Much like Tremors, it’s a franchise with a really good first entry and a wild assortment of trash that followed.
Joining me for this rundown of the Jurassic series, including a local puppet play I’m currently performing in, is high school principal and All Puppet Players season tickets holder Ben V.
During this article, the text in BLUE will represent my thoughts and the text in RED will represent his. Let’s get started with the original!
directed by: Steven Spielberg; written by: Michael Crichton, David Koepp
cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenburough, Samuel L. Jackson, B.D. Wong, Wayne Knight, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Bob Peck, Miguel Sandoval, Martin Ferrero
runtime: 128 minutes
release date: June 11, 1993
other movies released summer of ’93: Carnosaur, The Fugitive, Sleepless in Seattle, Last Action Hero, Hot Shots!: Part Deux, Dave, Free Willy, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Hocus Pocus, What’s Love Got to Do With It, The Firm, Hard Target, My Neighbor Totoro, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Menace II Society, Cliffhanger, Son in Law, In the Line of Fire, Rookie of the Year, Weekend at Bernie’s II, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Surf Ninjas, Super Mario Bros.
BLUE = Margetis ; RED = Ben V.
What can you even say about this movie that hasn’t been said better, at least a thousand times? Nothing really, other than this is the most fun entry to watch and the least fun entry to write about. It’s the only installment that’s actually a good”movie, and it holds up spectacularly well in 2022.
The effects/dino puppets are far more effective than they are in any of the films, even the ones made almost thirty years later, and the acting, but really the characters, are all aces across the boards. There are no unnecessary, exposition-heavy subplots involving corporate frat bro fuckers leveraging dinosaurs for the military-industrial complex or teenage girls fighting dinosaurs with gymnastics. Spielberg keeps things simple but never dimensionless, which is why even though the plot is uncomplicated, so much shit happens.
The combination of Neill, Dern, and Goldblum is key here, as they not only play off each other brilliantly but, between the three of them, possess all the necessary action hero traits to survive. Dern is the necessary empathetic “motherly” figure (she never misses an opportunity to remind you she wants kids), Goldblum is the necessary cynical skeptic and Neill is basically the physical action hero. Goldblum and Dern do their fair share of running and dangerous shit, but Neill’s Grant is the one that’s out in the “we’re totally fucked” zone the most, usually accompanied by Hammond’s kids (that kid with attitude from Tremors, that kid with AIDS from The Client.)
The supporting cast is strong here with Samuel L. Jackson, B.D. Wong, Miguel Sandoval, Wayne “Newman” Knight, as more or less his exact same character from Seinfeld, and Bob Peck as an Australian guy. There are really no women characters except Dern and the granddaughter, and that’s a bummer. I’d like to report John Hammond for his chauvinist hiring practices, please. Ben, what did you think of this?
I guess this will be kind of short, sweet, and to the point, because this is the first good movie we’ve watched, but man oh man do I love Jurassic Park. I think Jurassic Park is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, in the same vein as Predator, where you want to see so much of the dinosaurs, all the time, because that combo of 1993 CG and practical effect holds up SO DAMN WELL that you can’t help but miss things in this movie because you’re too busy trying to process what you’re seeing, but the dinosaurs are used sparingly and only for the intended effect: true terror. The thing at the heart of this movie is that nature will always go back to being nature, and that man is in the way – or puts himself in the way. Really my only gripe is how annoying the children are, but that’s just kids, baby. I’m a teacher, I can say that.
In personal connections, my uncle spent 25 years at Universal Hollywood as a lead construction foreman, and one of his first jobs on the lot was fabricating the T.rex. I’ll try and get him to send me a picture of the polaroid photo he has of him in a cherry-picker pretending to punch the thing in the nose. Fun fact: while working on the set for the opening shot, my uncle accidentally kicked a hammer off a catwalk that landed about 2 feet from Steven Spielberg, a drop that would likely have killed whoever it hit. Imagine if my uncle had killed Spielberg and we never got Schindler’s List. Or like, Jurassic Park 2, I guess.
JUNE ’93 – I remember having to go over to my friend Jimmy’s house the night my parents went to a shitty Harkins to see Jurassic Park because it was “too intense” for four-year-old me. That made me feel really shitty and excluded, but I get it, I was four, that shit is way too intense for a four-year-old. Of course, I became obsessed with seeing it cause their merch advertising was so aggressive towards kids. McDonald’s, Sega Genesis, and the toys, which I was obsessed with. I think my dad ended up taking me to see it a couple months after it had been out and I was fine, I dug it, I didn’t freak out, so of course, after seeing it – I NEEDED THE TOYS.
DEC ‘ 93 – I remember waking up Christmas morning to this cheap plastic piece of shit completely set up in my game room. It’s amazing how simple, cheaply-produced plastic crap like this could keep me amused for hours at a time.
