Archive for June, 2015

So I saw Jurassic World.  As some of you might know, I was cautiously optimistic about it (leaning a bit on the side of negativity).  But I saw it last night and unfortunately couldn’t post sooner due to a day job.  I really, really wanted to write last night because I had such strong emotions following Jurassic World.  The premise of the movie is something everyone knows by now it seems: A working, 21st century version of Jurassic Park is made by Simon Masrani, who bought out InGen from Hammond.

As always, a little story for you first.

Jurassic Park and I have a love-hate relationship.  The fandom can be a bit dramatic, and I’ve truly met some less-than-desirable people while navigating my way through it writing this blog.  If there was one thing I wish for this fandom it would be that everyone shuts the fuck up and gets along.  We have something new, don’t ruin it with unneeded drama.  We have waited for 14 years for this movie.

That ultimately brings me to my next point, here.

How did I even get into this Jurassic Park thing to begin with?

Well, it wasn’t some epically major introduction.  I had been a huge dinosaur nerd while I was a kid (I still have a whole bin full of dinosaur toys I refuse to get rid of much to my parent’s dismay).  My dad was watching it in the living room, and I happened to walk in on the part when Dr. Grant and Ellie Sattler first see the Brachiosaurus for the first time.  I stopped for a minute, and was completely taken aback.  I wish I could make it up that I walked in on that moment, but I actually really did.  So I had a JP Chasmosaurus toy someone gave me, and I always looked at the symbol on the leg wondering what it meant (the J and P together).  It was the only JP toy I had and the only original one I owned.  Finally a few years after wondering what it was, I noticed it in the movie my dad was watching.  I had seen The Lost World and hadn’t realized that movie and the movie my dad watched were related.  Then I saw that it was Jurassic Park.

Dinosaurs in particular got me through some rough times.  During one hard time, I was waiting for someone to arrive and I knew it wouldn’t be fun.  Before they came, I watched a documentary about T. rex.  I always had dinosaur toys, I was teased in school because I liked dinosaurs.  I had no friends in school, and still, I had dinosaur toys.  That’s part of why I liked Jurassic Park.  Dinosaurs led me to Jurassic Park.  The old scaly raptors, the big, lumbering T. rex… they led me to it.

At first I wasn’t a huge JP fan, but it grew on me, mostly because of how prominent T. rex is.

A lot.

So when JW happened, I was skeptical if it should be brought back at all.

It didn’t disappoint.

Spoilers here on out.

From the opening, the link between dinosaurs and birds is made with a crow.  We are linked with the past of dinosaurs through Gray’s little toy thingy that flipped through the drawings and pictures of dinosaurs back when they were thought to be big lumbering dumb beasts.  This scene I loved.  It set just such a great tone and gave a nod to science – something so many people decided to bitch about (by the way, if you want astronomy information, you don’t watch Star Wars).  Then later on with Dr. Wu admitting they may look very different if they were pure dinosaur genetics was another nod to science.  As a self-proclaimed weather nerd, geologist/earth science junkie, dino lover, and psychology person (so many thoughts right now on that) I enjoyed the nods to science.  It was just enough to be recognizable, as there was no reason to get carried away and begin proclaiming science as if it was a GEO 225 course.  Because it’s not.  It’s Hollywood, and it’s a movie, and it worries about artistic message and articulation – not if the T. rex head is slightly bulkier than the real one.  Obviously some research is always good, as well as some explanation in some cases, but not everything can be as it is in the real world.  Because if Hollywood was the real world, most of this wouldn’t be known or be a thing.

We continue on through the movie, seeing bits and pieces of the park.  I will say the beginning felt rushed, as if the directors and writers knew we were expecting a failing park.  But – The park is gorgeous, really – any JP fan was probably overwhelmed by it completely.  The park really seems to embody what Hammond wanted.  There was a lot of turmoil about the fact it’s a new park – and I’m sure there’s still people around who insist it was a bad idea.  But, mind you, the original Jurassic Park happened twenty years ago.  The original book happened even farther away.  Do you really think many people remember the novel and original movie in great detail?  Maybe the movie.  Maybe.  But not The Lost World or even Jurassic Park 3.  They don’t.  Casual fans and general audience don’t remember what Jurassic Park even is.  When I mentioned it to a friend a year or two ago, it was referred to as the movie where dinosaurs eat people.

