youtubers and vine artists becoming the lead innovators of videographic language Hollywood was going to have to change to keep up. It’s probably for that reason that Spielberg himself could not have directed this film. Spielberg was making summer blockbusters twenty years ago when long static shots of CGI brontosauri could satisfy and enthral audiences and so here he passed the mantle to a younger director, a generation down to satisfy this generation of movie-goers. Regardless of whether or not you personally think Jurassic World is a great film it has been a great summer blockbuster, bringing the Jurassic Park universe to an audience that, like me, would probably have entirely missed out on it, an audience that will no longer relate to the original. I defy you to not enjoy it when you’re sitting with your popcorn scared out of your seat.

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We Can’t Hear the Mime made a film!

This post isn’t a review. In fact this post is entirely unlike anything else I have posted before on this blog. May this serve as official warning.

As most of you will have guessed the person who writes these reviews is a film lover, in fact the person writing these reviews, me, is a filmmaker. My film is currently in the running for the Sundance London short film competition, for both the overall prize and the Community Choice Award. The Community Choice Award is determined entirely by public vote. All the voting requires is a Facebook or Twitter account. It would mean a lot to me if all of you who have read and appreciated my reviews over time could watch my film and vote. Thank you.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH AND VOTE

Oscars 2014

If any of you were reading this blog last year you’ll remember my fervent scramble to watch every single film nominated for everything. I didn’t quite manage that but I covered off all of the best picture nominees and all of the major categories if I recall correctly. You may have been surprised by my lack of effort on this year’s nominees.

However, I won’t be watching the Oscars this year, I’ve made it a point to see as many films and the ceremony every year since 2009 (Slumdog Millionaire will always have a special place in my heart) but I saw a lot of films in 2013, some of them were awful, some of them were artworks. Unfortunately none of those beautiful, innovative and creative films appear to have made it into the Academy’s reckoning. 2014 has the smallest selection of films for the big 6 awards ever recorded. It’s an all or nothing approach that leaves a lot of films in the lurch. Gone are the days where one actor could perform in an otherwise snubbed film and get nominated. It seems as if you either win everything or go home cursing David O Russell under your breath. It’s a dull year from the academy and the winners seem entirely predictable. The only real mystery is whether they’ll choose to go with fan-favourite O Russell or politically-relevant Steve McQueen.

The 57th BFI London Film Festival – A Roundup in words and pictures.

Films Seen: 33

Languages Spoken: 11

Films seen before the BFI Gothic trailer got boring: 1

Death & Destruction

  • Body Count: 27
  • Canine body count: 3
  • Rabbit body count: 1
  • Limbs Lost: 1
  • Strokes survived: 2
  • Wardrobes smashed: 2
  • Barns set on fire: 2
  • Paintball Attacks: 1

Sex

  • Sex scenes: Off the charts.
  • Morally questionable and/or potentially illegal sex scenes: +/- 15
  • Characters masturbating: 6
  • Prostitutes: 2
  • Virginities Lost: 5

The Players:

  • Mia Wasikowska Count: 3
  • Vincent Macaigne Count: 2
  • Robin Wright Count: 2
  • Tom Hiddleston Count: 2

And, my personal Film of the festival is….. a tie!

Ida and Kill Your Darlings. Two very extraordinary films for very different reasons.

Close runners up were: We Are The Best, 12 Years A Slave, Like Father Like Son and Chinese Puzzle.

An excellent two weeks were had and I will review every film that has left an impact, be it good or bad. Those that have faded from memory have, well, faded. Think what you will of that.

London Film Festival Days 11 + 12

Exhibition – self-indulgent is a word much overused, but somewhat appropriate for Joanna Hogg’s drama about a building.

  • Entertainment: 2/5
  • Artistic:              3/5
  • Intellectual:       1/5

Only Lovers Left Alive – A film which will gain a huge cult following, mainly of girls who are too ‘edgy’ for Twilight, but has little else to recommend it.

  • Entertainment: 3/5
  • Artistic:              3/5
  • Intellectual:       1/5

We Are The Best – An honest and ultimately uplifting portrayal of youth and adolescence. Innocence is captured against an elegant backdrop.

  • Entertainment: 5/5
  • Artistic:              4/5
  • Intellectual:       4/5

Gloria – The uninteresting story of an average woman’s unextraordinary love affair.

  • Entertainment: 3/5
  • Artistic:              4/5
  • Intellectual:       1/5

Stranger By the Lake – A cross between a high class porn film and a French farce.

  • Entertainment: 4/5
  • Artistic:              2/5
  • Intellectual:       2/5

 

BFI London Film Festival – Day 10

The Zero Theorem – An audience of hopeful people gathers wondering whether today is the day Terry Gilliam produces the masterpiece he might be capable of. Today was not that day.

  • Entertainment: 2/5
  • Artistic:              1/5
  • Intellectual:       2/5

Kill Your Darlings – Two outstanding lead performances pull this film from the milieu of the good to the fantastic.

  • Entertainment: 5/5
  • Artistic:              4/5
  • Intellectual:       4/5

12 Years A Slave – A beautiful film which somehow lacks the edge of McQueen’s other works.

  • Entertainment: 4/5
  • Artistic:              5/5
  • Intellectual:       3/5