SUMMER ’94 – I remember going to my godparents’ house and playing the Jurassic Park computer game which was super long-winded, slow, and frustrating.
Ben, what was your relationship like with all this Jurassic merch? Did you play the awfully boring game for Sega Genesis where you just walked around and nothing happened? Did you collect any Happy Meal action figures? I figure you were around the same age as me when it came out, four? Three?
I was 3 in 1993, so if it was Jurassic Park, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Power Rangers, I owned it. I had soooo many of these toys it makes me sick in hindsight knowing they got thrown out or donated, because I could probably open my own Jurassic Park with the money that collection would have fetched. My absolute favorite was this “emergency dinosaur medical set” that came with a nondescript dino-nurse figure, a fully destructible hospital room, and a Pachycephalosaurus that had a removable leg, arm, and a couple of spots on its body you could rip off for “battle damage.” The head could be pushed into the body and you pressed a button to make it shoot back out, which was great for launching other toys around the bedroom or assaulting your siblings. If my middle brother has CTE, that toy was definitely a top-two contributor to that.
As cool as my mom is, we weren’t allowed to play video games growing up. That all broke in 1998 when my aunt sent us a Playstation for Christmas, so I never got to play the boring Sega game, but I know it’s the stuff of legend. We definitely had every promotional McDonald’s cup, though. I know I had about a half-dozen t-shirts, all from my uncle, and I definitely had the watch pictured below. In fact, I think my mom miiight still have that watch in a box at home. eBay, here we come!
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
directed by: Steven Spielberg; written by: David Koepp
cast: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Vanessa Lee Chester, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Peter Stormare, Richard Schiff, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards
runtime: 129 minutes
release day: May 23, 1997
other movies released summer ’97: G.I. Jane, Men in Black, Face/Off, Batman & Robin, Speed 2: Cruise Control, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Con Air, Air Force One, Good Burger, Air Bud, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Hercules, The Fifth Element, Spawn, Contact, George of the Jungle, Conspiracy Theory, The Full Monty, Event Horizon, Steel, Gone Fishin’
BLUE = Margetis ; RED = Ben V.
I talked about the distinct lack of dinosaurs in the first movie as a casual segue piece to reviewing this one, in which dinosaurs pop out more frequently than they do on the ride based on the movies at Universal Studios. The Lost World: Jurassic Park is an exercise in exhaustion, a movie where, had it ever been quiet, you could probably hear ol’ Stevie sighing after every shot, following every “cut!” with “me with a knife, please, somebody.”
Set some time after the first movie, The Lost World opens with some rich assholes parking their yacht on Dinosaur Island and then promptly having their daughter get eaten. At least, in my mind, until rewatching this, that’s what I thought, but then it’s explained later the little girl survived. This becomes important later. Anyway, flash cut to our boy Jeff Goldblum being summoned to John Hammond’s home, where he meets the new villain in a hallway before John tries to recruit Goldblum to go back to Jurassic Park. Jeff, a smart man, obviously says no, but then Hammond reveals that he’s already sent Jeff’s new girlfriend, a wildlife photographer played by a surprisingly un-annoying-for-once Julianne Moore, to the island. Two things here: 1.) dick move by Hammond, like borderline kidnapper/extortion shit, and 2.) this can’t be a great relationship if you didn’t know your girlfriend, who knows you were part of the first Jurassic Park fiasco, was going to the island. Yeesh.
Anyway, Jeff decides to go, accompanied by a documentary filmmaker played by Vince Vaughn and a… tech guy?… played by Arliss Howard. Also, one of Jeff’s bastard children, played by Vanessa Lee Chester, stows away for the journey. She’s a talented gymnast, we learn early on. This is also important later. The gang gets to Dinosaur Island and finds Julianne Moore photographing a herd of Stegosaurus. Jeff says “we gotta go!” and everyone else is like “but the dinosaurs!” and Jeff is like “did you not see the first movie?” As the gang is getting ready to bid adieu to Dinosaur Island, the villain from Hammond’s house shows up with Pete Postlewaite to kidnap a bunch of dinosaurs to bring them back to San Diego, where Jurassic Park, Jr. is under construction. Pete Postlewaite’s character’s whole motivation for getting involved is that he wants to hunt a T.rex, which I think is one of the coolest things about this movie.
The gang comes across Pete’s boys’ camp and frees all the dinosaurs Pete and the gang have rounded up. Then they find an injured baby T.rex and take it back to their camp. This is a dumb move regardless of which side you’re on, and a way-too-long action set-piece involving a near world-record number of close-call, last-minute saves occurs. It sucks to be bored when a dinosaur is on-screen, let alone 3 T.rex, but man, what a letdown. The gang meets up with what’s left of Pete’s team, and everyone agrees to put their differences aside to get off the island together. As the team traverses the jungle, however, they’re systematically picked off. One particular dickhead, seen earlier tazing some small dinosaur, gets eaten by the same flock of dinosaurs that attacked the little girl to open the movie. This man is ripped to shreds by pigeon-sized dinosaurs, which leads me to believe that the little girl from the opening actually died and that Hammond lied about it, which would be strike three for the old bastard. In another way-too-long set-piece, Jeff’s gymnast daughter does a cool gymnastics flip of some exposed pipes and kicks a raptor to death. Whatever.
