JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION

We’ve FINALLY reached the end of this Jurassic journey. And if the next series of films carries that name, you’re all witnesses in the lawsuit I will bring up against Amblin Entertainment, Universal, and whatever other company is involved with the franchise going forward.

I never had a chance to see this film in theaters, continuing my streak of never once going to a theater to see one of these movies. It seems that timing has always been an issue and I’m not interested enough to find a workaround. Although considering how much I paid for VOD, I think I would have preferred the cost of a theater. But it doesn’t matter now.

Jurassic World Dominion follows the newest Hollywood trend of bringing back original actors and pairing them with the new cast of characters. And to be honest, those moments were the biggest highlight of this film to me. Too bad it happened in the last 45 minutes. Beyond that novelty, this was a nothing movie to me. None of the stakes that are spoken about as a global catastrophe feel like they are as big as they want us to believe it is. Now, extinct dinosaurs roam the Earth and are disrupting the current ecosystem, which could lead to many more problems. I feel like I mentioned that possibility last time. The idea of humans having to co-exist with dinosaurs while trying to figure out a long-term game plan SOUNDS like an interesting movie. More interesting than this. Hell, that short film Battle at Big Rock, had more potential than this.

Instead, we are presented with more corporate stupidity fueled by greed. You know, the same plot we’ve seen time and again. This time, InGen is no longer the problem but rival company Biosyn, who I was hoping would pop up at some point. On the surface, they claim to be doing groundbreaking research in their fancy dinosaur preserve. But we all know better. At least this time they were smart about the location, choosing the Dolomite Mountains, the tough, black mountain range that won’t cop out when there’s heat all about.

But in the face of a massive ecological disaster, what does Biosyn do? Creates another ecological disaster. This comes in the form of once extinct giant locusts that were brought back to life to destroy crops that aren’t made from Biosyn seeds, thereby creating a way of controlling the world’s food supply. On one hand, this sounds like an incredibly idiotic idea, especially one to use as a plot device. On the other hand, I believe that this would 100% happen in reality, so perhaps that was their logic behind it. Henry Wu, back once again, is also responsible for this but for some reason, locusts were a bridge too far and regrets everything. You have to admit he has one hell of an unimportant story arc.

And while we’re talking about idiotic ideas, other humans follow suit and create fighting areas, black markets and so on for dinosaurs because why wouldn’t you? I think that’s what aggravates me so much about the film is they hit SO many familiar beats. Yeah ok sure this is probably what WOULD happen. But why do we have to go that route with the narrative? Colin Trevorrow returns to the director’s chair and is once again one of the writers. You are god of the story! And this is where you go? I’m honestly not impressed with this director. His name holds ZERO weight to me.

Then we have the sub-plot revolving around Maisie, the cloned daughter of Benjamin Lockwood, where we learn that Maisie ISN’T a clone at all but was conceived asexually BY Charlotte Lockwood. And because of this, she and Blue’s asexually conceived spawn Beta (which is a very unoriginal name BTW) are the keys to stopping this locust crisis or whatever. I felt they were trying to retcon Fallen Kingdom but just makes everything more convoluted. Sounds like Trevorrow would have been perfect for Rise of Skywalker…

Speaking of which, why does Maisie have a British accent? Last I checked, accents aren’t a genetic trait. Take the same person and put them in two different parts of the world during their formative years, and it’s an absolute fact they will have integrated with the local accents. Yet this child, never once having been raised by someone WITH a British accent, has one that’s deeply ingrained into who she is. I’m well aware that the actress is from London, but she’s not the actress. She’s this character who HAPPENED to have a British mother for some reason and honestly never really knew. But also had an American sounding father who clearly raised her… I’m overthinking this. More than the writers ever did.

I guess we should talk about the cast. Chris Pratt is back. Bryce Dallas Howard is also back. What are they doing outside of being parents to the clone girl? Similar things like they were doing in other movies, meaning nothing of any real substance that pays off in any way. Sam Neill and Laura Dern are also back as those characters they played in the first and third movies. They too are doing those things we saw them doing in previous movies because that’s what we, as an audience, want to see: the same old thing. I was a bit surprised how much they actually had to do here. They were surprisingly integral to the mess of a story. Goldblum is back. Albeit less than everyone else, honestly but he shines as always.

Biggest surprise return is our old pal, Lewis Dodgson, whom we last saw in the original film. Some might say, “wow, the last thirty years took a toll on that guy. I didn’t even recognize him.” Well that’s because this is a different actor. While I’m sure under different circumstances, the filmmakers would have extended an offer to original actor Cameron Thor to reprise his role. However, 14 counts of third-degree rape, 13 counts of sexual assault on a child, and six years in prison for said crimes may have played a role in that decision. Seriously, fuck that guy.

In any case, Campbell Scott takes over the role, and he’s a capable actor with a name that feels like an accident happened at the hospital. You’ve seen him in stuff before like Family Ties, Damages, and even the Secret Lives of Dentists. Despite his capability, Dodgson is more or less Eli Mills from Fallen Kingdom. Nothing about him makes him feel nuanced or unique. Just another greedy suit. But hey, we get to see the Barbasol can again! I’m glad to see they somehow found it at some point and did something with it. Dodgson even dies the same way as Nedry which I found… derivative. It’s like the filmmakers were going, “you see what we did? Huh? You see it?” Yeah.. we got it…

I also feel there were some scenes left on the cutting room floor between Dodgson and Ramsey because when Dodgson found out that Ramsey exposed what they were doing, Dodgson came off like he’d been betrayed by someone who was more than a work colleague. I know there was a line early on where Dodgson presented Ramsey as just like him, but that’s a minor line for such a major reaction. But at almost two and a half hours, who gives a damn?

More things that annoyed me: Grady needed a motorcycle to outrun these special attack raptors, yet somehow Claire outran one on foot no problem. That feels inconsistent. The T-Rex that shows up is apparently Rexy, the same T-Rex from before. Because there are no other T-Rexs ever created. The shot of Rexy walking by that Biosyn structure to create the illusion of the logo made me roll my eyes because there is NO telling how long they’ve wanted to do that. The fact that NO ONE had acknowledged that dinosaurs are imaginary. “ALL AN ILLUSION,” as Ellie once put it. It’s mind-boggling and frankly insulting.

Positives… hmm… it was nice to see NEW dinosaurs for a change. You know, ones that were some genetic aberration. The Therizinosaurus was pretty cool as was the Giganotosaurus, even though it was nothing more than a spikier T-Rex. The fight at the end was kinda cool. We got to see some dimetrodons which I don’t EVER remember seeing in one of these films. I’ve always been fascinated by their design. This film seemingly acknowledged part 3 by referring to Ellie’s husband Mark. But now that they are divorced, that allows Alan and Ellie to get a happy ending together, which is nice I guess. Michael Giachinno returns to score the film and does fine. Nothing stands out in the score. He reuses some of John Williams’ composition as he did before while adding his own themes but nothing astounding. It just is.

