Review: Jurassic World

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DIR: Colin Trevorrow • WRI: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow • PRO: Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley • DOP: John Schwartzman • ED: Kevin Stitt • MUS: Michael Giachinno • DES: Edward Verreaux • CAST: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Judy Greer, Irrfan Khan, BD Wong, Katie McGrath

 

Originally scheduled for production in 2004 but plagued with an onslaught of script complications and scheduling issues common to the movie blockbuster, the fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park series has finally materialised with director Colin Trevorrow at the helm and Spielberg’s wizardry harmonising the mammoth undertaking as executive producer. As the third highest-grossing film of the 1990s, Jurassic Park was extolled for its pioneering, state-of-the-art special effects (if not a dim critical view taken on its light character development), however, the franchise’s two subsequent, undernourished efforts failed to transcend the tension-fuelled visceral thrills of its original, demonstrating the jeopardy in serialising every blockbuster success story. In essence, in a matter of eight years audiences had had more than its fill of imposing, dinosaur-stomping terror and simply moved on.

 

Inheriting a cinematic legacy that provided a digital blueprint for the industry and holding a cherished positioned in popular culture, Jurassic World has to contend with pleasing contemporary audiences who have already corroborated that dinosaurs don’t do it for them anymore, thereby questioning the relevancy of a fourth film, in addition to the increasing audience demand for the excessively bigger and better in this digitally-sophisticated climate. A decade of unstable production worries would suggest that even the digitally-advanced possibilities Jurassic World has to play with, may just not be enough to resurrect the franchise in the hearts and minds of contemporary audiences and Jurassic World is in danger of further staining the cinematic and cultural position held by its iconic original.

 

Twenty-two years have passed since trailblazing John Hammond’s dreams of an international dinosaur theme park were shattered but have now been realised back on Isla Nublar by billionaire benefactor Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan). Run entirely by commercially-driven operations manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the Jurassic World resort exhibits a spectacular array of dinosaurs of varying species and spellbinding futuristic attractions to keep the twenty thousand daily visitors entertained. Under tremendous pressure to lure the ever-demanding audiences to the park, original InGen geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) pushes the boundaries of scientific innovation to create an original genetically modified hybrid dinosaur, the Indominus rex. Uncertain of its intelligent capabilities, Claire calls in animal behaviour expert and velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to ascertain the safety of the behemoth before its grand unveiling. Just as Claire’s nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) arrive unannounced and are left to their own devices, the unpredictable Indominus rex escapes, threatening the lives of all on the resort.

 

Narratively continuous to the original film but slightly disregarding its two sequels, Jurassic World is a spectacular rush of furious energy, spellbinding awe and alarming terror from beginning to end. Firmly situating the film in the digital age and benefitting enormously from its dividends, Jurassic World brings a level of mesmeric, adrenaline-fuelled visual wonder combined with a suspenseful yet reassuringly familiar narrative, that has all the hallmarks of a Spielberg/Amblin production in its heyday, which is essentially what Jurassic World aims to achieve. The film’s revisionist and self-reflexive tone displays great deference to its cinematic creator, technically paying homage to its style of filmmaking through an elaborate and intricately detailed production design that employs both animatronics and remarkable CGI effects, to mark the film as technically impressive, narratively nostalgic and culturally relevant again. Jurassic World is all about executing its own ambitiousness on a mammoth scale both narratively and metaphorically, and similar to Jurassic Park delivers at the highest possible technical level. Yet once again, it is not without its obvious narrative concerns.

 

As with the negative critical attention directed at the storyline and character development in the original, Jurassic World is arguably destined for a similar fate. Attempts to flesh out the characters and make them more three-dimensional have only succeeded in creating a host of stereotypes that equally hark back to the 1980s action-adventure film. If a source problem is needed to throw light on the decade-long script production issues, it surely would begin with the film’s regressive leading characters and an evident inability to improve gender stereotypes in the same manner in which they have committed to revising their technical operations. While the narrative unsurprisingly remains firmly entrenched within the boundaries of action-adventure genre, ramping up the ante at every turn with flashes of horror, humour and science, the overriding themes of strong human values specific to the action-adventure remain at the core of Jurassic World once more, if not more clearly defined than in the other three films. The narrative subtexts delineating commercial greed and unethical scientific manipulation appear to predominantly manifest themselves through Claire, who appears to bear the burden of moral responsibility entirely on her shoulders, her ethical awareness only realised once a miraculous transformation into a more submissive role has been assumed.

 

While Christ Pratt fits in solidly to the archetypal action-adventure hero role, meeting character expectations without too much incident but not necessarily all burliness and brawn either, Claire’s transformation from a dehumanised, career-orientated threat to a sexualized, simpering damsel in need of feminizing by Owen, introduces a wholly regressive and misplaced feminine quality in the franchise, that was not made visible by either Laura Dern in the original or Julianne Moore in The Lost World. While the burden of moral responsibility may be seen to be shared by some of the male characters who are positioned as the moral guardians to Hammond’s enterprise, their fates do not allow for this burden to be shared equally and moral reconditioning is positioned firmly at Claire’s door and only made possible through the realisation of her nurturing values, offering reassurance that the whole world has not gone completely mad and traditional roles remain firmly in tact.