Everyone left gets back to the mainland, where we learn that the bad guys have actually captured one of the T.rex. Uh oh, guess what happens next! The T.rex wrecks a San Diego suburb, but Jeff Goldblum speeds to the rescue in a convertible and lures the T.rex back to the boat, where it eats the bad guy and then gets sent back to Dinosaur Island. Honestly, this movie is a slog, which, again, sucks to say about ANY movie featuring dinosaurs, but there’s just no heart in this one. You know someone showed Spielberg the action figure receipts and he said “hmm yeah, I could use another yacht” and sleep-walked through making this stinker. Michael, something has survived: me long enough to write this review and turn it over to you.
Yeah, one thing that never gets enough attention is how much of a fucking dick Hammond is. He’s obviously the villain of this entire franchise, with his insatiable greed and flagrant disregard for human life or really any agenda that doesn’t directly benefit him. We know for a fact that he wasn’t paying Newman, a man who could network eight connection machines and debug two million lines of code, enough money, and we also know this old Santa Claus-on-Safari-looking fart clown has no problem exposing his grandchildren to the danger of dinosaurs. In this one, he basically blackmails Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) into dealing with the dinos once again by sending Malcolm’s girlfriend (the absolutely not annoying and actually brilliantly talented and versatile actress Julianne Moore) to a dino danger zone so Malcolm will feel obligated to go too.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is the only sequel that isn’t bad, it’s merely mediocre. There are a few really well-choreographed sequences that display Spielberg’s deftness with generating suspense (the T-Rex on the windshield scene!), but there are so many underwhelming and unnecessary plot threads that drag the movie down. The whole Pete Postelwaithe and his merry band of poachers subplot sucks and definitively proves Jurassic Park doesn’t need armed baddies on top of all the dinos. It’s cool that they cast a young African-American actress to play Goldblum’s daughter because these movies tend to really skew white, but the whole gymnastics vs dinosaurs thing is wildly stupid and dated. You see, in the late 90s gymnastics were huuuuge, I was in a gymnastics class at the time, a bunch of kids I knew were doing it. The supporting cast including Full Metal Jacket‘s Arliss Howard, Fargo’s Peter Stormare, a young Vince Vaughn, and The West Wing‘s Richard Schiff are all solid in less than two-dimensional roles.
All in all this one could have been a shitload worse and currently marks the last time this franchise was anything more than terrible.
Jurassic Park III
directed by: Joe Johnston; written by: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
cast: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, John Diehl, Taylor Nichols, Laura Goldblum
runtime: 92 minutes
release date: July 18, 2001
other movies released summer of ’01: Pearl Harbor, Wet Hot American Summer, The Fast and the Furious, The Mummy Returns, Shrek, Rush Hour 2, American Pie 2, A Knight’s Tale, Angel Eyes, Baby Boy, Pootie Tang, The Animal, Moulin Rouge!, Evolution, Swordfish, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Sexy Beast, Dr. Dolittle 2, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Cats & Dogs, The Princess Diaries, Scary Movie 2, Legally Blonde, Ghost World, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Osmosis Jones, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, Rat Race, Bubble Boy, Ghosts of Mars, Jeepers Creepers, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Apocalypse Now Redux
BLUE = Margetis ; RED = Ben V.
From the Academy Award-winning writing team of Sideways, About Schmidt, and Election comes a franchise sequel so fucking irrelevant and lazily slopped together you’ll wonder if they only had a holiday weekend to film it. I love screenwriters Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, they create such wonderfully nuanced, deeply-flawed three-dimensional characters that you actively struggle to love but never struggle to understand. However, taking that style and applying it to a franchise sequel is a recipe for fucking disaster. William H. Macy and Tea Leoni play the most outright hateable protagonists of the entire series, a bitter, rich divorced couple whose selfish bullshit lands their stupid, useless kid stranded on a dinosaur island. You see the kid was parasailing over an active dinosaur island with Tea Leoni’s new hunky boyfriend (but really the perv teacher from Election who was statutory-raping Reese Witherspoon) and something happened and both the mom’s BF and the guy driving the boat ended up getting eaten by dinos. It is the single most underwhelming opening of one of these movies, you see nothing but a few blood streaks on a cheap boat. Shit, I could have filmed it if you gave me three local actors, a camcorder, and a cheap boat.