I know I’ve given hell to others for overthinking certain movies, but certain movies KNOW exactly what they are. This franchise has been all over the map in trying to find its identity. And it feels like it only knows from the start and gets lost along the way. Much like Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is the superior film in the trilogy. As the stories progress, they don’t know what to do and the plot becomes so convoluted that the thrill of it all is gone. I think I would have preferred another 90 minute roller coaster versus a 150 minute slog. If you’re going to take that much of my time, you better entertain the hell out of me.

In closing, I think I realized I’m not much of a fan of this franchise. And if this is the end of it, then I’d be perfectly fine with that. But like all the jerk-asses in these movies, Hollywood sees the money in dinosaurs. And it’s only a matter of time before the franchise is revived by advanced cloning techniques only to be renamed Billy and the Cloneasaurus. 

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM

I don’t think I’m going to cover all the bases I wanted to here because I’m writing this a few weeks removed from watching this film again. Upon rewatching, I realized this would only be the second time I had seen it. Then I wondered why? Over two hours later, I remembered.

Fallen Kingdom feels like a stepping stone to another idea. As if one of the screenwriters said, “wouldn’t it be cool if dinosaurs were on the loose in the world again and people have to learn to coexist with them? Too bad they’re stuck on an island.” Then there’s a brief pause, the screenwriters stare at one another and then the other one says, “But what if they got OFF?” And that became the basis for this movie. But because clever screenwriting is difficult for some people, they chose to lift numerous elements from The Lost World and essentially remake that film while adding their own ideas so it’s “different enough.”

Previous Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow decided to hand the reins of this film to Spanish director J.A. Bayona for reasons that I can only assume amounted to not wanting to direct an inferior sequel, which he knew it was. He co-wrote the freaking thing. And I can’t necessarily fault Bayona for everything. You can attempt to polish and sculpt a turd into something amazing, but at the end of the day, it’s still a turd.

The film has glimmers of good ideas. But they are either never paid off, rip-off something else, or pay-off in the worst way imaginable. And we’ll get into them as we go along, so buckle up listeners. This is gonna be like falling off a cliff in a gyrosphere.

Just like that…

So clearly, as previously stated, no one EVER learns a lesson in these films. And the opening scene proves that immediately. We see the aftermath of Jurassic World’s destruction meant to be set a few weeks after it all went down. Knowing this little detail helps explain how the Mosasaurus was alive at the beginning of the film, but not at the end of the film. People are ONCE AGAIN trying to do something unholy with dinosaurs as some team goes back to the island to collect Indominus DNA. Because it worked out so well last time.

Fast forward three years, another detail that would have benefitted from a subtitle, and Isla Nublar is about to face the wrath of Mother Nature… or God… or whatever imaginary creature is planning to off this island of imaginary creatures. The U.S. government debates on whether or not they should do something. But being the U.S. government, we already know they already DON’T do anything, so their involvement here is a moot point. Jeff Goldblum returns as Ian Malcolm for this little bookend cameo that feels very pointless and shoehorned in. I like Goldblum. And I like Ian Malcolm. But was his “testimony” necessary for this? I feel like the survivors of the more recent Jurassic World debacle could speak to this topic just as well.

Claire has moved on from being the corporate face of the park to being the founder of the Dinosaur Protection Group, which is looking to save the dinosaurs from going extinct again. But… they aren’t REAL. They are abominations created by man that SHOULD NOT EXIST in the world’s new eco-system. The island, at least, made sense. It’s isolated, self-sustaining. It works. Obviously, they want to just move them to a NEW island and that will fix everything. But will it? Isla Nublar seemed to be a genetically designed paradise for dinosaurs. Another island will just instantly work? Doesn’t make sense to me. And the U.S. government clearly agreed with sane reasoning, showing how fictitious this film really is.

In any case, this decision prompts Sir Benjamin Lockwood, a former associate of John Hammond that we’ve never heard of until this moment, to assemble a team to go to the island and rescue the dinosaurs. Hmm… that sounds familiar. Lockwood is played by the always amazing James Cromwell. The man is always a welcome sight to me, no matter how bad the film may be. Just occurred to me that he and Bryce Dallas Howard were in Spider-Man 3 together as Captain and Gwen Stacy, respectively. Then again… let’s cast Cromwell as Spider-Gwen…I’d be down for that.

While here we are also introduced to YET ANOTHER kid in this damn franchise, Maisie Lockwood. One might immediately expect her to stowaway onto the ships or whatever because we need kids in peril. However, she doesn’t do that meaning we know that the dino action is going to have to come to her.

One specimen that seems to take precedent on the island is our friend Blue, the smartest velociraptor that was ever imagined. But since nobody knows how to find her, Claire enlists Owen Grady, doing his best Chris Pratt imitation, to go find his old friend. The fact they were most interested in Blue should have raised HUGE red flags. But since the dying old man asked nicely, then it should be fine. Lockwood isn’t a bad guy. He’s just done some… questionable science some might find immoral. But we’ll get to that.

Then the movie becomes the Lost World but with the threat of a volcano. Ted Levine plays Ken Wheatley who initially comes off like he’ll be an ok guy, but we know better than that. He soon shows his true dick colors and is there for no other reason than to secure ol Blue. So much so he leaves Owen Pratt to die in lava. Seriously, the man should have been burned by the lava. I’ve never been around the stuff, but basic science would denote an estimated safe distance of 10 feet, at the VERY least. And that’s a generous estimation. Too close for me. Grady was right on top of it and came out unscathed. Bullshit. But I keep forgetting this is fantasy and junk science.

That’s two feet…TOPS!

In any case, the team gets a number of dinos off the island before all of Isla Nublar goes up in flames. Ok maybe not ALL of it. But they sure sell the idea, even though there’s a huge section of the island that looks unscathed. But the movie said it’s gone, so I should trust it knows what’s happening. Before moving on, this looks like a pretty large island. Large enough to house numerous species of dinosaur, yet somehow between this film and the last film, the characters all seem to stomp along the same ground. How convenient they found the gyrosphere from the last movie?

Back at the Lockwood compound, we find that Lockwood’s aide Eli Mills, played by Rafe Spall, has bigger plans for all the dinosaurs. That plan being money because why wouldn’t it be? That’s what every plot involving corporations revolves around. We’re gonna sell dinosaurs to other people who may or may not use them as weapons. People, keep in mind, have NO idea how to handle a dinosaur. So even if these transactions were successful, the dinosaurs were going to wreak havoc across the globe no matter what. But hey… that’s not his problem. He got his money, right? Seriously, Mills is the biggest dick in the entire franchise.

