Tuesday’s Reviews: The Good Dinosaur (2015)

animation, dinosaurs, film, fucking beautiful, Pixar, review

For no reason other than bragging, I’d just like to point out that, thanks to a timely package arrival, I’m typing this wearing my new Boba Fett Varsity Jacket. I’ve never felt like such a badass before. I’m in love with it. I will never take it off. Anyway, back to the review. I think I missed most of the deal about The Good Dinosaur. I mean I saw enough references around the internet but not enough to actually watch it. Until I had nothing better to do and a review to plan for. To be fair, I couldn’t see many problems with it. We all know I love a good animated film and I bloody love dinosaurs. Why wouldn’t I like this one? I really want a future employee to ask me the “which dinosaur would you be” in an interview one day. I genuinely think that I’d have the best answer to that question ever. I’d tell you what it is but I wouldn’t want to give you a helping hand if we’re ever competing for the same position one day. Although, after watching this movie I may have to change it anyway. Who wouldn’t want to be a gruff, T-Rex rancher?
The Good Dinosaur asks the question “what would life have been like if the dinosaurs hadn’t died out?” It makes for a pretty amazing opening sequence and sets up an interesting premise. What if dinosaurs and man had existed at the same time? In Pixar’s world, dinosaurs have evolved over millions of years to be able to build simple structures, farm the land and raise livestock. Obviously they can talk but what animals can’t in the Pixar universe?

So, we are first introduced to the new dino way of life thanks to a pair of Apatosauruses who run their farm with surprising efficiency considering they don’t have hands. Of course, their small family is quickly expanded as the couple welcome three children to their brood. The two eldest are boisterous and helpful for the family business whilst the third, Arlo, is small and scared of everything. Arlo is encouraged by his father to ignore his fear and help destroy the critter that is threatening to eat them out of house and home. Unfortunately, the chase leads to a sequence of events that leaves Arlo alone and a long way from home.

Thankfully, he is not alone and is helped on his journey back by the dreaded critter, Spot, who turns out to be the orphaned child of a couple of cavemen. Whilst dinosaurs have taken on human traits, Spot perfectly fits into the role of loyal dog. He brings Arlo food, protects him and wants nothing more than to love his new companion. Arlo quickly warms to Spot and their friendship blossoms whilst they encounter new creatures and dangerous situations.

The Good Dinosaur is no way near being the most inspired Pixar plot of all time. It had a few script problems and a last minute change, which can be seen in the final product. I know we’re talking about a kids film so I don’t want to bring logic into it so deeply. However, there can be no doubt that the whole concept raises a few questions that it never answers. Plus, the actual journey is very simplistic and is almost literally just Arlo’s walk back to his home. There are a few sub-plots along the way but any breaks in the path are few and far between.

However, of those few there are a couple of stand out moments. The brief break Arlo and Spot get helping a family of Tyrannosaurs track down their herd of buffalo from a group of raptor rustlers. The characters are a fantastic addition and give a clearer view of the world that Pixar has created. With the patriarch expertly voiced by Sam Elliott, it is a great dinosaur parody of Western films and deserves a spin-off of its own.

The tale isn’t really as creative as a lot of their most loved work but it still remains a Pixar film in spirit. The visuals are as fucking beautiful as anyone would expect and the realistic backdrop becomes a character in its own right. It’s so wonderfully realised that it makes sense that the main characters are a little bit more childish and cartooony. It works. It’s stunning. It’s Pixar.

As well as breathtaking visual images, Pixar is becoming known for devastating their audience with an overload of emotions. I was left a blubbering mess at the end of Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur was no different. The reason behind its simplistic plot is to allow the filmmakers to focus on the central relationship that is so important to both characters. The friendship that develops between Arlo and Spot is beautiful and realistic. This is the true heart of the film and you can’t help but get drawn into the pair’s blossoming connection.

The journey itself may be uninspiring but there can be no denying that the consequences for both main characters are utterly fulfilling. The emotional ending is a fucking emotional rollercoaster and it is totally earned. It’s nowhere near being Pixar’s most creative film but Spot and Arlo are one of the studios best double acts.

TBT – Jurassic Park (1993)

dinosaurs, film, review, Steven Spielberg, TBT
As soon as I heard that 22 years had passed since Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park I had a mild panic attack. Despite the fact I definitely won’t have seen it when I was 5, there’s nothing like another reminder about the unstoppable passage of time. Jurassic Park is one of those films that you don’t mind watching over and over again because it will always be something of a spectacle. Of course, it can’t be denied that the technology has moved on since it came out and it may look a little dated to those who have been spoilt by current techniques. However, there’s a reason that Spielberg’s dino-fest is constantly being recognised as one of the most influential films of all time. I can’t remember just how many times I’ve watched it but I still get that same thrill upon seeing that first dinosaur that I did the first time. It’s fucking brilliant.

