Welcome to the WILD WILD PODCAST #24
Travel to the prehistoric era as Geek Outlaw and Spunky Destructor spare no expense to talk dinosaurs, Chris Pratt, and our thoughts on Universal Pictures’ blockbuster sequel, Jurassic World, as it claws its way to box office records.
(WARNING: There are spoilers within the Podcast and below!)
LISTEN HERE! —> Wild Wild Podcast #24
The way years fly by these days, it almost feels like 65 million years since Jurassic Park first exploded onto theater screens, casting a spell over audiences as it set a U.S. opening weekend box office record at about 50 million large ones (and no, I’m not referring to the age of T-Rex’s genitalia). Fast forward 22 years and the fourth film in the franchise, Jurassic World, has managed to surprise many by harkening back to the wonderment created by the original, in turn inching just past The Avengers to set a new box office weekend record of close to 208.8 million dollars. Inflation, 3D premium ticket prices, and thousands of additional screens helped that number, but Hollywood doesn’t deal in factual details like that when it comes to chest-pounding.
Nonetheless, based on the IMAX 3D showing, Wild Wild Podcast co-host Spunky Destructor and I attended, Universal Pictures’ bragging rights are well deserved. After thoroughly enjoying the re-release of the original Jurassic Park in 3D at the theater two years ago with Spunky D, my outlook for Jurassic World was lukewarm at best, even after viewing the official trailers. Don’t get me wrong, as a huge dinosaur freak, I was anticipating the film like a hot fudge Sunday with all the toppings (minus the nuts); I just wasn’t expecting it to taste like anything special. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Jurassic World ended up being a savory-sweet thrill ride that was able to recapture the magic of the original where the two prior films fell short. This is not intended as a knock on The Lost World or JP3, but they strayed from what the concept of Jurassic Park was from the start: the park itself. It was always about the park and Jurassic World brings it back to what John Hammond envisioned all along: a functioning theme park with living dinosaurs at the center of each attraction. (There’s literally even a scene depicting kids riding and hugging baby dinos.) If reality imitated life in this case, I’d put myself in further debt to visit such an enchanted place. Hence, seeing it all come to life on screen sent chills down my back on several occasions… and that includes both viewings I took in over a two-day span! Despite having the maturity level of a 16-year-old to begin with, the infectious energy of Gray Mitchell (played by Ty Simpkins) as he races through Jurassic World during the opening minutes made me feel like a 10-year-old again. (Again, not a stretch.) While it didn’t quite have the same impact, the scene gave me the same tingly sensations I experienced when I first saw the long-necked brachiosaurus walk across the big screen for the first time in 1993.
Not everything is roses and cute baby triceratops though, and there were a few minor things which bothered me about the film. The most glaring to me, oddly enough, had to do with not being able to understand half the words coming out of the mouths of Simon Masrani (played by Irrfan Khan) and Barry (played by Omar Sy). Fine actors no doubt they are, but their accents were so heavy at times, I missed more than a few lines delivered by each of the gentlemen. (And that’s accounting for both viewings.) My other quibble has less to do about the movie itself, but more with it’s success. In a perfect world, Jurassic World would be an incredible way to tie a bow on the franchise. Alas, when Hollywood execs smell blood (aka money) in the water, you know the sequels are already in development and Chris Pratt recently confirmed this by saying he is signed on for several more installments. As much as I love Pratt and dinosaurs, I also know when a concept has run it’s course (except, apparently, when it comes to this blog).
With my few negatives out of the way, in honor of this exciting fourth installment of the prehistoric franchise, I will give you four biased and opinionated reasons as to why Jurassic World exceeded my expectations to become not only one of my favorite movies of the year, but one of my favorites of the past decade.
1) New Guy – Jake Johnson:
One of the most surprising casting choices of Jurassic World was that of New Girl funny man, Jake Johnson. His character, Lowery, is a hodgepodge of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Ray Arnold (Samuel Jackson), and an alter-ego version of Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) from the original Jurassic Park. (There’s even a touch of Alan Tudyk’s “Wash” from Firefly.) Also borrowing a bit of the dry wit and child-like innocence via his portrayal of Nick Miller from the series New Girl, Johnson provides for a large chunk of the best humor on screen, some of which is achieved with only simplistic facial expressions. Without giving away too much, he also delivers what is hands-down the funniest line of the film during the climactic final scene.
2) More of Everything:
No, I’m not referring to Verizon Wireless (although coincidentally they played the part of an interested sponsor in the film). My reference is to the inclusion of more dinosaurs on screen and more people in the park, which leads to the potential for more to be lost. Add in to the equation more realistic CGI and practical dinosaurs plopped in the same spot as 20,000 defenseless park goers, and it doesn’t take long to figure out the stakes have been increased – significantly. Imagine chaos theory on steroids and it paints a pretty decent picture of what is an only-inevitable breakdown. Speaking of effects, the mix of computer-generated and puppet effects were so well done, I would be hard pressed to point out any CGI flaws… at least any that take you out of the film. I also don’t usually swing this way for a movie that doesn’t specifically use 3D cameras for shooting, but between the IMAX 3D and the standard 2D showings I viewed virtually back-to-back, I have to give the edge to IMAX. Granted, it wasn’t the best use of 3D I’ve seen in a film but in this particular case I felt it did add a level of depth, providing a slight feeling of being along for the ride. In any event, this film was not meant to be viewed on your iPhone with ear-buds. Dinosaurs were massive creatures, and seeing them come to life on 100 foot screens is a major part of the movie-going experience and an area where this franchise truly shines. Oh, and did I mention it has Chris Pratt too?