We see Henry Wu is back and working for this knob head. He seems to have gone completely off the rails and is just all about creating these dino hybrids now. Here, we have the Indoraptor which is supposed to be better than the Indominus Rex because it’s LIKE a bigger, smarter raptor. Nothing about this thing made me feel like it was a step above the I-Rex. Just… another one. “Oh my god another genetically enhanced dinosaur. What are we going to do?” Let the dinos fight it out because if there’s anything worth watching here, it’s Blue fighting the Indoraptor. And how does ol Blue take care of this monstrosity? The same way fan favorite character Kelly Malcolm did: gymnastics! You can’t tell me that wasn’t a homage. Finally, the fate of all the captive dinosaurs is up in the air. Claire and Owen KNOW they must die. But wouldn’t you know it, Maisie lets them go. Why? “Because they’re like me.” or whatever she said.

Dinos are now free and roaming the Earth once more. With that, now they can make the movie they REALLY wanted to make. And sure the prospect of THAT idea is cool. But this is what we had to go through to get there. People can piss on the others all day long, but THIS is the weakest entry. And considering the track record of diminishing returns, I have low expectations for Dominion.

There is so much wasted potential here. Justice Smith and Toby Jones are great actors with nothing to do. The “idea” of weaponizing dinosaurs was brought up again, yet no follow through. If you’re gonna go off-the-rails then go hard! Let me see Jurassic World turn into Dino Riders. It’s the crossover those of us that grew up in the 80s have been waiting for.

The franchise wasn’t far off from this…

The clone sub-plot feels like it had a purpose that was never fully realized. Ok so Maisie was the clone of Lockwood’s deceased daughter, and her existence or Lockwood’s obsession with clones led to a falling out with Hammond. These are fascinating plot points that could be worth exploring. Why wouldn’t a grieving father take advantage of the ability to replace his child? What are the moral implications? Etc and so forth. I know this isn’t a dino-centric subplot but it could make for interesting character development. But the whole thing is squandered. Ok so she’s a clone of the daughter. And? Yet she understands the dinosaurs because she too is a clone. Get fucked.

Speaking of things that can get fucked, there may be other moments before this film where someone says, “the franchise went too far,” or whatever. This franchise lost me the moment the Indoraptor smiled AT THE CAMERA. How can we take anything seriously went you just had your freaking mutant dino pull a wink and nod out of its ass? You might as well allowed it to speak! It’s not off the table now! At least when a raptor spoke in a previous film, it WAS A FREAKING DREAM!!! But I digress.

If there was one thing I could speak positively about in this film, it’s the shot of the Brachiosaurus being left behind and dying on the island. There’s alot going on there. While I’m not a fan of the idea that THIS particular Brachiosaurus is the very first one we EVER saw in these movies, it does work in the context of the scene. It becomes the beginning and the end of Hammond’s dream. It’s beautiful and haunting all at once.

I’m surprised I had this much to say about this film since I do remember checking out several times as I attempted to watch it again. Had this film done worse at the box office and not set up another film, I could easily believe that this would have ended the franchise dead in its tracks.

JURASSIC WORLD

They did it. The crazy sons-a-bitches actually did it! What am I talking about? They opened the freaking park! After two failed attempts and hefty litigation, InGen never gave up and successfully opened that dream factory. But clearly, no one learned any real lessons here, did they? Much like the exchange in the Lost World…

It’s been close to fifteen years since we last saw a Jurassic Park flick. Some new ideas and fresh blood had to be injected into the franchise. During the planning stages, numerous pitches were tossed around with the most notable being weaponized dinosaurs. While that thankfully didn’t quite make it into this film, traces of it are still present.

The idea of showing the idea of the park coming to fruition, in an even more updated society, was definitely the right move for a follow up after all this time. In a day and age where corporations run everything, it was a clever reflection of the world that could have been turned into some very biting satire had the right writers and directors been involved. BUT I suppose satire isn’t for everyone. These days it seems to go over everyone’s head.

And I’m not trying to dismiss the script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. They are a pretty good writing duo that wrote Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which are superb stories, in my opinion. But I know that sometimes, writers’ names can stay on a project even though their work has been torn to shreds. Not saying that happened here. Just covering all the bases, ok?

Colin Trevorrow was tapped by Spielberg to helm this soft reboot of the franchise, after he impressed the legendary director with his pitch for the flick. Hollywood seemed to think Trevorrow was on his way to being the next big director in Hollywood. But then his movie Book of Henry came out and suddenly his name became toxic. He was even once slated to direct Rise of Skywalker, and while I don’t think his previous film had anything to do with that, I’m sure it didn’t help matters either. Especially since Lucasfilm was now too afraid to do anything new. That’s right. I LOVE The Last Jedi. And I would defend it here and now, but I gotta talk about this dinosaur movie.

So since we haven’t had an action-star leading these films before, the writers finally decided to make one with Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt. Pratt did not start his career as a hunky superstar. It was only after his turn as Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy did things turn around for the guy. And good for him on that too. He could have easily coasted in Hollywood as the loveable oaf character. I know the guy gets a lot of hate these days, but I still like him. I guess people have a problem with him because he loves Jesus or something. I don’t know. He can love whomever he wants… as long as it isn’t children. Hey, let’s move on, shall we?

Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire presents herself as one half of a new John Hammond. Although she is all business, no imagination and wonder. She does a fine job here, however I think her career trajectory will see her following in her father’s footsteps. Sure, she is a far cry from the hideous chud he turned out to be, but she seems to have a knack for directing just as he does. Irrfan Khan as Masarani is the other side of that coin, being the man who wants the spectacle to be as grand as possible, no matter how stupid the means are to get there. Also, I feel like his ability to be a pilot was shoe-horned into being a way to kill him later. Just felt like it had no purpose but for that moment.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays the guy we expect him to: the asshole. But he does it so well. Fun fact: he and Arliss Howard, who played Peter Ludlow in the Lost World, were both in Full Metal Jacket and both played heads of InGen. They also uttered similar lines about owning the dinosaurs. B.D. Wong returns as Henry Wu, a character I think we had all but forgotten about. What a heel turn that guy made. Sure, we didn’t really know much about him in the first film. Maybe back then he was a different person. I guess a company forcing you to play Dr. Frankenstein would make anyone go a little mad.

While Judy Greer is briefly in the film, it’s a delight seeing her. In fact, I feel like I see her in everything now. And I think that’s why I’m developing a serious crush on her too. Jake Johnson as Lowery is the comic relief in the film and a delight as well. Everything about him feels like commentary attempting to be made. Who wouldn’t roll their eyes at “Verizon Wireless present Indominus Rex”? He was a proxy for us. 

