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Jurassic World

Remember years ago when rumors were circulating that the fourth “Jurassic Park” film would feature dinosaurs with laser beams attached to their heads, as if Dr. Evil himself had written the screenplay? Pretty dumb idea, right? But at the same time, there was that little voice in the back of your head saying, “I would totally watch that.” While the idea has been tweaked and new ideas have been implemented, the same thought process exists for “Jurassic World,” the actual fourth entry in the dinosaurs-running-rampant franchise. There are certain ideas, shots and lines of dialogue that one would expect more from one of those straight-to-video “mockbuster” Asylum releases than a big budget franchise refresher, but it’s still strangely entertaining. Is “Jurassic World” dumb? Absolutely. Is it unwatchable? Absolutely not.

More than 20 years after the events on Isla Nublar, when Jurassic Park’s dinosaur inhabitants escaped from captivity and wreaked havoc on the island’s unfortunate dwellers, a new park has opened, dubbed Jurassic World. However, attendance is down because people have become desensitized to dinosaurs and are looking for something new, so the park’s scientists genetically engineer a new hybrid dinosaur called the Indominus Rex, one with a different genetic make-up than has been seen before that mixes many different creatures into one. However, the creation was almost too good, as it shows a high level of intelligence and eventually, as before, escapes from captivity. With a park full of people now in harm’s way, including young Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) who are there visiting their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), it’s up to raptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to save the day.

You read that right. One of the park’s employees trains raptors, creatures with minimal intelligence and a primal urge to hunt and kill. To make the human-raptor relationship even more ridiculous, the film introduces Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), a man hell bent on using the raptors as a tool for war. Naturally, Owen is having none of that; that is until he does, as late in the movie (and featured prominently in the trailer) he rides along on a motorcycle with his raptor pack on a search for the Indominus, as they follow his commands and chase the beast’s scent like police dogs.

And it only gets better as the dinosaurs start talking to each other—who knew they had a discernible language?—and start to shift allegiances. It’s all so ridiculous that it’s actually kind of funny. I was rolling my eyes and laughing in equal amounts, especially when the film tries to pretend like it’s a serious, dramatic piece of work. “Jurassic World” is so utterly unaware of its own absurdity that it actually one-ups those aforementioned Asylum films by being unintentionally stupid.

One could further mention the plot holes and unexplored plot threads, like when Gray mentions that his parents are getting divorced, a line of dialogue that comes up unexpectedly and is dropped so quickly it reminds of the “breast cancer” line in Tommy Wiseau’s infamous “The Room,” or how the characters complain about dwindling revenue due to the public’s lack of interest in dinosaurs despite having a completely packed park, but such mentions are missing the point. “Jurassic World” is fun and, in fact, it’s these obvious oversights from its inane script that make it as entertaining as it is.

You see, every time the film starts to bore, it introduces another silly plot turn, further derailing it to the point of hilarity. Increasing the hilarity is the seriousness of the actors involved, who don’t seem to realize what they’re starring in, though that could be considered a detriment given how charming Pratt can be. Why not let him flex his sillier side? Still, the dinosaurs—not including the genetically modified Indominus, who isn’t as interesting as the real, historical things—make up for such shortsightedness and are a sight to behold, as they still manage to wonder and captivate just as much as they did in 1993’s “Jurassic Park.” When the Tyrannosaurus Rex inevitably makes its entrance, there won’t be a single person in the audience without a big, goofy smile on their faces.

And such a goofy smile fits pretty snugly into a movie that is little more than two-plus hours of goofy shenanigans. There are two ways to watch “Jurassic World”: not think too hard and enjoy the action or analyze it completely and tear it apart afterwards in a fun conversation with friends. If you approach it with one of those two methods in mind, you’ll surely enjoy it. But if you’re expecting it to reboot a once loved franchise with the magic we first witnessed over 20 years ago, you’ll surely be disappointed.

Jurassic World receives 2.5/5


Life of Pi

Regardless of what one thinks of director Ang Lee’s films regarding their thematic and narrative qualities, it’s difficult to argue that, visually, his films are nothing short of astounding. He knows exactly what type of mood and tone he wants to evoke and perfectly captures it onscreen in a way that few directors can. From the smooth, stylish action of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to the tranquility of Brokeback Mountain, Lee sets a goal and nails it every time. His latest, Life of Pi, is no different. It’s a colorful, magical, frequently beautiful looking film that can be interpreted as either a fairy tale come to life or a nightmare one wants to forget. It’s not the best nor the most involving movie in the world—its story will rarely, if ever, grab you emotionally—but its breathtaking visuals will bring a tear to your eye.

The film begins with a writer (Rafe Spall) interviewing an adult who, because his name sounded too much like “pissing,” goes by Pi (Irrfan Khan). The writer has been told that Pi has a story for him, one so astounding that it will make him believe in God. His story begins like any other, an innocent child living his day to day life trying to make friends and avoid the heckling brought on by his name, but it eventually goes to places the writer doesn’t expect. While on a ship, he and those on board encounter a massive storm and the ship begins to sink. On this ship are all the animals his family is transporting to be sold from their zoo they just abandoned, most of which drown with the ship. A few of them escape their fate, however, and end up on a lifeboat with Pi, including a hungry tiger named Richard Parker (the tiger and tiger owner’s names were switched on the paperwork and the name stuck) who Pi simultaneously tries to evade and help survive.

There’s a bit more to Life of Pi than that, including an undiscovered carnivorous island and a twist that makes you rethink everything you just saw, but the bulk of the movie takes place in the middle of the ocean with Pi and Richard Parker. These scenes, though frightening and seemingly hopeless, manage to bring forth a transcendental beauty. Because of the isolation such an event causes, much time is focused on the things around Pi and Richard Parker, including the abundant sea life beneath them, expressed perhaps most profoundly when what appears to be thousands of luminous jellyfish swim below, lighting up an otherwise dark and dreary night. These moments recall Pi’s spirituality, his believe in some type of higher power (he’s a Catholic-Hindu-Muslim who teaches the Kabbalah at the university, after all) and they bring forth the wonder of the world around him, even when he’s faced with a dire situation.

For those who also share an interest in religious ideologies, the story of Abraham from the Bible will come forth clearest. When that ship went down, Pi lost his entire family, everything and everyone he has ever loved, and now he’s in an inescapable predicament, one that is bound to bring certain death. His faith is tested, but rarely wavers. Whether the events that follow are seen as coincidence or divine intervention will depend on your interpretation of the story, but it’s an interesting thing to ponder, even if the comparison to the biblical story is a bit too on the nose.

Where Life of Pi simply misses the mark is in its strange desire to stretch this middle section of the movie out to unbearable lengths. Although it may be one of the most visually pleasing movies you’ll see all year, it’s also one of the most uneventful. It’s a movie that manages to capture your imagination and then do nothing with it. There are only so many times you can scare us with a close encounter from Richard Parker or amaze us with the sea life that suddenly appears. Cynical though it may be, Life of Pi fails to tighten up its story and misses the opportunity to let the wonderment it naturally builds linger to the end, instead allowing it to dissipate far too early.

Life of Pi is nevertheless a good movie, one that deserves to be seen, but is different enough that it will most likely be ignored by the general populace. Despite the feeling that it’s sometimes on a road to nowhere, a stunningly gorgeous, life affirming film like this is preferable to your standard Hollywood fare any day.

Life of Pi receives 3.5/5