3) Dino-Sized Heart
When it comes to blockbuster films, much of the focus is usually put on the action, special effects and stunt work. Fortunately for Jurassic Park fans, Jurassic World manages to follow in the giant footsteps of its original predecessor with several sibling-themed human-centric moments which tug at the heart strings. There are no Oscar performances here, but there are no stinkers either. The human actors did an admirable job, given the view they are making a movie about dinosaurs that run loose and eat people, most of which aren’t even on screen during their scenes.
Nevertheless, the true measuring stick of emotion for a Jurassic film is not necessarily how we react to the human contingent, but more so how we feel for the large reptilian creations stomping across the screen. I like to think of it as the Spielberg-Effect. The original pulled this off with the infamous Triceratops encounter and this follow-up accomplishes the same feat, and if anything, to a greater degree. When a scene involving a critically injured 20-ton plant-eating animatronic beast can bring tears to your eyes, a film like Jurassic World has succeeded. Hell, when a movie can cause one to feel shivers of empathy for the clever killer raptors and the monstrous meat-eating T-Rex right, it’s a testament to the director and all the creative talent who brought the dinos to life.
4) Homage Paid with No Expense Spared:
In case there is still any confusion out there, allow me the honor of clearing the air: Jurassic World is a sequel, NOT a reboot, remake, re-imagining or any other word with the prefix ‘re’ (I’d accept reinvigoration). Within the first 15 minutes, the audience is made fully aware that Jurassic World is indeed the renovated failure that was the original Jurassic Park. We are treated to a ton of fun little Easter eggs referencing the original park without pounding us over the head about it. Actually, there is one exception to that, but it’s done in a very clever and humorous way (See Jake Johnson above).
Don’t get the wrong idea though, Jurassic World stands perfectly fine on its own two feet, and never uses the original as a crutch to get by. For that matter, it’s the throwbacks and hat-tipping to the first film that make the latest installment that much more enjoyable. If you are reading this before seeing the film despite my countless spoiler warnings, I highly recommend visiting the first Jurassic Park before taking in part IV. It will be well worth the trip down memory lane and make this movie an even more enjoyable experience.
Oh, and did I mention the epic theme music is back, too? Sadly, John Williams, who composed the memorable score for the first Jurassic Park, was not technically on board for the soundtrack this go-round. However, acclaimed composer Michael Giacchino intertwined the maestro’s unforgettable original theme into his own soundtrack at precisely the perfect moments during the flick. It could be argued that Williams’ original score is more so a character of the film than the dinosaurs themselves. Leaving it out might have made this entry feel like a completely different dino-film altogether.
The man, the myth, the stick pointer.
(Listen and watch the world-renowned composer conduct the infamous Jurassic Park theme with the Boston Pops.)
So to sum it all up: “I like dinosaurs.”
If you’ve had the pleasure of listening to the Podthingy podcast for which I was a co-host, you will probably recognize the infamous phrase as the three glorious words I managed to stitch together after a heated discussion about including robotic incarnations of the large beasts in Transformers: Age of Extinction.
My reason for mentioning the quote is twofold. It allows me to make an overdue mention on the actual blog about the passing of friend and fellow Podthingy co-host, Blayne Alexander: we pay tribute to Blayne on the Podcast and I’ll be devoting next week’s blog to his greatness.
The idiom also serves as a reminder that, well, I really do like dinosaurs. As you’ve probably noticed, the humor lies in what an extreme understatement my proclamation truly represents. Unnatural obsession with dinosaurs aside, Jurassic World contains all of the DNA attributes to splice together the perfect blockbuster: humor, action, thrills, outstanding special effects, likable characters, heart-felt moments, edge-of-your-seat thrills, thought provoking themes, majestic musical score, and more importantly, it’s a sequel to the original Jurassic Park released in 1993.
Jurassic World is exhibit one that with a little effort, a sequel created over 20 years after the original can be done well, versus rebooting a franchise that never needed, or will ever need it. Outside of the notion that it made for a better movie, I’d wager that most industry experts – for which I’m not even close to one – would point out the record-breaking opening weekend tallies were helped by the fact Jurassic World wasn’t a pure reboot, but instead remained in the same universe and timeline of the original film, which so many people loved in the first place. (I’m looking at you Paul Feig and Sony Pictures, *cough* Ghostbusters *cough, hack*.)
I digress, as that is another topic for another day (and I will address it), but for the time being I’m just reveling in how much “I like dinosaurs.” If John Hammond was still alive today – or better yet, real – there is no doubt in my mind he would view this film as the closest thing we will get to experiencing a full-fledged living and breathing dinosaur amusement park during our lifetimes. And with that alone, I believe Jurassic World holds a little something for all of us to like.
Travel to the prehistoric era as Geek Outlaw and Spunky Destructor talk dinosaurs, Chris Pratt, and our overall thoughts on Universal Pictures’ blockbuster sequel, Jurassic World, as it claws its way to box office records. Also listen in as we share stories and pay our respects to friend, fellow geek, Podthingy co-host and amazing human-being: Blayne Alexander.
(WARNING: There are spoilers within the Podcast!)
LISTEN HERE! —> Wild Wild Podcast #24