He learned this the hard way.

So while your idea for a movie about how DX overtakes Isla Sorna (wait, there’s two islands?) and a whole team of researchers need to be assembled by Dr. Wu (wait, he was in the first one?) and like Ludlow’s half brother (who the fuck is Ludlow?) to find stuff on Isla Nublar to cure Isla Sorna and the Costa Rican government and blah blah blah… nobody would care.  People don’t know about DX, people don’t realize there’s two islands, and people don’t realize everything the super-fans do in general.  Which is part of the only reason I was cautiously optimistic at all about the new park plot – I knew if we gunned for some elaborate plot, the general audience wouldn’t know what it was.  Critics would maybe, but you can’t please everyone.  Ultimately, critics aren’t going to make it rake in 100 million on opening weekend.  The general audience, and making dinosaurs cool again (and in the 21st century) will.  I liked that the film nodded to the original JP many, many times, without making it too much.  i liked the old Jeeps (even if I think it’s ridiculous they found an old battery and managed to start it – I considered it unrealistic).  I liked seeing the Visitor’s Center ruins.  It reminded the viewers why they were there, even as the film struggled to explain to us why it was important.

So the new park is fully operational, and Claire, the person in control of the park, knows she must keep interest in the park for it to be successful.  Claire and Wu go on to make the Indominus Rex, a hybrid creature of raptor, cuttlefish, and T. rex.  She needs to ensure the safety of the visitors while preparing Indominus, so Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is called on to inspect the walls.  Claire is initially painted as stiff.  Originally, I thought, oh great, another bitch woman to fulfill stereotype.  Then I realized something.

While conversating with Owen about Indominus, it’s made apparent she knows a thing or two about these animals.  She knows Indominus ate her sibling.  She knows how Indominus acts – saying things like she’ll come out.  She knows how dangerous Indominus is.  But yet we are constantly calling Claire stiff.

Claire is not stiff.  And that moment, when she was talking about the Indominus, did I realize that.  Claire is a woman in a man’s world (seriously, they’re all men except Zara).  She has a position to maintain.  She has a job to keep, which someone may say a man could do just as good if not better than her.  She needs to play her cards correctly.  Perhaps the reason for her stiffness goes well beyond the so called stereotype – I mean, hell, Masrani flies a helicopter without a license yet on an island full of dinosaurs that could kill him or thousands of others should he crash (kind of like, you know, the Aviary).  She has a right to be concerned with his lax attitude – he’s like a kid in a candy store, all while housing extinct creatures that could escape or kill anyone at any moment should something go wrong.  Claire, in my eyes, doesn’t underestimate the creatures she has on the island – she simply tries to keep up with Masrani.  Masrani seems super relaxed about his creatures and his occupants.  Even when Owen suggests to kill the I. rex to save lives, the person who objects is MASRANI – not Claire.  He states it costs millions of dollars to make the I. rex, hence not wanting to kill it.  Claire freaks out when the Indominus escapes, clearly worrying about the park and the people on it – she’s torn.  Owen has nothing on the line.  He could leave Isla Nublar, maybe go to college courtesy of the Navy, find a nice IT job.  No.  Claire has something on the line, she knows her boss does not want the island evacuated.  She knows her boss doesn’t want Indominus to be killed.  In the corporate world, it doesn’t take much to be fired.  All it takes is a little disagreement or a little disobedience.  Should she show she cares about the creatures that much, it could come off as being anti-profit or anti-guest.  Even when Masrani asks her if the dinosaurs are happy: how can she know if she’s in a huge security office every day, running the park, gathering sponsors, and trying to make money?