 

Gender stereotyping and a formulaic narrative aside, Jurassic World premises itself on the promise that it is both cinematically and culturally relevant by exceeding and executing the same audience expectations that defined and popularised its original film. In a sense, Jurassic World has been crying out for twenty-two years to be revised for the digitally-rich cinematic age, given Jurassic Park’s influence in the industry overall and its current timing seems just about right. Two decades on, the film undoubtedly steps up to its own plate and in keeping with the overall philosophy of the franchise, does it bigger and better, if not narratively weaker. Whether a fifth film needs to be made is one to be mulled over later. For sheer entertainment and thrills, Jurassic World is more than enough for now.

 

   Dee O’Donoghue

 

12A (See IFCO for details)

124 minutes

Jurassic World is released 12th June 2015

Jurassic World – Official Website

 

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Run All Night

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DIR: Jaume Collet-Serra • WRI: Brad Ingelsby • PRO: Roy Lee, Michael Tadross, Brooklyn Weaver • DOP: Martin Ruhe • DES: Sharon Seymour • Cast: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez, Common

 

When Pierre Morel’s action thriller Taken was first released in cinemas back in 2008, many people were surprised to see the then-56 year old Liam Neeson taking on the role of anti-hero Bryan Mills.

While it wasn’t entirely unfamiliar territory for the Ballymena man – earlier roles in films like Rob Roy, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Batman Begins presented a physical challenge to the Academy Award nominee – it was seen as a departure for the man who has memorably brought real-life figures such as Oskar Schindler, Michael Collins and Alfred Kinsey to the big screen.

Yet, despite being filmed on a relatively meagre $25 million budget, Taken proved to be a resounding success, earning almost ten times that amount at the worldwide box office.

With two subsequent sequels proving to be even more profitable, Neeson has firmly-established himself as a bonafide action star, and although Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Silence may well find him back on prime dramatic form, he is showing no signs of turning his back on the genre that he has seemingly embraced with opening arms in recent years.

2011’s Unknown and last year’s Non-Stop had been marketed in a similar vein to Taken, and the towering Antrim-native teams up with the director of those films, Jaume Collet-Serra, in Run All Night. Taking place over the course of 16 hectic hours, Neeson plays ageing Brooklyn hitman Jimmy Conlon, who was previously a major player in the crime empire run by his best friend, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris).

He is estranged from his son Michael (Joel Kinnaman), who eager to distance himself from the murky world that his father operates, and is forced to don a Santa costume as he attempts to pay off an outstanding heating bill. Michael is a now-retired boxer (and incidentally shares his name with a real-life Irish Olympic medallist in the same sport) who is employed as a limousine driver around the streets of New York City.

This is helping him (and his family) to make ends meet, but his life is thrown into chaos one night, when he crosses paths with Shawn’s son Danny (an unhinged Boyd Holbrook) and he subsequently embarks on the run with Jimmy, who has had to take matters into his own hands to protect his offspring.

What follows is fairly standard fare, as the Conlons reluctantly team together to evade the forces that gather around them – most notably Common’s bespectacled assassin – and ensure that Shawn’s lust for revenge isn’t fulfilled.

Much like the previous partnerships between director and star, Run All Night is an efficiently-produced thriller, which allows Neeson to bring a grizzled edge to a tortured character. The addition of the energetic Kinnaman (who has made his name stateside in The Killing and also assumed the lead role in 2014’s Robocop remake) make the role of Jimmy less physically-demanding that Neeson’s more recent “geriaction” exploits, and in contrast to the often cringe-inducing interplay with Maggie Grace in the Taken series, there is a refreshing lack of sentimentality in the father-son dynamic.

However, the theme of family is explored in great detail, with the widely-explored “sins of the father” cinema trope forming a major part of the film’s narrative. Indeed, if anything, it often takes itself too seriously, which may be a little off-putting for its potential audience.

When it focuses on the nuts and bolts element of the story (which also features Vincent D’Onofrio as Jimmy’s long-time NYPD adversary), it has a firm footing, and despite being overstretched at 114 minutes, it manages to maintain its momentum ahead of the blood-splattered final act.

While it isn’t the goriest film you will see this year, it resists the temptation to drop below an R-rating, a move that made the Taken sequels seem alarmingly sanitised. This does lead to some occasional misfires (there are some sexual references that look like they belong in a completely different film), but with Neeson and Harris displaying confidence in their respective roles, they register as minor complaints.

If you try to analyse Run All Night in the context of Neeson’s wider back catalogue, it becomes clear that it won’t be a film that will have a lasting effect on fans of his output. How much longer he can continue in these action roles is also up for debate, but until then, his latest offering works as perfectly serviceable entertainment.

Daire Walsh

15A (See IFCO for details)
114 minutes

Run All Night is released 6th March 2015

Run All Night – Official Website

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