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New Escapist Video! “Jurassic World: Dominion is Bad… Very Bad”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of Jurassic World Dominion, which is in theatres now.

New Escapist Column! On How “Jurassic World Dominion” Encapsulates Everything Wrong With Modern Blockbusters…

I published a new piece at The Escapist on Friday evening. With the release of Jurassic World Dominion, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film.

Dominion is a bad film. It is a terrible film. It is barely functional as a film, a collection of post-it notes held together by nostalgia and muscle memory. However, what is perhaps most depressing about Dominion is the fact that it doesn’t feel particularly novel in its badness. Dominion is bad in the way that so many modern franchise films are bad: Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Jurassic World, Joss Whedon’s Justice League, Terminator: Genisys. It’s a collection of nostalgic iconography stapled together, and served up to audiences in dull grey goop.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How “Jurassic Park” Increasingly Feels Like a Warning About Itself…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. For no reason other than because I watched it this week, I took a look at Jurassic Park and how it feels strangely prophetic.

Jurassic Park is many things: a cautionary tale about science run amok, about mankind’s hubris, about dads. However, watched decades later, it stands out as a cautionary tale about the kind of movie that it is. Jurassic Park is one of the best blockbusters ever made, but it was also a game-changer. It seemed to herald a revolution in computer-generated imagery that fundamentally altered the blockbuster landscape. In that sense, the film’s anxiety about the unforeseen consequences of these sorts of innovations, and of bringing the past to life again, have aged very well.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom is an intriguing and compelling mess of a film. It is shrewd and clever, if never entirely human.

Director J.A. Bayona might be the first director since Spielberg to put his own unique slant on the Jurassic Park franchise, to move with just enough confidence and faith in his own stylistic sensibilities to escape the shadow of the legendary director who turned a pulpy novel into a beloved family classic. Bayona does that by allowing his own stylistic sensibilities to shine through, to embrace his own interest and to engage with the material on his own terms.

Dino escape.

Fallen Kindom walks a fine line. It is very much a creature grown in a laboratory to satisfy the demands of the larger franchise. There are elements here that exist purely because they are expected, because they are signifiers of what a “Jurassic Park movie” should look like, including both returning characters and new characters fashioned after familiar archetypes. At the same time, there is a coy and wry self-awareness to Fallen Kingdom that was sorely lacking from Jurassic World, a cynicism about its own nature that integrates rather neatly into its larger worldview.

Although it may be damning with faint praise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is easily the best Jurassic Park movie since Jurassic Park: The Lost World, the film in the franchise with which it shares most of its DNA.

Things are heating up.

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Non-Review Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World is very self-aware.

Introducing visitors to the eponymous theme park, an audio recording assures them that the elevated train is passing through the original gates of the park. One of the techies working in the operations centre wears a “vintage” t-shirt from the original park – conceding that it might be “in poor taste.” Nostalgia is the name of the game, and the theme park basks in it. There are landmarks built to the amber that held the mosquito from the original film, and a giant bronze statue of Richard Hammond.

"Mommy's being blatantly emulated..."

“Mommy’s being blatantly emulated…”

So does the film. No opportunity for shout-out or homage is missed. When John Williams returned to work on Jurassic Park: The Lost World, he only broken out the powerful theme for very special moments – crafting a largely original score for the sequel. Not Jurassic World. It seems like every time a character does something, the theme blares. Open the gates? Theme blares! Drive through herd of dinosaurs? Theme blares! Open doors to balcony in resort room? Theme blares!

There is something relentlessly cynical about Jurassic World. The film is based around attempts at Ingen to build a designer dinosaur, one assembled from random bits of other dinosaurs. Nobody except the geneticists seem to know exactly what’s in it, but it doesn’t matter. It’s bits and pieces of what everybody’s seen before, and they’ll love it, right? The fact that Jurassic World basks in this meta-commentary hints at a sly subversive streak, but they film seems more smug than sophisticated.

Feeding time...

Feeding time…

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