Anyway, Macy and Leoni are deadset on recovering their kid after their serious lack of vacation judgment, so they seek out Dr. Grant (Sam Neill, looking unhappy to be acting in this) and lie to him, forcing him and his secret boyfriend, Billy (Face/Off‘s Alessandro Nivola) into a situation where they’re being hunted by dinosaurs once again. What proceeds is 92 minutes of typically shitty early 00s CGI(but still not nearly as bad as that lava from Fallen Kingdom) where characters we don’t even care about (with the exception of Sam Neill) are running around like idiots. They even cast the great Michael Jeter and gave him nothing to do. With its stupid cellphone-in-the-stomach-of-a-dino bit, talking Raptor dream sequence and vanilla one-liners, Jurassic Park III is the laziest entry of the series and a great example of the kind of soulless, paint-by-numbers weekend cash grab blockbusters that the era that brought us sidekicks, Heelys and Pizza Hut’s Triple Deckaroni pizzas was famous for. Also, only one established, non-extra character dies in the whole fucking movie. WHAT?! It’s trash. They also completely waste Laura Dern for a scene or two.
Jurassic Park III is going through one of those annoying online renaissances, where everyone says it’s not as bad as everyone thought it was at the time… and I think, annoyingly, I have to agree. Upon rewatch, the worst thing I can say about this movie is, like the second installment, it suffers from long stretches of boredom. I think I liked this better than the second because it cut out about 30 minutes of bullshit and got us straight into the action. I also really liked how easily William H. Macy and Tea Leoni were able to dupe Sam Neill into going back to the island, a stark contrast to how much semi-illegal shit it took Hammond to get Jeff Goldblum to go back in the second one. Also also, the homoerotic over and undertones between Neill and Alessandro Nivola… made sense? Sam Neill is so awkward towards an impossibly-hot Laura Dern in Jurassic Park that you kind of knew all along that he wasn’t into women.
The Spinosaurus is a really great animatronic, and the plane crash and boat attack sequences have a lot of great practical effects. My uncle was heavily involved in the set builds and rigging for this movie so I’m probably heavily biased towards it, but I thought Joe Johnston did a lot with a little. Fun fact: this movie never had a completed script while filming, which Johnston hated, but was willing to deal with if he got to do more practical stunts, and I respect that. All in all, I think JP III is the second-best of the original trilogy. Not by much, and it trails Jurassic Park by a country mile, but it’s not as bad as I remember thinking it was when I was 10.
directed by: Colin Trevorrow ; written by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Kahn, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus, Judy Greer, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Buffet
runtime: 124 minutes
release date: June 12, 2015
other movies released summer of ’15: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Spy, Terminator Geniysis, Pitch Perfect 2, Ant Man, Trainwreck, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Poltergeist, Tomorrowland, Aloha, Entourage, Insidious Chapter 3, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Inside Out, Ted 2, Pixels, Southpaw, Straight Outta Compton, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
BLUE = Margetis ; RED = Ben V.
This movie in a nutshell: my youngest brother and I went to see this at midnight. The trailers didn’t look awful. It’s a Jurassic Park movie. It was the start of summer. Nothing could go wrong. Then we looked up showtimes – there was no midnight premiere. The Thursday previews were at 8 pm and 10 pm, but there was no midnight. This was a bad sign, so we saw the 8 pm show. At 8:45 my brother checked his phone and started fake crying. I asked what was wrong and he showed me his phone: it was only 8:45. It felt like we had been there for hours, but we still had over an hour left. This feeling was no less painful a second time.
Because the theme of this franchise after the first movie is “no one learns from their mistakes,” this movie opens with a weird stand-alone shot of a dinosaur egg hatching, but the horribly-done CGI dinosaur inside the egg looks decidedly evil. This brings up another point: the other big shift after the first movie was that the dinosaurs are the bad guys, for whatever reason.
Anywho, the movie kicks off with Judy Greer getting a divorce and sending her kids to the new Jurassic Park to spend a weekend with their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, woefully), while Judy Greer procures a hasty divorce. Weird tone to start out on. Anyway, the kids (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) get to the new Jurassic Park and meet their aunt’s terrible assistant. They then meet their aunt, who is too busy to deal with them, and they get mad at her for not remembering how old they are…? Like, sometimes I’m impressed when my mom doesn’t call me by one of my siblings’ names, and you expect your aunt, who runs the world’s foremost dinosaur zoo, to remember how old you are? Shut up, dorks.
Elsewhere on the island, Chris Pratt is training velociraptors. Vincent D’Onofrio says “hey, we could sell these to the military!” and Chris Pratt is like “these are special animals, we can’t do that.” So it’s like, what are you training them for…? This movie doesn’t ask you to just suspend disbelief – it asks you to turn your brain off entirely. Bryce Dallas Howard (BDH from here on out) tracks down Chris Pratt and asks him to come check out the new enclosure for Jurassic Park’s newest addition, a dinosaur hybrid whipped up by B.D. Wong to be the most terrifying attraction of all time. Do you see where we’re headed here?