And she may just not like children, or be too fucking busy to deal with it.  Corporations void people of their humanity, their feelings.  Claire is a victim of it.  That’s why it takes a dead Apatosaurus for her to realize they’re living creatures.

Claire is the brains of Jurassic World.  Not Masrani.  And perhaps, she’s just too busy.

That leads me to my next point: The acting.

Other than some cheesy lines (“What kind of dinosaur they cooked up in that lab”) and some cheesy acting (see Beanie Guy in JW pressing the big red button to release the raptors as if he’s just beat someone on Xbox 360) I was pleasantly surprised by the acting.  Chris Pratt did… good.  Bryce Dallas Howard did.. good.  Ty Simpkins was perhaps a bit too over the top at times, and I really hated Nick Robinson staring at women (seriously what even is that shit?).  That was the only bit of acting that truly bothered me.  He could’ve been the grungy kid without staring at women constantly.  Just because it’s frequently done in culture does not mean it is right.  It would’ve also been nice for the kids to recognize how badass Claire was too for shooting a gun and doing everything she has done to save them.  It wasn’t all Owen.  Regardless, they were perhaps a bit cliched, but I could kind of overlook it because Claire took no shit from Owen.

But both characters had their badass moments.  Owen is the raptor trainer.  They were not kidding about it resembling real, wild animals.  I actually really got into it as a person who is into psychology (and dog training).  Owen was using a clicker.  The raptors must’ve been conditioned to think that the clicker means food, and food means they did something good, which you don’t necessarily need to be near the animal to do.  It’s simply conditioning, as is imprinting.  Imprinting actually makes a lot of sense for dinosaurs.  Now, I am not getting into a scientific debate (because this isn’t a fucking science blog thanks), but birds very much utilize imprinting.  It’s the only reason I can buy imprinting being effective.  These animals aren’t like other animals, and I know John Hammond tried to do conditioning via imprinting on the JP animals but we never really saw it in action.  These raptors are not his pets.  Most intelligent animals can be clicker trained – sharks, crocodiles, goldfish, dogs, cats.  Just about anything with a half functioning brain.  I have actually clicker trained (granted, it was a 40 pound dog) but I was very, very excited to see Owen using a clicker. That also brings me to that Vic dude (and some characters being underdeveloped).

The dude has like an OCD obsession with military.  Okay, I get it both he and Owen are former military guys – but it almost felt like too easy of a plot device.  I mean come on, most people with functioning brains can realize that wild raptors – or any animals – don’t generally function well as militarized animals.  Even if he proposed editing their genetic code, I highly doubt Wu would be able to get the exact qualities.  While in the end it was sort of why the Indominus was killed, it also felt like too easy of a plot device.  In addition to that, he really just ignores Claire’s authority after Masrani’s death.  At first, I didn’t see why they needed to kill Masrani, but now I get it.  Masrani needed to die for Claire to show herself – who she truly is.  She is quite obviously concerned for the families in the control room, but Masrani knows the profits will take a hit.  She quite obviously knows a thing or two about the creatures, but Masrani bogs her down with running the entire park herself practically.  She quite obviously could be up tight because of how chill Masrani is.  With Masrani gone, Claire can release herself.  Her boss is dead.  She can take the action she feels she needs to.  She can see the creatures and realize what they are without being in a control room.  She can let loose.  She can show Owen she can kick ass without the risk of being fired.

And she does.

That’s her badass moment.  Don’t lie to yourself.  This movie is about Claire.  Claire is the main character.  Not Owen, not the kids, not Masrani.  Claire.  I hear a lot of bitching about how she’s wearing heels – let me give you a quick lesson in feminism and realism.  Let’s be real, a lot of action movies with kick ass women do have heels on.  While it’s not the most practical footwear, I won’t bitch about it.

Oh.. oh god, are her shoes raised?

Wait.. maybe I’m missing someone.

… More heels ….

…. Seriously, I’ve had it.