Do I really need to discuss the plot of this film? Has anyone in the world not seen it yet? Just in case this blog in encountering some kind of real-life Kimmy Schmidt I suppose I better had. Eccentric billionaire pays scientists to clone dinosaurs using some plot-holey scientific techniques and decides to open a theme park. In order to get the bank to let him open, wealthy billionaire invites experts to the island. Disaster happens, dinosaurs escape and drama ensues… with added sexy Goldblum.
Jurassic Park took Michael Chrichton’s novel and made it a huge blockbuster that is still just as relevant and awe-inspiring today as it was 22 years ago. It has been universally praised since its release for its stunning visual effects, the perfect musical score and Spielberg’s superb direction. It’s the kind of film that you break down into memorable chunks that will stay with you forever. There isn’t anyone who isn’t aware of John William’s motif that kicks in when Dr Grant first sees the park in all its glory. Just as the famous water ripple scene has been referenced and parodied more times than anyone could ever possibly count.
Technically, Jurassic Parkhelped to kick off a revolution in the film industry about the potential of visual effects. It’s no wonder the film’s Oscar success came from its technical prowess. Spielberg and co. had shown just what was possible with computer generated visual effects and inspired many great film-makers to push the boundaries even further. Of course this too had its negatives considering that Industrial Light and Magic’s work on the film helped push George Lucas into making the Star Wars prequels.
Jurassic Parkdoes exactly what we needed it to: it showed us some dinosaurs and they were good. What it doesn’t do quite so spectacularly is the rest of it. There is no problem with Spielberg’s creatures but there are plenty with their human counterparts. The narrative between the visual displays leave something to be desired and to say the main characters are underdeveloped would suggest that the women in a Michael Bay film are as deep as the fucking Pacific Ocean. The human’s in the narrative are basically just a group of people who exist to scream in the right moments, debate the morality of scientific advancement and run really fucking fast.
Richard Attenborough was convinced to come out of retirement to play John Hammond, the man who has the dream to open the dino-filled theme park, but looking back it’s hard to see what convinced him. Hammond is a jolly, grandfather who has a few chuckley comic moments but isn’t really as grand and powerful as he should be. He gets a bit of drama when his grandchildren find themselves facing a hungry T-Rex but the character is nowhere near as fleshed out as he deserved to be.
The other characters all fall into the forgettable category which of course might have something to do with their attention-grabbing co-stars. The dull and stoic Dr Grant (Sam Neill) and the kind, kind of kick-ass Ellie Satler (Laura Dern) just don’t stand out when they’re fighting a velociraptor not only for their lives but for screen time. In fact, the only real human to come out of this fighting is rock-star, chaotician Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Goldblum is given as little to work with as his fellow human actors but is responsible for one of the most memorable scenes in movie history. Ian Malcolm is the only character who offers enough humour and ridiculousness to battle against the visuals. Goldblum, er, finds a way.
The narrative just doesn’t provide enough opportunity for the humans to really get their teeth into the action. Having never read Chrichton’s novel, I have no idea how faithful an adaptation it is but I have to hope, for his sake, that it’s taken a few liberties. There’s nothing really inspiring to the plot and is only worked to give Spielberg as many chances for big action sequences as possible. Not that I’m really complaining. They’re the tits.
However, there are more than a few plot strands that just don’t work as well as they should. The subplot of Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) and his attempt to steal dino-embryos is just the worst breed of sitcom nonsense. It even has Knight pratfalling whenever the opportunity arises. I know that it’s strictly meant to be a kids movies but I have to question Spielberg’s decision to focus on snot, vomit and clumsy chubby guys to get laughs.
There are some fine moments in the film but the narrative is slow to get going. The first scene that Dr Grant and Ellie see the real-life versions of the bones they’ve been digging up for years is simply astounding. Some of the discussions about Hammond’s morality and sanity are glorious. However, Spielberg has decided to make a monster movie so the tone quickly changes to “fuck there’s a dinosaur, RUN!” The rest of the narrative just drags a little and an audience may find themselves waiting for their next big thrill, which might explain why there are so many plot-holes. At least it makes the great base for a drinking game.
Thankfully, the thrills are so fucking amazing that it’s possible to ignore all the narrative nonsense. The two major set-pieces involving a T-Rex attacking a tour-car and raptors getting all up in the kitchen are still some of the most effective action sequences around. I guess we could sit here for hours and lament the kind of film that Jurassic Parkmight have been. I don’t want to. Jurassic Parkdoes what it wanted to and, to be honest, it does it well. Spielberg wanted to make Jawswith dinosaurs and he fucking nailed it.