The new dinosaur, the Indominus Rex, breaks out and sets off across the park to raise hell, like a giant lizard Stone Cold Steve Austin: she’s not here with an agenda, she just wants to wreck everything she can. Suddenly feeling like a bad aunt, BDH tries, with the help of Chris Pratt, to track down the boys, who are hunted by the Indominus herself while stuck in a gyroball. The movie spends 45 minutes following the boys, who basically end up walking through scene after scene of nostalgia bombs. These aren’t even Easter eggs, because every time the boys find something from the first movie, the younger one goes, “wow! a _____ from Jurassic Park!” Exhausting isn’t a strong enough word. Everyone teams up just in time for a massive showdown with the Indominus, during which Chris Pratt’s trained raptors and the T.rex from the original movies come together to kill the new bad guy. I want to say I’ve glossed over a lot of things, which I have, but also none of those things really matter. This movie is The Force Awakens to Jurassic Park’s A New Hope: a really dull, really modern rehashing of a perfect original. Michael, fill these people in on what I can’t bring myself to rehash.
Jurassic Park 4: Buy Pepsi begins by establishing a handful of characters we don’t give a shit about. There’s a wildly ambitious and borderline immoral career woman (a fairly misogynistically drawn character IMO) who can’t tear herself away from work to take care of her goddamn nephews, there’s a real Everyman Mr. USA raptor trainer who plays by his own rules and pretends not to have a huge boner for the career woman, and finally, there’s two grandchildren – one older, hormonal and mean, the other completely sans personality traits. In this world, the Jurassic Park fiasco was just a little fluke, NBD, because they’re going to make all their money back at a bigger and better dinosaur theme park sponsored by Pepsi Cola and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Restaurants. They even got Jimmy Fallon to do some whacky bits for park safety videos!
Anyway, everyone is overworked in the park so when shit goes down and gets fucked, it’s no big surprise. People start dying and getting eaten and then people are all trapped on the park island, and all hot and dehydrated and a couple honestly probably died of heat stroke, let’s be honest. Anyway, dinos start going nuts in scenes completely devoid of any suspense or surprise and we’re supposed to care about the thinly-drawn characters that were introduced to us. Was hoping every character would die so we could finally have a DINOSAURS ONLY Jurassic Park franchise sequel but alas, all four of these fuckers survived. There are a few high points here – it’s nice to see B.D. Wong back as Dr. Wu and Jake Johnston and Lauren Lapkis are entertaining as the two tech crew people on the Jurassic World park. I don’t know what the fuck their official job titles are other than they both drink a lot of Pepsi.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
directed by: J.A. Bayona; written by: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, B.D. Wong, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin, Peter Jason, Jeff Dern
runtime: 128 minutes
release date: June 22, 2018
other movies released summer of ’18: The Darkest Minds, Mile 22, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool 2, Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Crazy Rich Asians, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Overboard, Hereditary, Hotel Artemis, First Reformed, The First Purge, Eighth Grade, Show Dogs, Book Club, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, Ocean’s 8, Tag, Uncle Drew, The Equalizer 2, Unfriended: Dark Web, The Spy Who Dumped Me, BlacKkKlansman, Billionaire Boys Club, The Meg, The Wife, Destination Wedding
BLUE = Margetis ; RED = Ben V.
Much like your mild defense of Jurassic Park III, Ben, my mild defense is for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Somehow, this was an overall less aggravating watch experience for me because it dips so deep into the pool of stupidity that it actually ends up being kind of fascinating in a still awful way. This one, even more so than its predecessor, is really popping boners for nostalgia. There’s so many dumb, milquetoast references to Jurassic Park that it’s clear this movie was made for some self-proclaimed Jurassic Park fan who really isn’t even a fan, just some idiot who sort of likes the idea of dinosaurs and has seen the original more than once. Everything is so bland and flavorless here, sterile and uninteresting. Is my heart supposed to just automatically soar out of my chest cause I hear eight bars of a John Williams score and see a CGI T-Rex/Raptor hybrid chewing on a car door?
Anyway, the dumb story for this one is dumb and is more about cloning humans than actual dinosaurs. James Cromwell AKA Babe’s Dad AKA Logan Roy’s Brother is an old work buddy of John Hammond and has retained the rights to dinosaurs or some shit. I don’t know. He has an assistant who is an evil man and a real sneaky Pete, and he is involved in a black market dinosaur ring where foreign governments (and our own) are buying dinosaurs to use in various terrorist attacks across the globe. You see, dinosaurs have all been sequestered to this island that is threatened by an erupting volcano prompting dinosaur rights activists, yes you read that correctly, to step in and be angry cause the government is killing these poor animal things. Jeff Goldblum gets called before congress to be like “What are you all fucking nuts? Dinosaurs can’t live amongst you, idiots! Yes, let’s wipe them out, they shouldn’t even exist anyway, it was a crime against nature!” To which everyone is like “OMMMG, Jeff Goldblum is a war criminal! I want to interact with raptors on a daily basis!”
