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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
When a new sequel to a robust movie franchise comes out, the opening weekend is usually historically positive. Where a reboot may get you a great first opening weekend, a sequel will usually get you two great opening weekends.
In the world of movie show biz, sequels trump reboots any day.
For example -
GHOSTBUSTERS 2 had a knockout opening weekend, a great second weekend, then tanked. ALIEN3 and ALIEN: RESURRECTION both had fantastic opening weekends that outperformed the first two superior movies. But neither had the stamina to keep it going past the second weekend.
Cinema history is piled high with the debris of poorly made sequels that flashed in the pan on their first two opening weeks, then sunk forever more: XMEN: THE LAST STAND, TRON: LEGACY, INDIANA JONES AND THE LOST KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULLS, TERMINATOR 3 and TERMINATOR SALVATION.
This is why it is vital to get your sequel onto as many screens as possible in the first weekend.
So what about this one?
JURASSIC WORLD is a fleetingly fun but ultimately empty cartoon of a live-action movie.
To whit: There are no heroes to root for, only victimized children to vaguely fret over (being a Spielberg movie, we know their survival is guaranteed).
Science destroys the day rather than save it or at least learn from their fourth mistake in a row.
We begin when Charlie Bucket wins a gold ticket to tour Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory!
We begin when little chatterbox Gray (Ty Simpkins*: Steven Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS, INSIDIOUS, EXTRACTED, IRON MAN 3, INSIDIOUS 2, HANGMAN) and his older and very teenage brother, Zach (Nick Robinson) are packed away by their Mom & Pop to go on a vacation to JURASSIC WORLD! It's a wonderful tourist spot that has a hideous history of horrifying death!
But hey, it will give you kids a chance to finally meet your workaholic Alpha-type personality Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard: THE VILLAGE, LADY IN THE WATER, SPIDER-MAN 3, TERMINATOR SALVATION, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE) who doesn't give a shit about you.
Aunt Claire is busy at Jurassic World trying to come up with hybrid species of dinosaur because people have got used to dinosaurs and nobody will come to the park unless JURASSIC WORLD keeps inventing new and more deadly dinosaurs.
Yeah, sure. Tell that to the Disney themeparks that are still running It's A Small World after 60 years.
You know, it's the same reason nobody went to Sea World and it closed because everybody was bored with watching Killer Whales named Shamu XXX. Or why all the zoos in the world closed because they didn't make giant tiger hybrids: That kind of real-world logic that makes sense to audiences so we will suspend our disbelief.
Anyway, the point is, I'm along for the ride. What helped immensely toward this feeling is that the studio put JURASSIC WORLD jeeps outside the theater that the kids (my niece & nephew) could pose in for photos. Also, as I live in Houston, Texas, home of Bob Bakker, famous paleontologist and science advisor for the first JURASSIC PARK movie, the Houston Museum of Natural Science has a young scientist with a table full of fossils including coprolite, to entertain and educate the kids in the audience prior to the show.
Whew! Man there is nothing standing in my way of enjoying this movie now.
Unless it's the movie itself.
Remember how the first JURASSIC PARK drew us into the world we were about to explore by first exploring the very fascination of dinosaurs through the eyes of a scientist?
The audience, sitting in the dark, was already onboard. It was preaching to the choir in fact, but it was great because we were already believers and it was a sermon we wanted to hear. Anyone who didn't give a damn about dinosaurs were not about to see a movie called JURASSIC PARK.
That was the build up that led to cinematic experience of a movie that became a legend.
You know what we get this time? An ABC After School Special on their Family network of two parents who want to ship their boys off for a week to visit their aunt who works too hard, so she will learn how to live.
The aunt in this case is someone so villainously evil - Cruella DeVille has nothing on her - that when everything quickly goes to hell in short order - oh wait.
By go to hell in short order I mean Aunt Claire witnesses the unmitigated disaster of her facepalm stupid decisions, resulting in the horrifyingly violent deaths of her staff on a bunch of big screen TVs in the control center, and When She Sees This, her chief concern is keeping the park open despite the obvious danger to the tourists.
You'll recall that this type of person is always the villain in any Science Fiction Horror movie, particularly if Steven Spielberg has his fingers in it. And Steven's fingerprints are digitally encoded into the DNA f this movie (allegorically speaking).
So Aunt Claire goes off to fetch one of her employees who has been working his mojo with Raptors, Owen (Chris Pratt: PATH OF DESTRUCTION, WANTED, JENNIFER'S BODY, THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY).
Owen is the awkward stand-in for JURASSIC PARK's Robert Muldoon ("Clever girl. AUGH!") and he has almost, but not quite has gained Raptor trust. Actually, about all he has gained from the beasts is their momentary recognition, allowing him a few extra seconds before they decide, "Aw what the hell?" and attempt to eat him anyway. They're touchy like that.
-- > Also, don't turn your back on trained Tigers and Bears. Word to the wise, but I digress. <--
Owen knows this, but the sleezeball affiliated with the park through a "Security Corporation", Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio: FULL METAL JACKET, ED WOOD, STRANGE DAYS, MEN IN BLACK, THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR, THE CELL, IMPOSTOR, THE SALTON SEA, CHAINED, ESCAPE PLAN, DAREDEVIL [TV]) observes Owen's barely contained control of the animals and is ready to jump to field tests with Raptors sold to the military as first line soldiers in the next war.