And once again, we have kids in this goddamn movie. Yet I can’t argue against them being there since there are kids all over the damn park. But what purpose do they serve to the plot? NONE. Finally, and you’ll have to excuse my language here, fuck Jimmy Fallon.

Throughout the film, we are treated to numerous little Easter eggs referencing other films. There was the scene recreation of the Gallimimus running through the field. The T-Rex smashing through the skeleton of a Spinosaurus. Lowery has a less-threatening Dennis Nedry vibe.The old visitor’s center stuff. I could go on and on, but you can find all this stuff for yourself. I can’t do everything for you.

I liked that we also got some chaos in the park. This happening also relates back to my previous statement that no one learned anything, because one would assume that precautions against THIS VERY INCIDENT would be in place. Sure, it’s a long shot. You’ve taken all these other necessary precautions, but still plan for that 1% chance since it’s still a possibility.

Then there’s the creation of the Indominus Rex. The first plausible question would be “why in god’s name would you do something like this?” Then you remember corporations and money and all that jazz and then it all makes sense. A corporation would ABSOLUTELY do this just to make an extra buck. And that monstrosity would absolutely break free and go on a rampage. It’s the most believable aspect of this entire movie. No way Jimmy Buffet is gonna be hanging out at this park.

Well I’ll be damned…

The I-Rex was a pretty cool idea. This allows some creative freedom as to what this thing could be and to not be bogged down by decades of science fiction. As a side bar, I’m not done with this joke and I’m going to continue to go all in with it. Its intelligence really added some much needed intensity to the franchise because we couldn’t anticipate what it would do, at least I didn’t. I don’t like figuring things out about a movie. I’d rather enjoy the thrill of the moment. That said, we knew EXACTLY what was going to happen when soldiers went after it. It’s a film trope at this point. The obligatory soldier massacre.

When Grady was tasked to inspect the I-Rex, on one hand, I could believe he could deduce some of its tactics and reasoning. However, there was a time or two that I felt like he took a leap. Like how did he know the I-Rex, which after saying it again makes me think that is intentional like the “iPhone” but anyway, how did he know it KNEW where the tracker was. I suppose it would be a logical deduction, but not for him to come to. Maybe it’s the way the scene is framed. It nags at me.

I did enjoy the twist that the I-Rex was part raptor and turned the Grady’s quartet against him. I guess it should have been a given but whatever. It raised the stakes almost instantly. Took the wind out of their sails pretty quick. And let’s talk about the raptors, having someone train them and having a domineering relationship with them was an interesting choice.Throughout these films, we’re always reminded how raptors are intelligent. If that is true, then it doesn’t feel that far fetched that one could create a bond with one, much like Grady did with Blue. I think it adds something new and interesting to the film.

There also seemed to be mutual respect amongst dinosaurs against the I-Rex, which I liked. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The final showdown between the I-Rex and T-Rex is one of the biggest highlights of the film and the Mosasaurus delivering the final blow was a nice touch. It made the dinosaurs feel like more that forces of nature stomping around the park.

Let’s not forget to talk about that magnificent score by the talented chameleon Michael Giacchino. I know I lambasted the last composer for being a hack that just reused John Williams score. While Giachinno does sparingly use a reprise of John Williams original score, he also crafted his own equally compelling theme for this film that seemingly passes the torch while emulating the feel of a Williams score. I’m telling you the man is a musical genius. Even subtle touches like faint piano chords heard at the old visitor’s center scene are the work of someone who cares about the details.

While Jurassic World may not be the masterwork that Jurassic Park is known to be, I feel like it’s a fun thrill ride that takes us back to this world full of devious corporations and imagery creatures. What more could you ask for?

JURASSIC PARK III

I’m interested to hear other opinions about this film because, to me, this film is an oddity in the franchise. I don’t know if Universal had some sort of mandate to produce another film, but it feels like it was made as an obligation to a contract. Nothing about this film feels like it moves the needle forward or introduces anything of any real substance. At its core, it’s a truly pointless sequel made to cash in on the name Jurassic Park. Saying that, I really do find the film to be enjoyable. It’s a sleek 90-minute thrill ride that delivers on plenty of dino-action. And isn’t that what we came to see?

Early in pre-production, it seems that Michael Crichton was part of the pitch process but apparently couldn’t come up with a suitable idea and left the project. Eventually, the idea of a group of people getting stranded on Isla Sorna became the starting point and we got the movie presented. While I have no proof of this, I genuinely believe the script was written with Alan Grant as a supplemental character since he is kind of unnecessary when you think about it. Sure, he’s the dino “expert” but does his presence change anything outside of their rescue at the end? Any of the other characters could have been that person.

And I’m not saying this as a slight against Sam Neill. He is a welcome treat returning to this franchise and the movie is better off with him in it. It’s just a feeling that they weren’t 100% sure they could get him back for this film. But again, I have nothing to base this on besides the way things have been presented. Furthermore, the rest of the film feels smaller than the last two outings. The cast of characters is more streamlined and even the island feels condensed.

Let’s talk about that cast, shall we? I think since we had a return of Sam Neill as Alan Grant, it was nice to see Laura Dern return as Ellie Sadler, even if it was more than an extended cameo. The filmmakers could have easily explained her away, but it was nice seeing that the pair still had a relationship even if it wasn’t a romantic one. And to be honest, they weren’t all that affectionate in the first film anyway, so their separation doesn’t come as much of a shock. At least not to me.

Since there are no other returning cats members. Let’s focus on the Kirbys. Tea Leoni is a fine actress and all, but here she plays a typical “mom” role. You tell her not to shout for her son and she does it anyway. She comes off a bit incompetent which I undertsand. She’s just a mom now being chased by dinosaurs. Just makes you wonder how she and the rest of them survived. Same goes for William H. Macy, who is a great character actor, by the way. He feels somewhat wasted here but he was down to do the movie for no other reason than to “fight a dinosaur.” Guess those opportunities don’t come up very often.

Trevor Morgan plays Eric and is a fine child actor. He has seemingly worked steadily through the years but I couldn’t tell you many more films he’s been in besides this one. Furthermore, what is up with kids in all these damn movies? Why must there ALWAYS be a kid? Here, at least he’s a plot device but was Ian Malcolm’s daughter really necessary to the plot? I know I should have brought that up last time, but it just hit me here. I guess kids are a target audience with these movies. They seem to love big imaginary monsters like dinosaurs.

And since this film needs some form of antagonist for some reason, Alessandro Nivola plays Billy, the assistant looking to make a name for himself. Seriously, in what world would you think stealing the eggs of an animal would just go over well? He played his hand pretty hard too, freaking out over his precious bag. It’s possible he could have gotten them off the island, but no doubt at the cost of everyone else. I do like that moment after the Pteranodons have seemingly killed him and that one looks back at Grant and Mr. Kirby with this gaze that says “Youse guys wanna be next?” Billy should have died in my opinion. How he survived is one of this film’s biggest mysteries. Actually, it ISN’T, seeing as how the actor whined about his character dying that they changed the script.