The fact is, men do not generally wear heels but they are more than welcome to.  Claire is wearing heels, big whoop guys.  Women wear heels.  They can wear heels because they want to wear heels.  It is not for you.  In an interview with Colin Trevorrow with a news source, Bryce Dallas Howard insisted on wearing the heels for the scene (I can find it later).

Do you know why?

Because women wear heels.  And they can wear heels because they want to wear heels.  We do need to learn how to walk in those things, you know.  I have actually seen women run in them as well… and beat people up while wearing them. Wearing heels can be a part of being a woman (IF YOU WANT IT TO BE).  We don’t want to be men.  We want to be equal to men, and that includes wearing whatever the fuck we want to lure a T. rex out of a paddock.  If it’s unrealistic, please go ahead and erase all of Hollywood.  Drop a nuke on it (or would that be unrealistic?).  But, do not expect a woman to wear heels.  She needs to do it.  And she needs to want to do it.  It is part of our choices as women.  When you wear heels, you’re not the goddamn secretary anymore.  Of course there’s better footwear.  But if Owen led the rex out of the paddock barefoot and in his fucking pajamas, nobody would say shit and you know it.  Don’t lie to yourself.  She is a woman, she is wearing heels because she WANTS to wear heels.  And she is the one who saved the day.

Not Owen.

And if you think she suddenly wants kids now, the director himself more or less said he had no idea where the audience got that from.  You can be a nice person (ahem, woman) and not want kids.  You can be a person who is drowning in your work, and once you get out of that work, you’re nicer.  Maybe even be friendlier to kids.  But it doesn’t mean you want kids. It just means you’re nicer to the kids.  Still, I thought the ending was sexist, and I hated how Owen used cheesy pick up lines on Claire, which was basically workplace sexual harassment.  It did have sexist undertones.  Everyone being shocked at Claire using a gun was sexist.  Her suddenly loving kids, regardless of the reasons involved, was sexist.  Her sounding like an immature kid to Owen while looking for the kids – also sexist.  Something can be unintentionally sexist.

Overall, it was a fun movie, and I loved how such insignificant things too on big roles.  The Mosasaur at the end put the kabash on the I. rex.  The Dilophosaurus hologram bought our characters more time to escape as they slowly reconciled with each other in a non-creepy way (a theme a few noticed).

It was a good way to reintroduce the franchise, and T. rex.  It was apparent the director and writers were trying to do right by the fandom after JP3. While I didn’t want another dino fight, I think this one was the most appropriate.  The Spinosaurus skeleton was smashed, the T. rex once again comes out on top, and they even scare you a little – you fear that Rexy won’t make it.  But she does.  I need to add, I was so happy seeing my original girl back.  The fight scene, perhaps a bit cheesy, was completely overlooked for the most part by Rexy making an appearance.  She just saved it in every sense of the word.

The score was generally very good, especially with the tidbits that related it to the first few movies.  But I had a few complaints on top of what I already said. The CGI, generally, was okay, with some parts that it wasn’t as good.  Rexy in the beginning didn’t look so great but it got better.  In addition, instinct could have been emphasized more in the final battle – it doesn’t matter that, the raptors and T. rex have never seen anything like the I. rex.  Even digging into their instincts they wouldn’t be able to place the smell.  I didn’t like much the raptors communicating with the I. rex and turning on Owen – I think that could have just been done by the utter confusion of the park going to shit and the raptors associating it with Owen.  Or, perhaps, the fight or flight response – when an animal is scared they can redirect aggression.  The raptors, simply, could have redirected the aggression toward Owen in their fear until he is able to calm them down.  I just don’t consider it plausible for them to be able to communicate.  In general, instincts could have been emphasized more in the final battle. That’s the only reason indominus worked as a rampaging dinosaur who is confused. Instinct or lack thereof.

Still, I’ve never been so happy to see a goat.

Ultimately, the movie had it’s problems, but for a franchise on the brink of extinction, this was a hybrid of the past and the future. I can only hope things keep going as they are.

Because this time, the Kirbys aren’t here.