Jurassic World (2015)

Chris Pratt, death, dinosaurs, film, review, Steven Spielberg
I, like everyone else of a certain age, felt fucking old when I realised it’s been 22 years since the Stephen Spielberg’s original dinosaur film. film came out. Admittedly, I was only 5 at the time so didn’t watch it til a few years later. I’m not ashamed to tell you I was fucking terrified after that first viewing. I couldn’t sleep thanks to the vicious Dilophosaurus and its spitty ways. Yes, Nedry was a dick who caused the deaths of many people, but nobody deserves that. Anyway, it’s safe to say that subsequent viewings have been much more successful and I love Steven Spielberg’s dino-epic as much as it deserves. In it’s day, Jurassic Parkwas one of the best visual displays on show and it still fills me with excitement to see that first glimpse of the park’s residents in all their glory. However, you can’t deny that the sequels have left a little to be desired. The Lost World was good enough until they stuck another Godzillainspired film on the end but Jurassic Park 3was just abysmal. So Spielberg brought out the big guns and dress Star Lord up as Indiana Jones and gave him a raptor army. Fucking awesome. Hold onto your butts.

The worst thing about the events of Jurassic Parkwas that we never really got to see John Hammond’s vision for a dinosaur theme park. We didn’t see the attractions in all of their glory. I can’t imagine anyone in 1993 who left the cinema and didn’t immediately want to pack up for a trip to Isla Nublar and seeing the exhibits themselves. Even with all the death. Imagining what it would have been like to see the kind of attractions Hammond and his buddies could have created is something that has kept fans entertained for the last 22 years.
Jurassic World understands the appeal of the dinosaurs as attractions so opens with a fully fledged park that has been enjoying a steady stream of visitors for a while. We see shiny new rides, feeding shows and dinosaur souvenirs. Crowds are able to enjoy watching a Mosasaurus swallow a shark whole as though they’re at fucking Sea World. If it weren’t for the inevitable danger that always turns up in these films, Jurassic World would be at the top of my vacation list.
However, as our society has such a short attention span, after 22 years the novelty of scientists being able to recreate extinct creatures out of old blood has worn off somewhat. People want something new and even more exciting. Thankfully, to make the money crunchers happy, the scientists have offered their own solution: by genetically engineering their own massive dinosaur. Weirdly only one guy thinks that’s a fucking stupid decision. Have these people learnt nothing from the last three films?
Suffice it to say, chaos ensues once the patchwork dino escapes from her cage and begins killing anything that crosses its path. It is up to the park’s resident raptor trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), to use the skills he picked up in the US Navy to help stop the beast and save the visitors. Starting with the young nephews of Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Jurassic World’s operations manager, who are rolling around the forest into the path of their aunt’s newest attraction. There’s also some guff about using dinosaurs in the military but that’s really just a waste of fucking time and I’m keen to ignore it here.
Of course, Claire and Owen, both being attractive people, have to take part in the obligatory romance plot that I really could have done without. That’s not to say it isn’t handled well. Howard and Pratt have great chemistry and enjoy a playful back and forth that’s reminiscent of Han Solo and Princess Leia. I’m still not sure why someone deemed it necessary to add it on but I guess it made for an interesting side-bar.
Both actors do great jobs all round really and, thankfully, they both get their chance to play the hero. Much has been shown of Pratt and his raptor army riding off to glory but Howard’s Claire has her own fair share of defining moments. The same cannot be said of the supporting cast who, the two young boys aside, lack any kind of definition or development. There is a real lack memorable characters here, something the original had no problem providing for us. There were moments in this film that I even missed fucking Tim.
AlthoughJurassic World is all about the spectacle and boy does it deliver. 22 years is a long time in Hollywood and this new film succeeds in making the original look as old as the creatures it portrays. Although, that’s not to say that it doesn’t respect its predecessor. Director, Colin Trevorrow, is a true Spielberg fanboy and references plenty of his works and trademark style within his blockbuster. Part of the fun will be rewatching and catching everything.
Of course, despite it’s modern techniques, $150 million budget and lovable leading man, Jurassic World was never going to beat the first film. Even in an age where Marvel rules all, Jurassic Park is still one of the greatest and most loved film’s for a generation of film goers. Spielberg created something genuinely tense, exciting and inspiring film: nothing will ever compare. So I won’t. Jurassic World is what it is. A fucking awesome film that’s as fun, silly and over-the-top as you expect from a big budget blockbuster. It’s also clever, thanks to the underlying message about our ever expanding tastes. It works as both a thoughtless Summer cheese fest and a genuine analysis of the film industry itself. I loved it.

Yes, a lot of it doesn’t make sense, is absurd or completely wrong. But we didn’t ask for reality, we asked for more teeth.