Anyway, NOT Chris Pine and NOT Jessica Chastain have the help of James Cromwell’s granddaughter who ends up being revealed as a clone, a huge bombshell the movie immediately moves away from. There’s a scene where this little girl finds out she’s a clone, and her whole world breaks. She’s upset and crying and shell-shocked, and NOT Chris Pine is just like “move it! there’s a dinosaur coming!” And the movie never addresses it ever again until the next movie. WTF. It’s almost as ridiculous as them trying to make a raptor a main character, which isn’t insane to me because it’s a raptor but because they don’t spend enough time developing this raptor as a character. Look, dinosaurs are eventually going to take over these movies with little to no human characters. That’s inevitable. And when they inevitably do that, they need to develop these dinosaur characters more than this if they want them to hold up an entire movie.
Colin Trevorrow has something against clones. I do not know what this man’s issue with clones is, but holy fuck is that weird hatred on full display in this movie. It’s revealed to us that the little girl is a clone of her mom, and the mood gets IMMEDIATELY dark. Like, my dude, Dolly the Sheep was 1996. The point of Jurassic Park is literally the implications of cloning. And yet the worst thing in the world to this guy is that they… cloned… a human? Like, it wasn’t enough that they just skirted by her being a clone, but the fact that it was supposed to be sinister to us was fucking bizarre. Trevorrow was also a writer on Rise of Skywalker, another movie in which clones are bad, despite clones being WHOLLY ENGRAINED in the entirety of the Star Wars franchise.
This brings me to what I want to rant about: I don’t think Colin Trevorrow understands the films he’s supposed to be making. He made the same non-issue of clones a HUGE issue in both of his tentpole Jurassic World and Star Wars projects, and he also doesn’t show a lot of respect for the source material. He’s like the guy in film or art school who wants to remake some classic but with guns and drugs. He’s like, the totally un-camp version of Baz Luhrmann. The only reason Romeo + Juliet works is BECAUSE of the camp. Had that movie not had the flashy costumes, a strangely hot John Leguizamo, and the overly-stylized gun violence, it would’ve been a Colin Trevorrow film. I rest my case, and I’m so glad we’ve almost rested this franchise.
Jurassic World: Dominion
directed by: Colin Trevorrow ; written by: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Laura Goldblum, Jeff Dern, B.D. Wong, Omar Sy, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Campbell Scott, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Scott Haze, Elva Trill
runtime: 146 minutes
release date: June 10, 2022
other movies released summer of ’22: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Pete Davidson Marmaduke, Firestarter Remake, Downton Abbey: A New Era, Men, Top Gun: Maverick, The Bob’s Burgers Movie, Lightyear, Cha Cha Real Smooth, Elvis, The Black Phone, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Thor: Love and Thunder, Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, Nope, Bullet Train, D.C. League of Super-Pets
BLUE = Margetis ; RED = Ben V.
For starters, fuck you Michael for making me write the recap for this movie, because this is literally a Sisyphean effort. For the audience, Michael and I saw this movie in theaters on Friday, 06/10, at 10 PM. I fell asleep no fewer than 4 times. FULL DISCLAIMER: I can’t assure you that ANY of what I write here happened in the order that it did, or happened at all, because, like I said, I was probably sleeping.
Annoyingly, this movie opens with a “Now This”-style news video that catches you up on what happened in the last movie. Blockbusters don’t need recaps. Movies as a whole need to stop bowing to the audience so much, because FUCK is what we’re getting now such a reflection of people needing EVERYTHING spelled out for them because you’re all majoring in finance without taking one real literature class. Actually, back up, the movie opens with a Minions short where two minions get chased by a shitty T.rex and then Universal thanks us for showing up and reminds us to see Rise of Gru. Everyone in our theater laughed at this bit, then I laughed at everyone laughing, because holy shit we are culturally doomed.
If you’ve seen a trailer for this movie, you’ve seen the whole movie. It’s not even about dinosaurs. It’s not even a Jurassic Park movie. The main “villain” of this film is Dodgson, the guy who Wayne Knight says ”see, no one cares!” about in the first movie. He’s started another cloning company. BD Wong is there, still creating mutant dinosaurs but seeming not thrilled about. This new company, Biosyn, is basically a stand-in for Monsanto, a real-life company doing absolutely horrific shit to our actual environment, but I don’t expect that this film’s target audience (children who like dinosaur toys) to get that parallel. The REAL villains of this film are a bunch of locusts (seriously) that are eating up the midwest… unless the farmers are using Biosyn seeds to grow crops. This is how we rope Laura Dern back into the fray, despite the fact that she was a paleobotanist, not an actual botanist or, you know, a Green Peace agent.
