Fallen Kingdom / Review

Jurassic World was a triumphant return back to the big screen for the Jurassic Park franchise, after a 14 year hiatus since Jurassic Park 3JW received not only glowing reviews, but took in a staggering $1.6bn at the box office, so no pressure on the sequel….

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, directed by J.A. Bayona, brings back our leading duo Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) & Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), as they return to Isla Nublar, to coordinate a rescue mission lead by Benjamin Lockwood, the former business partner of John Hammond, o save our reptilian inhabitants from a volcanic fate.

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Essentially, the movie is what you expect from a huge Summer blockbuster, it’s an impressive spectacle, dazzling CGI, hugely thrilling and comedic banter. But it does fail with its story, as the plot regresses back to the usual weaponized dinosaurs arch we have already seen.

The chemistry between our leads is far more cohesive here, their interactions feel less forced than it did in JW, FK gives them far more to do, and they break out of the typecasts they had in the first one. Claire is far more interesting as the head of a Dinosaur conservation group, rather than the dull, cold, career focused executive. The film also makes firm point regarding the boots she now wears, after the heels debacle from the last film!  They are joined on their adventure by fellow conservation staff members’ Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), a sassy and sharp witted veterinarian, and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), the systems analyst, his character does grate a lot, as he is pretty much reduced to the petrified screaming comic relief, though he does tone it down over the course of the movie, Zia is far more tolerable as a character.

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The dinosaurs are of course the reason why we’re here! Blue, the surviving member of Owen’s raptor squad is back, and has a leading role! The film can be split into 2, the island rescue, and back at the Lockwood mansion. The island scenes are amazing to watch, the CGI is as always stunning, and the inevitable fate of the island does lead to a frankly very emotional scene as our heroes make their escape. The big gun for this film is another hybrid creation, the Indoraptor, the cross between the Indominus Rex from JW, and a raptor. It of course escapes, and stalks our protagonists as they attempt to stop the plans of our villain. In all honestly, the Indoraptor does not feel like anything special, and still gets outshone by the T-Rex. Although Blue is still an enjoyable addition to the Jurassic clan, it has rather subdued the wicked nature of the deadly Velociraptors from movies past, now seeming more like a charming sidekick, than its previous iterations.

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The villain of the story is where things start to fall apart, who is simply a generic suit who just wants to get rich quick. It’s pretty obvious from the start who is the underlying antagonist, and it really does hurt the plot. While it is a fresh change to take the adventure away from the island setting, the weaponized dinosaurs storyline still feels ridiculous, in a film containing dinosaurs! The final 3rd of the does’ drag on for a tad too long, as our heroes are stalked through the mansion by the genetic raptor, if could have been concluded far more swiftly. There is also a ridiculous twist regarding the granddaughter of the mansion, which is utterly brushed over by the characters, and feels like a contrived plot device for the films end. The Mosasaurus, the gigantic ocean beast, which featured in the trailers, was seriously underused.

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Fallen Kingdom does feel far more unique than its predecessor, JW felt like a simple remake of the original JP, whereas FK stands alone far better, with a far more warming duo and change of scenery. It’s not an outstanding outing, but fans of the last film will have no reason to not enjoy this!

Caesar Reigns in Planet of The Apes

This summer has been pretty low-key in regards to well acclaimed blockbusters, can War for the Planet of the Apes (let’s just call it War from here on!) succeed where films such as The Mummy, Transformers & Baywatch stumbled?

War is the final chapter of the newly rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, which started with Rise in 2011 and Dawn in 2014, both movies were well received by both fans and critics, so hopes were high for War.

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The final chapter sees our main protagonist, Caesar (Andy Serkis) once again lead his colony of apes, as they look to escape to terrains new, and save his people (apes!) from the ruthless clutches of Colonel (Woody Harrelson).  With the help of his close allies, Caesar puts it all on the line, to once and for all,  put an end to the plight his colonyface.

War is an enthralling adventure, and it’s a movie you can enjoy as a standalone, without having much knowledge of the prior 2 movies. I haven’t had the chance to watch either Rise or Dawn, and did worry things may not make much sense! But the movie does a great job in dropping in details of prior movies without breaking the flow of the movie, there were reference to prior characters and events, but even as someone watching without knowing the lore, you can still piece it all together.  Not seeing the other two will not affect your enjoyment in any huge way.

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By far the most fantastic aspect of the movie is the motion capture, it is frankly stunning. This series has done wonders in giving actors in motion capture the recognition they deserve. Andy Serkis has been widely praised for his performances in the Apes movies, and rightly so. It cannot be easy to act in total green screen, while moving and acting in the ways an ape would.  If you have the time, do go and look at the behind the scenes footage, to see how much work is put into motion capture! It’s also the sheer detail of the apes that is amazing. There are several close ups throughout the movie that flaunt how much attention to detail was put it, especially with Maurice. The snowy settings up in the mountains really do provide a gorgeous backdrop the the film. It really is a great to look at.

Caesar’s story arc is one of revenge, which seems him go on a mission to take down the sinister Colonel, but he is joined by a group of his closest allies. Maurice (Karin Konoval), the Orangutan, who is Caesars top adviser, and one of the more heart warming characters in a somber movie.  Luca (Micael Adamthwaite) the Gorilla, and Rocket (Terry Notary) the Chimpanzee lend the muscle, as they also join our hero on his mission. Along the way, they meet a mute girl, Nova (Amiah Miller), who a reluctant Caesar brings along, due to the protestations of Maurice. They also meet Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), the token comic relief, and a  runaway chimp who suffered after his time imprisoned at a Zoo.  Bad Ape could have gone awry,  but his fragile mentality was a good method to make him say what he does in these grim situations.

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War is an emotional ride, as several characters meet their demise, and director Matt Reeves manages to make us care and feel the struggle of a group on non human characters, which alone could have been hard to do. While there are huge epic set pieces in the film, at it’s heart, it’s a sober tale of war and suffering. You believe any one of our characters could meet their end at any moment.

The plot is rather straightforward to follow,  it’s nothing groundbreaking. But it’s the tone and execution of the film that makes it wonderful to watch. Be it the sheer panic of the battle scenes, the desperation of the prison camps or the grit shown by Caeser in the face of torture and oppression. The story weaves it all in one engrossing adventure. Be prepared to be reading loads of subtitles though, apart from Caesar, Bad Ape and the humans, the rest interact in their own language. So if you are not a fan of subtitles, you have been warned!

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Woody Harrelson does fine as our antagonist, the film gives us a reason to hate him, and his treatment of the imprisoned apes are barbaric. But, he just feels slightly rushed through. His character did not appear in any prior movies, so feels pretty dispensable. Is this guy really the one who the 3 movies lead up to?  You would think the final part of trilogy would have the long standing enemy at its core. Also, his grand plan really made no sense. Which was to build a frankly useless wall! Yes he was evil, but not really the smartest of villains,  I would have preferred a far more calculating villain, to match the astute Caesar.

The running time of almost 2:30 hours is vastly inflated. The film could have been told in a much shorter amount of time, and you do feel like it is dragging on as the film approaches its finale.

War deserves all the plaudits it’s receiving, and it provides a suitable ending to the trilogy. You really root for our heroes to succeed,  and want to rally behind them. You really grow to despise the Army, and that ticks all the boxes even at the very basic levels of story telling. The action and battle scenes are intense, and surprisingly violent! Combined with the gorgeous visuals , War is one of the films of this Summer! Apes Together Strong…….

 

 

 

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