Sunday, June 12, 2022

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Ten Year Anniversary - Most-Liked Film Review

 I have already reposted my most-read film review.  But this is the one on which I got the most positive feedback.  I think I can understand why.  

Usually when I write a movie review, I try to be very fair and even-handed.  While I know that the reader wants my genuine opinion, I try to be as objective as someone can be in the arts.  

But sometimes there are things that just put an itch in my brain.  And that happened with Jurassic Word: Fallen Kingdom.  The only way I could deal with some of the absolute stupidity of this movie was by getting rather salty.  

I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine recently about stand-up comedy.  We agreed that if someone was to pursue this as a career, they would need to remove the guard-rails in their mind that we use to integrate into polite society.  Great comedy comes partially from being willing to say what other people are not.  I don't think that this movie review is great comedy, but it did involve letting go of my normal formality because it was the only way I could express how this movie made me feel.

Let me know if the review holds up.

Sexuality/Nudity No Objection
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

The movie Independence Day is a good movie with some really stupid parts (e.g. the Randy Quaid drunk pilot storyline).  After this movie was a hit, the makers of that movie went on to make Godzilla.  When they made that movie it felt like they said, "You know all of the stupid parts of Independence Day, let's make a movie just like that but with none of the good stuff!"

And that is how it feels watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The movie takes place three years after the last movie.  The park has shut down and the dinosaurs run freely.  However, the active volcano underneath the island is about to erupt.  Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now a dinosaur rights activist who is trying to evacuate the animals before they go extinct again.  She runs an organization that has Paleo-veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) and IT nerd Franklin (Justice Smith).  She is made an offer by Mr. Bob Evil- I'm sorry, by Mr. Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), who runs the fortune of John Hammond's old partner Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell).  Mills needs Claire to access the tracking systems so they can evacuate the dinosaurs, but especially Blue the Raptor.  To do this, they also need Owen (Chris Pratt) to give his help.

There are several places that this movie goes wrong:

First, it makes the same mistake that Spielberg made when he directed The Lost World.  It is important to understand that the dinosaurs represent nature itself in all of its horror and glory.  The first Jurassic Park and Jurassic World had very real scares and thrills.  But they also filled you with a sense of wonder at these creatures.  You not only felt fear, but you felt grandeur and majesty.  Both The Lost World and Fallen Kingdom remove the awe and leave only the action and the fear.  These sequels devolve into monster movies.  You can see this most clearly when the main evil dinosaur literally climbs through the bedroom window of a little girl (Isabella Sermon) and stalks over to her bed to eat her.  There's nothing wrong with monster movies per se, but when dealing with the Jurassic franchise, you disengage one of your strongest emotional tethers.

Second, the story is really stupid.

Please forgive this digression, but it will help illustrate my point.  The dumbest part of the first Jurassic World was Vincent D'Onofrio's character wanting to weaponize the dinosaurs.  This is pure idiocy and I think most of the audience understood that.  The makers of this movie built the entire storyline around this idea.  At one point in the movie, an evil auctioneer (Toby Jones) introduces their assassin-sauraus and demonstrates how to us it:  A man with a rifle and laser scope will point the red dot laser at the target.  He will then hit a button that makes a siren noise.  This will cause the assassin-sauraus to eat the the target.

[Hand raised in the back]  I have a few questions:
1.  Why use the dinosaur when the laser is attached to perfectly good rifle that can be shot at a distance?
2.  If you can afford the gun, why are you spending millions on a dinosaur assassin?
3.  Why would make it so that both the gunman and the dinosaur had be both within line of sight to the target and earshot?
4.  How much would it cost to transport that large dinosaur from location to location to kill people?
5.  How do you sneak the dinosaur close enough to the target without them noticing that a large, snarling predator  is getting closer?
6.  If the target has even a small security detail, wouldn't their bullets (like the ones in the gun with the laser pointer) kill the dinosaur?
7.  Once the dinosaur has eaten the target, how do you escape unnoticed?  Do we have a dino-disguise with an oversized trench coat and fedora waiting?
8.  If this works with dinosaurs, why hasn't anyone tried it with lions and tigers and bears? (Oh my!)

As you can see, the filmmakers decided to abandon reason and instead embrace mindless thrills.

Third, there is absolutely no character development.  In the first movie, Claire goes through a journey where she comes to connect to the dinosaurs emotionally and grows closer to her nephews.  In this movie she does have a connection to the little girl Maisie, but it is too fast and forced.  The script doesn't give any of the characters room to grow.  And all of the new characters are flat.  The sadistic military man (Ted Levine, who played Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs), is given every nasty trait imaginable for no reason other than the plot depends on it.  He has this horrible desire to pull teeth out of living dinosaurs simply because it makes him look more evil.  Zia is just a tough girl and Franklin is a wimp.  The only character that has any layers is Benjamin Lockwood, but the story doesn't explore the emotional depths and secrets he holds.

Fourth, the movie has an insane moral view.

Animals are not persons.  One human life is worth more than an entire island of dinosaurs.  The thing I hated the most about The Lost World was the Vince Vaughn character.  Because that character tried to save the dinosaurs, he is responsible for every death on that island.  The only way you could see him in any way other than a villain would be to say there is some sort of moral equivalence between humans and dinosaurs.  Fallen Kingdom seems to fall into this trap.  When dinosaurs die, we are supposed to feel sad.  When most of the humans dies, we are supposed to cheer.  I don't care if the humans who are killed had questionable morals.  Even Denis Nedry's death wasn't played for laughs.

One of the only things preventing this movie from spiraling into a complete disaster is Pratt.  He retains all of his well-earned charisma.  He brings life and enjoyment to every scene that he is in.  He isn't in the movie enough, which is saying something since he is in most of the movie.  Like Jurassic World, the sequel tells the story primarily from Claire's perspective when Owen is so much more interesting.  He is the voice of reason and logic.

The second thing is that director JA Bayona actually managed to put in some real thrills in the movie.  As I said, it devolves into a monster movie, but that doesn't mean that is a bad monster movie.  There is a sequence with a tranquilized T-Rex that is incredibly fun to watch.

Bayona also has one scene with a dinosaur on a shipping dock that pulls at your heartstrings in a way that I wasn't prepared for.  It is a moment of visual excellence that makes you wish the entire movie was made with the same care.

If you want a movie of the quality of Jurassic Park or Jurassic World, then skip Fallen Kingdom.  But if you want to shut your brain off for two hours and enjoy the dumb roller-coaster, then this is worth your money.

image by Yasir72.multan

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