Meanwhile, Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt are raising the clone girl from the last movie. Biosyn needs to kidnap her because not only is she a clone, but she’s a genetically modified one, and they… don’t know… how to modify… genetics? They can make dinosaurs but can’t genetically modify things? Something here makes ZERO sense. I really didn’t understand why they needed to kidnap the girl besides to get BDH and Pratt back into the mix. Oh, that’s the only reason why she gets kidnapped? Sweet. (jk, my wife has informed me that the clone was kidnapped because she’s technically “intellectual property,” not a person, and we’re supposed to care about her fictional rights. Yeah.)
Dern goes to try and convince Sam Neill into going with her to Biosyn to tell them to stop making horrible locusts, another nonsense move. Dern reveals she’s no longer married and Sam Neill pops a near-visible boner. Remember that bit I had about Trevorrow not understanding the franchises he’s working in? This is a big part of that. Dern and Neill go to Biosyn, meet Dodgson, and learn that Jeff Goldblum is here. Goldblum knows the company is evil and is plotting to take it down from the inside, so he fills Dern and Neill in on this and they all start trying to break this bad boy down… from the inside.
Meanwhile, again, BDH and Pratt meet a pilot played by DeWanda Wise who will fly them to Biosyn because she kind of helped kidnap the clone girl and now she feels bad about it. On the subject of feeling bad, I feel bad for DeWanda Wise in this movie. She’s such a capable actress, but honestly all of her scenes center on close-ups of her eyes which, while absolutely beautiful, are not that important to a movie about dinosaurs and clones and locusts. At least I didn’t think they were that important, but we see them enough that maybe I’m wrong.
The Jurassic World part of this movie is that the Biosyn campus is surrounded by dinosaurs. Like, that’s really it, the dinosaurs are an after-thought in the franchise that’s supposed to be about dinosaurs. All the leads of the new and old trilogy meet up, the T.rex reappears to fight the new big bad dinosaur, and everyone escapes to help kill the locust swarms across the US. Dodgson gets killed, despite the fact that he’s not the real villain, it’s some dude in all black who just makes the >:[ face the whole time. BD Wong is saved and for some reason redeemed. A voiceover tells us that humanity will just have to learn to co-exist with dinosaurs. The fact there wasn’t an opening night promotional bumper sticker given away seems like a gross oversight.
The whole point of this film should have been activism or showing us that companies and corporations are truly evil and no one involved in one deserves a shred of respect or justice, but Universal is owned by Comcast, who has a really muddy track record with regards to trying to block legislation on net neutrality issues, so like… we can’t be too mean to CEOs, right? The other idea I had was that dinosaurs should’ve just been tearing shit up non-stop, killing everyone and everything, and retaking the planet. A dinosaur uprising would be much preferred to me ever having to watch this big hot steaming pile of shit ever again. Michael, a word?
The disparity in quality between Steven Spielberg‘s 1993 Jurassic Park and the rest of these movies is almost amazing. The sequels, whether it be the bland 1997 Spielberg-helmed Lost World or the glossy, clone-obsessed, horrendous-CGI-laden diarrhea fest that was Fallen Kingdom, never come close to capturing the fun or the spectacle of the original. That’s mostly because these other films have zero suspense, one-dimensional characters and are just too fucking ambitious for their own good (child clone subplot, Dinosaur civil rights, Dogson and Wu’s star-crossed romance). Dominion is no exception, in fact, it very well might be the absolute worst entry the franchise has to offer despite a sporadically charming but mostly garishly written reunion between Goldblum, Dern, and Neill. Christ, there’s a scene where Grant asks Ellie how she kept in touch with Malcolm, to which she replies, “He slid into my DMs.” Vomit.
This one tries to balance both a Chris Pratt/Bryce Dallas Howard storyline with a Goldblum/Dern/Neill subplot, and that juxtaposition ends up accidentally highlighting how thinly written and violently uninteresting both Pratt and Howard‘s characters are. At least Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm are played by three of the best actors of their generation, instead of just Andy from Parks & Rec and NOT Jessica Chastain. If I have to watch stupid Chris Pratt put his dumb fucking hand out to tame a raptor one more time, I’m going to lose my mind. So this one is so desperate for nostalgic callbacks that it makes the non-character Dogson its villain. For those of you who don’t remember who Dogson was because you’re not currently in a stage play based on the original film, Dogson was the guy working for the competing dinosaur lab that Newman was stealing embryos for. Remember, they had a scene in that cafe? “DOGSON, DOGSON, WE GOT DOGSON HERE!” Well, anyway, he’s funding and fucking Dr. Wu (the always loveable B.D. Wong) and the plot surrounds them trying correct some wrong that brought back locusts that are eating every crop in America but really they’re just trying to cover up their own tracks.