There won't be guns in the next war? Is the enemy's first line a pack of dogs?
As I said, Spielberg's fingerprints are digitally encoded into this film, which makes Hoskins, his nefarious expectations, and his cathartic resolution a forgone conclusion. The ending is fully telegraphed in the first 15 minutes. Wow! Have we Saved the Cat or what?
Anywho, at least I know I'll see dinosaurs fight and that's what I came for. Not having the movie so On-The-Nose about it would have been nice, but expectations after JURASSIC PARK III are Kaiju low, so away we go. I'm still onboard here.
THE ALL NEW JURASSIC WORLD POSTER!
Aunt Claire gets Owen to help but only after having to endure his sermon. Seems they had a single date together and ever since then, Owen feels entitled to her for the rest of her life. The fact that Claire didn't enjoy their first date and never wants another one, makes no impact on Owen. His charmless sexual insistence to awkwardly wear her down, which includes an embarrassing mating dance (because that worked so well for Chris Pratt in a completely different context in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) will never be confused with Dr. Ian Malcolm's panty-dropping sensual smooth talk.
The closest anyone comes to Goldblum's confident swaggering charm is the park boss, Masrani (Irrfan Khan: DHUND: THE FOG, CHOCOLATE: DEEP DARK SECRETS, HISSS, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, QISSA: THE TALE OF A LONELY GHOST, THE XPOSE). Masrani is so deliriously happy geeking out over being the boss of a freaking dinosaur park, yo! that he has no time for any gals going moon-eyed over him. "Holy crap I just learned how to fly a freaking helicopter! Let's go!"
Speaking of Masrani, JURASSIC WORLD also gets the
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT!!!:
I was expecting more and more fun from this character, before it became apparent that his exuberant personality is one note. It's all he ever is. With that realization, I'm only left wondering how they are going to kill him off.
Keeping the JURASSIC WORLD attractions from eating the tourists is a full time job, but Aunt Claire assigned Gray and Zach a walking tidbit of dinosaur food to look after them. They promptly lose her and go off on adventures of their own. Luckily, Aunt Claire made sure to track them on their cell phones.
Unluckily, Aunt Claire doesn't really give a shit about either of her nephews and only sees them as potential bargaining chips should she need to legally pull herself out of this yawning hole that is the park, which is literally threatening to swallow Claire and everyone else in it. She also, in a vague way, cares what their Mother, her sister who thinks she's so smart, thinks of her.
Aunt Claire is painted as the hero, here.
At one further point, when Claire is in a life or death race to save her nephews and every second counts, she stops every thing to hold one slowly dying dinosaur - out of plenty of dying dinosaurs and people - until it has expired.
Then it's "Oh yeah! My nephews! I sure don't want to catch hell from my sister if they die! Sha! She talks like our Mom or something."
Does Owen really think Claire is the best he can do?
Owen of course, is also painted as the hero, bad-ass hero in fact, even though everything that comes out of his mouth is written as the incompetent but lovable dimwit, Andy, from his former hit TV show, Parks and Recreation. Whether by direction and partial writing credit, courtesy of Colin Trevorrow (SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED - which starred another Parks and Recreation alumni, Aubrey Plaza) or Chris Pratt's personal decision to leave his Andy character behind, I don't know. Chris doesn't play Andy, he only speaks Andy. The effect makes him very Star Lord.
JURASSIC WORLD has a gargantuan budget, which makes it curious that longtime working associates Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, and Patrick Crowley, as producers, would allow barely tested newbies like the writing team of Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow to helm this project. Ably assisting them in the writing, is the story and screenplay work by the writing team of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (THE RELIC, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES).
It's also telling that there was little in the way of JURASSIC WORLD toys prior to the release of the movie. My wife and I thought it would be cool to make some swag bags for our niece and nephew, because real aunts and uncles are cool like that!
We found very little in the way of JURASSIC WORLD swag. There were more everyday dinosaur toys on the shelves than anything specific to JW.
It's as if the Universal Pictures suits silently watched JURASSIC WORLD along with their toy affiliates and judged it accordingly.
Speaking of toys -
There is also nothing new as the plot hole plot line is taken directly from the Jurassic Park toy ads of the 1990s.
This tale, entirely created from the ground up from a toy commercial, to be a toy commercial, was sitting on the shelf for over 15 years and the dust is telling.
When the lights come up and I leave the theater, my mind is already on other things, as there is nothing in JURASSIC WORLD to grab me when its over. The awe and inspiration from the first and second movies are gone.
While JURASSIC WORLD is certainly better than the franchise gutting disaster of JURASSIC PARK III, it's still basically SHARKNADO with bigger budget production values and special effects. But the acting and story are interchangeable (virtually unidentifiable) with the worst of Asylum Pictures. It's not that Asylum has risen to the former glory of Universal Pictures (or its corporate culture ever could), it's that Universal and Amblin have sunk that low.
On the other hand, my niece and nephew, 10 and 12 respectively, loved JURASSIC WORLD even though they both hate JURASSIC PARK III. If nothing else, JW isn't another franchise killer, which means I have hopes for the eventual 5th movie in the franchise.
"Oh yeah. You usually get a new cast around 5. That's where the magic really happens."
On the other hand, I won't be surprised if the home video sales are dismal and if the audience drop after the initial two weeks is precipitous^.