Saturday, 13 June 2015

Jurassic Park: The Franchise So Far...

I just got back from seeing Jurassic World and… don’t worry a review will be coming very shortly, maybe even on the same day as this post. But for now while I get my thoughts together this offers me the perfect opportunity for another ‘Franchise so far…’ the series that my one reader enjoys, maybe (I don’t really know).
What can be said about Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that hasn’t been said a million times already? The most iconic dinosaur film of all time that inspired a generation and spawned a thousand imitators achieves its immortality through a number of means. There are well developed characters, awe inspiring music (seriously, that John Williams score is up there as one of the best in cinema history, along with that other one by John Williams, that other one by John Williams and the Star Wars score by… I forget). The elephant in the room, or dinosaur rather, are those stunning CGI effects. Despite the infamous nature of 1990s CGI these special effects still hold up today, most;y because there are a number of methods such as animatronics and still models to try and bring the amazing creatures to life. Famously one stop-motion specialist (whose name escapes me and I cannot be bothered to research it) was quoted as saying ‘I think I’m extinct’ when he first saw the Dinosaurs.
But of course the ground-breaking, or ground-shaking, special effects are only half the story. Less famously Spielberg cut and edited the entire movie without any CGI at first to ensure that he had made a good film with or without the effects. When I re-watched it recently I tried to look at it from that perspective and in all honesty I can say that it does. The subtle yet chilling ways that Spielberg builds tension and drama puts you in a heightened sense of anticipation so that the CGI is only needed as a climax, everything else is brought naturally. The directorial touches and character development all elevate Jurassic Park above the usual blockbuster.
The huge success of the first film obviously made a sequel a foregone conclusion, with Spielberg returning to direct it. Criticism of The Lost World has been more mixed, but personally I think it’s still very impressive. Not on the same scale as Jurassic Park obviously but on every standard, whether compared directly to the original or as a standalone film, it works just fine. Spielberg took a different approach to this one, as he did with Indiana Jones he took the franchise in a different direction while staying true to the main themes and philosophies. The structure is changed a bit as we now know what’s happening, what’s awaiting us on the island. But somehow it still works mostly with suspense, action and humour throughout. There are moments of greatness like the raptors in the long grass as they pick off members of the search party one by one.
Most of the main problems people have with the film are addressed in some way if you look closely, for example ‘Why didn’t they bring guns?’ because this time they are there to document, and given that maybe for once people in movies actually learn something and following the events of the previous film they may be making more of an effort not to disturb the creatures. However there are still some flaws, a claustrophobic kitchen scene is replaced by a chase through a warehouse that lacks the excitement of the tension of the former, a small girl inexplicably kicking a raptor out of a window, and the sudden transition to San Diego that though the payoff is pleasing, it’s so abrupt that it nearly throws you off. While The Lost World can’t match the original Spielberg uses his directorial talents again to craft a fun and worthy sequel.
Jurassic Park 3, okay. Not directed by Spielberg and many people see it as a drop for the franchise. I believe that… they are right to think that. Even watching this as a child I could sense a difference in tone and development. Opening shots include some terrible green-screen and throughout the film there’s a painful over reliance on CGI that simply does not look as good. The first two still hold up, this one doesn’t as a result. Character changes also alter the lasting effect of the first film’s character relationship and of course, there’s the raptor dream. Pointless, confusing, badly dubbed, cringe worthy and horrendously ridiculous, you see the problems with it. The characters are not as well fleshed out either and when animatronics are used they are also a let-down, not quite blending seamlessly with the animation. The run time is also cut and that feels like a TV movie instead, as well as a heightened death toll that totals to a lesser impact than any one death of the first. No Spielberg, no Goldblum, no result.

So can Jurassic World rectify this and bring the franchise back to the glory days of the franchise, find out soon. Also what’s your favourite Jurassic Park scene from any of the three movies, leave a comment below and keep reading.  

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