Fucking actors.

The rest of the cast is fine too, but nothing to note since they all become dino fodder pretty quick. Although I will shout-out the amazing Michael Jeter, a local Tennessean like myself, who always turned in a great performance in whatever he did. He left us way too soon.

R.I.P.

The film’s directorial duties were handled this time around by Joe Johnston, a man who feels like he should have more film credits to his name. Even if you don’t know him by name, chances are you’ve seen one of his films. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the Rocketeer, Jumanji, the Wolfman, Captain America: the First Avenger… and those are just a few he directed. Johnston was apparently eager to direct a Jurassic Park film and even lobbied to direct the Lost World. Since Spielberg took that opportunity from him, he offered him the chance to direct this film to make up for it. Spileberg was busy with his next big hit that we all remember, A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

I want to meet the person that has watched this movie enough times they can give me a detailed synopsis.

With Spielberg directing another film, you know Big John Williams won’t be far behind. So the score was handed off to Don Davis who does an admirable job rehashing Williams’ original score. Am I saying he’s a hack? Not necessarily but considering, outside of this film, the only other film franchise of note that he scored was the original Matrix trilogy? And even that, what do you remember from that score but that title sting? Maybe I’m being too harsh on the guy. I mean he DID score Warriors of Virtue… gonna let that one sit for a moment.

‘Memba?

Speaking of music, a fun little tidbit I thought I would share is that the country-western song being played at the bar where Alan and Billy meet the Kirbys, apparently is a telltale sign that the Kirbys are not being honest. One of the lyrics reads,” And I lie, lie, lie,” which can be heard as the scene ends. Considering this song is written and performed by everyone’s favorite composer Randy Newman, this is a purposeful song about lying and is intentionally placed within the scene.

One thing I can say with confidence gets increasingly better with each film are the effects. In each film, they find ways to add new textures and details to the dinosaurs which I appreciate. Here, they went with some interesting color schemes which seem natural to reptilian creatures, but I’m not gonna say that I think they all work. I commend them for at least trying to do something different. Even more impressive is the animatronics work on display with the Spinosaurus model being the largest ever built at the time, measuring at 25 feet high, 40 feet long, and weighing 24,000 lbs. Pretty damn impressive if you ask me!

While I have no indications how a raptor would act, I do appreciate the added nuances to them here, showing their intelligence and how pack hunters would coordinate to hunt. The scene where they essentially set a trap to lure out the survivors was particularly clever. Would animals actually pull that off? I don’t see any reason they wouldn’t if they could deduce it would work. Plus, I appreciate that the raptors are only attempting to get their eggs back. Would they have chased them had the eggs not been stolen. That’s the real question. One I am not certified to answer. But if I were, I’d like to think not.

And I know the talking raptor scene is going to be brought up and torn to shreds because people hate it, but IT’S A DREAM SEQUENCE, PEOPLE! A DREAM!! It’s about as real as dinosaurs, so stop whining about it!

A t-rex attacks people in a cage in a scene from the film ‘Jurassic Park III’, 2001. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

How about that Spinosaurus? Prior to this movie, I was unaware of this particular species. How I have no idea considering the first record of a fossil discovery was 1912. I genuinely thought the writers made something up for this movie. Now, it’s funny that I thought that because if certain details are true, then this film connects deeper to the newest trilogy even more. If you take into account that this movie takes place on Isla Sorna, the first real question to ask should be, “Where the hell was this Spinosaurus in the last film?” And that’s pretty damn valid. However, take note of a comment from Billy when he and Grant are talking about it. “I don’t remember seeing that on InGen’s list.” To which Grant responds, “It wasn’t on their list. Which makes you wonder what else they were up to.”

This line along with certain supplemental material suggests that the Spinosaurus in this flick was a prototype hybrid, a precursor to the Indominus and Indoraptor, created by InGen scientists AFTER the events in The Lost World. If this is true, then this film no longer feels like an oddity but a precursor to the events in Jurassic World. Here’s hoping they tie it altogether in Dominion. Stay tuned to hear if they did!

Jurassic Park III isn’t some hidden gem that moviegoers have overlooked, but I think it’s underrated by comparison to its predecessors. The film doesn’t attempt to emulate Spielberg. It attempts to give you what you came to see: an action packed adventure full of dinosaur action and carnage. A true popcorn flick in every sense. It doesn’t get bogged down with complicated exposition or unnecessary plot points, although I guess one could argue Billy’s role is just that. In any case, you get what you paid for and there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes. Believe me. I’ve seen Troll 2.

THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK

The Lost World: Jurassic Park was a highly anticipated follow-up to the massive hit that was Jurassic Park. If there was a moment in Speilberg’s career to look back on as the moment he began to lose some of his spark, in my opinion, THIS would be the film to mark that moment. And I don’t say that as a person who despises this movie at all. I quite like it. But it was the first film of his that I remember being a mixed bag of reviews. Regardless I bought the VHS without seeing the movie previously and trusted it would be a fun time.

Spielberg wasn’t really known for sequels. Before this film, the only sequels he had ever directed were for the Indiana Jones series. However, only one was a sequel and the other was technically a prequel. AND their connections were loose at best. That is until we get to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and we all know how THAT turned out. Makes me glad they never followed through with that E.T. sequel, E2: Electric Finger Broom.

When trying just isn’t an option…

At the end of the first Jurassic Park, we’re kind of left with the question of “what now?” I mean our protagonists escaped the island after the dinosaurs broke free. But where do you go from there? Now I wouldn’t say sequels were rare back then, but they weren’t always a given. Some films that deserved a sequel never got one, while terrible movies seemed to spawn them on a yearly basis. Leprechaun, I’m looking at you. To me, this film could have ended the story at one. Sure there are questions like “what will happen to the dinosaurs now?” or “What about that can of Barbasol that’s buried under a pile of mud that’s now dirt?” Seriously, what IS up with that? That’s one of the most bothersome, unresolved plot threads to me. Who was paying Nedry to smuggle these embryos? FOR GOD’S SAKES I NEED ANSWERS! Ok quick Google search and it’s a company called Biosyn. Who are they? No idea but they were apparently mentioned in the book. 

The first book, not Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, which was published five years after the original novel and two years after the film. While one might think he had this idea just waiting to write the definitive follow-up to his hit novel, most critics made pointed observations that this was being structured to fit a film narrative in some way. That said, it seems that the novel and film were being produced simultaneously. And while they have similar plots, the novel does do things differently than the film, based on the synopsis I read. Yes, the synopsis. I’ve never read the book, ok? Why? I’ve never had a copy in front of me, so get off my back! I read. I think I’ve proven words are my strong suit. And that do be facts, yo!