I don’t understand why this series keeps trying to make Dr. Wu a villain and then bailing last second. Also, I don’t understand why a mainstream blockbuster released during Pride month would feature a gay, interracial couple as the super villains. Seems kinda in poor taste. I mean, did Rick Santorum executive produce this? In all seriousness, I doubt it was on purpose and I doubt director Colin Trevorrow is a homophobe. I just think he’s a dipshit. A dipshit who is obsessed with cloning. Seriously, what is with this guy and cloning? Didn’t he get it out of his system with The Rise of Skywalker? Jurassic Park: Dominion is more about cloning than dinosaurs with a somewhat action-y hero child clone character who just seems like a lazy and unimaginative amalgamation of El from Stranger Things, Newt from Aliens, and countless other pint-sized archetypes from “child in danger” movies. The actress who plays her is actually not terrible which is a minor miracle seeing how one-dimensional the role is.
The three returning vets are far better than Pratt and Howard, with Goldblum shining the most. Sam Neill looks embarrassed and annoyed to be there while Laura Dern seems to be doing her best to prop up a character whose entire personality in the original was, “I want to have kids!” The CGI dinosaurs look terrible here but they are given a few fun moments where they do something cute and sassy. If they’re going to keep making these movies, and after seeing the box office receipts for this bad boy, it’s inevitable, I hope they release one that’s only dinosaurs with no human actors. Real dinosaurs too, no CGI shit – of course, I mean puppets and animatronics. Who needs tired and trope-y dialogue between two poorly written characters when you can just have a scene where a Triceratops takes a relaxing bath in a lake and farts a couple times. I’d buy that for a dollar! More dinosaur farts, please!
directed by: Seth McDonalds; written by: Seth McDonalds
cast: Michael Margetis, Bill Collins, other people
runtime: 98 minutes
release date: June 17, 2022 – July 30, 2022 (extended)
BLUE = Margetis ; RED = Ben V.
Before jumping too far into reviewing this play, I want to heap an immense amount of praise on All Puppet Players, Phoenix’s premiere adult-puppet-show-theatre-troupe. I’ve never seen them do a bad show – not even the kid-friendly Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, no matter what they say about it on stage! Even if Jurassic Park isn’t your bag -although why the fuck else would you have this far otherwise?- they do a whole laundry list of shows, including a Die Hard Christmas musical. If you’ve never been, you’ve really missed out.
Onto Jurassic Puppets, I’ve seen this show three times now – twice during the original run 6 (!!!) years ago, once this run – and it still hits on all cylinders. The production budget this time around is infinitely higher than the first, and I thought this made a lot of the jokes that stayed the same ever better: now you had some incredibly low-brow fart jokes made while Seth wore a T.rex costume so good that it would clean up at any Halloween party for the rest of your life. Not to be too biased, but Mike really is the hero of this show as one of only two human characters, the other being whichever beautiful genius plays Mr. DNA and does the greatest hybrid monologue-interpretive dance you’ve ever seen. Mike also gets to dance, and I have to say I think you really nailed the cartwheel this time. Mike also gets the funniest line of the entire show when he tells a dinosaur hand puppet that he’s going to “fuck you up with my car.” I know this line is funniest because of A) swearing and B) Mike’s delivery, but I had to really try to suppress my laughter after about the three-minute mark to keep from getting called out by someone on-stage. As someone with an English degree who, ironically, hates plays, this one sure tickles my fancy. Great job, Mike!
Ben, you’re too kind. I am merely a human vessel the ethereal spirit of ACTING ebbs and flows through. That being said, I did win the much-coveted AriZoni Award for Best Supporting Actor in a local play for this role, so maybe I can take some of the credit. Working on Jurassic Puppets was one of the most fulfilling creative endeavors in recent years, thanks in no small part to the genius of Seth McDonalds, a local theater director, and remarkably skilled puppeteer. He wrote this play six years ago and has been tinkering with it ever since, cutting out scenes that didn’t make sense and adding/updating bits to fit the current cultural climate. He even wrote the Newman part for me, after I constantly phone harassed him about being in the show. He got a big ass t-rex from China, cast some local puppeteers and his wife made my Newman costume, and we were ready to go!
Jurassic Puppets tells the story of a down-on-his-luck, diabetic systems analyst being harassed and emotionally abused by his misogynist old coot of a boss, played by this good dude named Bill Collins, he’s great! Newman isn’t great with money and has a weakness for sex workers, so he must constantly pester his boss for a liveable wage to which he is always denied. This sick bastard refuses to give his employees bathroom or smoke breaks and tells a female doctor that flipping a power switch is “as easy as turning on a kitchen light.” Yep, this guy is a huge piece of shit. Anyway, feeling undervalued, underfed, and underfucked, Newman seeks appreciation outside the organization in the form of a rival dinosaur science company who offer him a liveable wage if he borrows some dinosaur embryos over the weekend. Will Newman be able to get his groove back and improve his life, or will his asshole boss get in his way? Come see the show and find out!