Not to berate the dead or anything, but over the years, my view of Crichton’s work has changed over the years. During the release of Jurassic Park, he seemed like Hollywood’s new golden goose. His name seemed to lend that same amount of confidence and pedigree that Spielberg once had. However, if you look at his body of work, it’s… fine. Just not a list of heavy hits one after another. Again, not knocking his work. Just an observation.

Anyway, let’s dive in here. First things first: the cast. I genuinely believe Ian Malcolm was chosen to return all because of Jeff Goldblum. He was one of the biggest highlights from the original, so why NOT bring him back? He is even more Goldblum-y here! And I love it.

Outside of him, the rest of the cast is all-new, save for the cameos from Lex and Tim plus Hammond himself. All of which were welcome to see… even though Tim should be dead or at least in serious therapy but I’m not here to talk about that. Julianne Moore was an actress I was very familiar with at this point in her career. I’d seen her in quite a few movies by this point, and I was more than happy to see her here. Yes because she’s an amazing actress and also because I have the biggest crush on her. Red-heads, man. They drive me wild.

I wasn’t aware of Vince Vaughn prior to this, and while I like his performance here, he’s not someone I actively seek out to watch. I don’t dislike him. I just don’t go out of my way to see him. It’s like getting a side of coleslaw at a seafood joint. I didn’t ask for it, but I won’t turn it away either. The last film I saw him in was Freaky, and he was excellent in that. Richard Schiff is a great character actor who was one of those faces I knew from things, and always found him to be a delight. He’s now on ABC’s the Good Doctor and he nails it there every week. Eddie Carr was a fantastic character and one of the few tragic deaths in this entire series. He was just trying to save his friends, dammit!

Finally, Pete Postlethwaite is always amazing. I think this was the first film I really took note of him as an actor and loved him in anything I saw him in going forward. He just has a presence about him, you know? I’d love to praise Peter Stormare here, but all he does is act like a jerk-ass. Not one of his finest performances. John Williams does return to score the film, as he seemingly does for every Spielberg film. I’m sure he hasn’t scored all of them. But here he doesn’t phone it in and recycle the original score but creates something new that feels like a nice progression from the original. Still, it’s not as memorable.

So, this film kicks things off with a scene that, to my understanding, was in an early chapter of the original novel. In fact, several scenes found in this film came from the original novel such as hiding from the T-Rex behind a waterfall, and Deiter being killed by those… procompsognathus… pygmy lizards. In fact, that was how John Hammond died in the original novel.

When we are reintroduced to Ian Malcolm and soon after John Hammond, the plot is laid out explaining that there was another island of dinosaurs that is now in jeopardy of being obliterated, I suppose, and Hammond wants it protected. Now, say what you want about the man, but he doesn’t seem like a heartless bastard only looking for the next dollar. Sure, in the first film, it might come off that way. But I see it as a man who has achieved something monumental and wants to share it with the world. Name me a billionaire that would do that without regard to profit? Go ahead. I’ll wait.

In any case, he’s looking to preserve his creations, if that’s what we can call them. But those board members at InGen have taken control away from Hammond and have set their sights on using the island to populate their all-new Jurassic Park in San Diego. This is all well and good. But this SHOULD have been Biosyn, that company looking to steal the embryos from the first movie. But I guess since we didn’t clearly establish them, then what’s the point? At least the book I never read followed through. 

Some stuff happens. We see all the oohs and ahhs. Then the running and screaming. I have to say that Sarah Harding has got to be one of the dumbest characters sometimes. Like when she brings the injured baby T-Rex into the base camper or whatever you want to call it, the kid Kelly is the smartest person in that room. She reads the situation and is like, “ I need to get the hell up outta here NOW.” Which turns out to be the smart move.

While that scene on the cliffside is pretty intense, it’s also pretty ridiculous too. The tension as Sarah lies on the glass is on point. That would terrify anyone. You’re practically staring at death, waiting and wondering when your time is up because it’s coming. But then there’s the rope business. Most films don’t seem to give a damn about rope burns, or the amount of strength it would take to hold onto a rope. Hell, they’re all lucky they didn’t lose a limb when the whole camper went right off the cliff, passing them by without injury. But hey, if we’re going to suspend disbelief and say dinosaurs are real, I guess we can let this slide as well. I’M KIDDING!

I really dug the raptor scene in the field. I like the framing of the shot seeing the raptors creeping up on them. Oh and, by the way, those people deserved to die. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m NOT walking through tall grass. I grew up in the deep south. That’s a big “hell no” for many reasons. Dinosaurs are the least of my concerns. I also like how they add these little animalistic touches to the raptors where they attack one another. I don’t know why it amuses me, but it feels true to animal behavior. Even ones that never existed. I’M KIDDING!

I know it’s going to be brought up, so I’m gonna speak up in defense of Kelly and her gymnastic abilities. If ANY of you were being attacked by raptors and YOU had a skill like that, wouldn’t YOU put it to good use? I would hope so. She saved lives, dammit.

Good job, Kelly!

Now, let’s talk about this film’s second ending. I’ve heard that the idea of the T-Rex being on the loose in the city was the idea for part 3. Now, whether or not they couldn’t work out the plot details to work overall or Spielberg was just done with dinosaurs, I don’t know. It does feel a bit tacked on. Even tonally, it feels different than the rest of the film, seemingly more comedic because of the situation at play. And while speaking of that, while they didn’t scream, “Gojira,” seeing the Japanese businessmen running from the T-Rex made my eyes roll. Is that joke done with yet because it needs to be. Anyway, I find the San Diego sequence to be one of the more entertaining aspects of the film.

Although, what exactly happened on that boat ride over? How exactly did the entire crew die and their body parts get scattered throughout the boat? I’ve heard that raptors were meant to be aboard, but they are NEVER mentioned. At least, I  never heard it mentioned. But, at least that would have made SOME sense. Say, “some raptors got aboard but we killed them.” ADR that in and BOOM, plot hole solved.

The dinosaurs are sent back home and Hammond makes his plea to leave the island in peace. But we all know THAT’S not gonna happen. In any case, I wasn’t expecting another Jurassic Park film because where do you go from here? These movies weren’t setting up sequels. They were telling stories about these fairy tale creatures being brought back to life and attempting to destroy mankind. I’M KIDDING! The Lost World is not a bad film in my opinion. It’s just a film that was never going to meet the high expectations of its predecessor. 

JURASSIC PARK

Here we are back again, ladies and gentlemen, talking about the high class horror/fantasy/science fiction/pop-culture phenomenon that is Jurassic Park. This is one of the few films directed by Steven Spielberg that so many have torn apart because of its numerous mistakes, not the least of which is that dinosaurs aren’t real… I’m kidding. They’re just dead.

ANYWAY, when this movie dropped in theaters in 1993, I felt like the only person in the world who didn’t get to see it IN theaters. For months, it felt like this big event I was missing out on. All of these other movies and TV shows were making references and jokes and I was out of the loop. It wasn’t until it hit home video that I first saw bits of the film outside of a trailer. I happened to be at my best friend’s house, and someone had bought the VHS. So I watched some of it on their big screen TV. I don’t remember watching it all for whatever reason, but at least I got a “big screen” experience. After that, I’m not sure when I actually first sat down and really watched the film. It’s just kinda been there for 30 years.

I was aware of the book by Michael Crichton but I’d never read it. And still haven’t to this day. I had heard about the numerous differences between the book and movie. But that didn’t surprise me. If you’ve ever read Jaws and watched the movie, then it’s not a shocker. Sometimes it’s a good idea to stray from the source material. The novel Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle is nothing like the film, and I would argue the film is far superior. While I can’t speak as to whether or not it is or isn’t better than its source material, there seems to be more talk about the film than the book so… one might say it is! I mean we’re talking about a film directed by Steven Spielberg during his prime.

All the pieces were there. Great story idea. Great cast. Great director. Great composer. And the promise of mind-blowing special effects unlike the world had ever seen. And for my money, it delivered on all of those promises, especially in the effect department. This film showed the world what computer generated imagery was capable of. Before this, we saw glimpses, the first instance being in the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes where a knight made of stained-glass attacks a priest. The next big leap came in James Cameron’s classic sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day where the method was utilized to great effect to create a full character for more than one scene. ILM was one of the biggest innovators regarding special effects at the time and when they were tasked to develop the effects for Jurassic Park, the first approach was the obvious one: stop-motion.

Phil Tippet, who had proven himself as an amazing successor to the likes of Ray Harryhausen, was tapped to bring the dinosaurs to life using stop-motion animation, or should I say “go-motion” since that was a technique he developed on the film Dragonslayer. However, Dennis Muren of Industrial Lights and Magic was convinced that CGI would be the way to go. CGI was not the go-to tool in the early 90s, so convincing the filmmakers that this was going to work was part of the process.

Starting with a walking skeletal structure of a T-Rex, it wowed the suits at Universal to allow them to create a proof-of-concept, meaning that they give you money to blow their socks off. That footage had skin textures, exterior lighting and even an added layer of muscles over the skeleton for added realism. If I told you that this footage did not impress those same suits, you’d be flabbergasted. Which is why I’m going to tell you that it TOTALLY impressed them, and it’s why they won an Oscar for their hard work. Unfortunately, as Phil Tippett put it, this made his art form extinct. 

Let’s talk cast. Upon seeing this film, I cannot say that I was at all familiar with any of the known actors. I know NOW that the main cast had careers before this. I was just personally unfamiliar with them. Sam Neill played a very capable Alan Grant. I’m sure these days we’d get a Chris Pratt-type in the role or something. Funny enough, Kurt Russell who PLAYED Chris Pratt’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 was initially considered for Alan Grant, but he wanted all the money. But that money was for the dinosaurs. Plus, Russell is an action-hero-type, and I liked that Neill wasn’t. It makes the character of Alan Grant more believable.

Laura Dern was a face I recognized but couldn’t place. Was it because she reminded me of her father, actor Bruce Dern, the only actor in Hollywood to kill John Wayne in a movie? Possibly. But doubtful since he’s a rat-looking sumbitch and she’s easy on the eyes. He is a great actor though. No, it was most likely because, growing up, I had watched the film Mask many times. Not THE Mask with Jim Carrey but Mask with singer turned actress Cher, the vocal tones of Sam Elliott, and everyone’s favorite Marty McFly, Eric Stoltz who played Rocky Dennis. I was going to go into immense detail about this film, but I suppose I should talk about Jurassic Park.

The kids, Lex and Tim, were also actors that looked familiar. Arianna Richardson had been in Tremors a few years prior. Another bloody good film, if I may say so. And Joseph Mazzello was in Radio Flyer with Elijah Wood. So I vaguely remembered them. Richard Attenborough was not a face I was familiar with but his name and presence alone exuded a man of great importance. Solid casting in my book.

Wayne Knight was perfectly cast as Nedry. Most people remember him as Newman from Seinfeld, and equating the two is not difficult. I feel like I remembered him prior to this film, but even looking over his filmography, nothing clicked. Basic Instinct maybe? I know. I know. I was only 12. But a curious twelve-year-old. One with a desire to understand women and… other matters. But we’re getting off-topic again.

Samuel L. Jackson was someone I definitely knew prior to this film. While this was around the time his star was prominently rising, one of my favorite scenes in a movie came from 1988’s Eddie Murphy vehicle, Coming to America, where Jackson held up McDowell’s restaurant. Just in a small scene like that, his presence was dynamite. Same goes for this movie. He’s a bit more reserved but electric in every scene.

Of course I was going to use this still…

Jeff Goldblum. What can I say about this beautiful man that the world hasn’t already said about him? I paid attention to him from this film on because of his magnetic personality and his very unique line delivery. No other actor talks like Goldblum. Many want to. But no one will ever compare. Even my impression, no matter how hard I try, can match it. He’s the biggest highlight outside of the dinosaur spectacle.

Let’s talk dinosaurs! I have to admit that even though the effects work of today far surpasses what they did here, it still holds up for the most part. It’s impressive knowing that the believability of it all is still intact. Every design is mostly on point, with some liberties taken. It’s difficult to know what a real dinosaur ACTUALLY looked like, if there ever was such thing, but for whatever reason, reptilian seems to work in its favor. Wouldn’t it be weird if they weren’t even bird-like either? Like maybe they were some freakish platypus-type creatures? That would intrigue me more honestly. But I digress.

How about that John Williams score? It’s as memorable as most of his scores are. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Superman, Jaws. Look at that! I brought it back around to something I mentioned earlier. And while we’re at it go, just to show he’s had a gift early on, go listen to the composition for the main titles for the John Wayne film the Cowboys and tell me that’s not catchy! Bringing it around a second time because THAT’s the movie with Bruce Dern, Laura Dern’s father, scored by John Williams… yeah! How about them connections?!

I’m not sure what I can say about the film that other people haven’t already said within this very podcast. I have enjoyed it for many years and will rewatch all of them every so often when the mood strikes me. Speilberg’s name may not have the sheen that it used to, but this was made during his golden period. If you can overlook the numerous continuity errors, which I do, it’s a great film that’s a ton of fun. Movies like this are rare these days. Not much spectacle left in the cinema.

THE BATMAN

I was really hoping to get a second watch of this film before diving into a review of any kind, just to see how I felt about it one the next go around. I’m not at all concerned that I’ll like it less. I just want to see if I’ll like it even more. And I really like this movie already. I think this is the type of gritty Batman fans have been clamoring for. And while I do like seeing Batman interacting with Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and the like, this film made me find a new appreciation in solo films.

This project seemingly began under the direction of former/somewhat still current Batman Ben Affleck and his possible desire to direct a Bat-film. But perhaps being director and Batman was too much or maybe the studio heads were giving him too many notes on what he could and couldn’t do or hell maybe he didn’t like the world Zack Snyder had created. I sure as hell don’t. That’s right, Snyder-verse fanatics. Come at me! Whatever the case was, Affleck walked away and the project was in limbo. Say what you want about the man, but I would’ve been interested in his vision of a Batman film. He IS a good director and a good Batman as well. Much like Henry Cavill, he was just in the wrong movie.

Eventually, the project landed in the lap of Matt Reeves, director of two of my favorite Planet of the Apes films as well as the co-creator of the popular WB show, Felicity. Yeah, I said WB, not CW. What’s that you may ask? I don’t have time to explain it right now. We’re talking about Batman so stay on point.

Anyway, hearing Matt Reeves was attached put my mind at ease. I knew the film was in capable hands under his direction, and I could sit back and watch the rest of the internet go ballistic about the choices he intended to make. It was going to happen and I knew it. We can’t have ANYTHING announced today without fan backlash of some kind. For once, it would be nice to see a film be beloved for EVERYTHING it did. Doesn’t have to be the greatest film ever made. Just a good film that all fans appreciate. I feel like Spider-Man: No Way Home would have fit that bill, but I know there are haters out there.

The hate machine kicked right off with the announcement of Robert Pattinson (or to the initiated Robbat Battinbat). Despite him proving himself as a very capable actor in films other than the Twilight saga, fanboys saw only Edward Cullen and cried foul. And if there was a problem after seeing his performance, then it’s nothing more than just wanting to hate on an actor for some weird bais. After watching my preconceived notions regarding Heath Ledger get obliterated by his performance as the Joker, I vowed never to make that mistake again.

Pattison is a perfect “early days” Batman. Unlike Christian Bale, he feels youthful which is not something we typically get in a Batman. And that’s pretty ironic when you realize that Pattinson is actually older than Bale was when he first played Batman. Bale felt like he had immediately filled the role. Pattinson feels like he’s still in the process of figuring out who Batman is, which is on point for this flick. This film works under the assumption that you are already well aware of who Batman is and foregoes any generic type of origin. We are dropped right in his second year as the caped crusader, and witnessing how Gotham itself sees him.

From the start, we see that Batman is perceived as a phantom-like being that terrifies the criminals of Gotham. Yet it only seems to be the IDEA of Batman. Once a gang actually lays eyes on him, they initially see him as a joke. Which is why Bruce had to put the beat down on one of them. It sends a pretty clear message to me, but one layered with fear that trickles down to the people he’s trying to protect. This immediately explains the journey the character is on in this movie. Because it’s not just the citizens of Gotham, but the police department as well. Sure, we’ve seen the police in Gotham chase Batman in other films. But here they seem to have utter disdain for him, having to get over the fact that Gordon is allowing him to examine crime scenes.

Since he’s been brought up, let’s talk about Lt. Gordon. Played wonderfully by Jeffrey Wright, this version was never really given a direct reason why he was working with Batman. At least, I don’t remember one being given. But I don’t feel like it was necessary for the plot. Under the wrong direction, this feels like a story beat that would be shoehorned in just because a producer asked the question, “why does he work with Batman?” I’m sure numerous producers have asked “why” Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, which has led to the multiple filmings of their murder. I mean we saw them die in a Joker movie, for god sakes! Thankfully, Reeves spared us another interpretation.

And while I did mention this film being Batman’s journey of self-discovery, the film does pull heavily from the Batman limited series The Long Halloween. Having recently watched the animated adaptation on HBO Max, I saw several familiar story beats here which perhaps lessened my enjoyment a little. I like to be surprised by a film’s plot, especially when it comes to characters I know. And sure they took some liberties with characters. I really like the bit about Bruce’s mother being an Arkham and her having a questionable mental state. It really adds layers to Bruce, making us the audience question his mental stability. What he does is not normal. Furthermore, it’s almost a nice wink and nod to the fact that Martha became the Joker in the Flashpoint timeline. Like the seeds were already there, they just needed something to cultivate the crazy.

One of the bigger plot points from the Long Halloween relate to Bruce, Carmine Falconi, and Catwoman. Here, I feel like Selina Kyle has a purpose in the film, other than just “being there”. Her journey is just as important as Bruce’s. Zoe Kravitz plays Selina beautifully and hopefully she is grateful she wasn’t cast in the Dark Knight Rises. Being “too urban” for that role scored her a much better version down the line. John Turturro was an inspired choice for Falconi. Who else would you get to play a mob boss but a New York native, from Brooklyn no less. Much like Tom Wilkinson before him, he felt like he elevated the film.

But let’s talk about the other big bads in the film. The iconic villains if you will. I know someone will think I’m saying Catwoman is not iconic, but I don’t classify her as a villain. She’s moved well past that. We’ll start with Colin Farrell since his role here isn’t as big. Sure, he’s a prominent character, but he hasn’t quite reached “super villain” status. And I like that. He had to start somewhere, right? It gets me excited that we could see him grow into the iconic Penguin over the course of however many movies or HBO Max shows they want to make. Man, how times have changed. But damn wasn’t Colin Farrell  amazing as the Penguin? The make-up alone was astounding! I truly wish they had kept his casting secret, so when it was revealed in the credits, all of our minds were blown. Because I would have never guessed it was him.

When I heard Paul Dano was cast for the Riddler, I was truly excited to see what the approach to the character would be. Dano is a very unique actor who has done it all, and Reeves knew this was the guy for his movie. Turning the concept of the Riddler into that of a sadistic serial killer reminiscent of the Zodiac killer was pure genius and a clever reinvention. AND it fits in line with the gritty realistic tone the film embraces. I’ve never considered the Riddler a terrifying villain… until now.

I haven’t touched on Andy Serkis’s portrayal of Alfred, and all I have to say is he’s fine. The fatherly warmth of the character has suddenly been sucked out of every iteration since Michael Caine, opting for a more tough as nails type. Not the Alfred I prefer honestly. I will say though, for a moment, I thought they killed him. It would have been a bold move. We’ve never actually seen that in a Batman film. We’ve come close, but never gone there.

While we didn’t get to see the usual swath of Batman gadgets, the Batmobile was honestly enough for me. This iteration may very well be my favorite. While it doesn’t have the size of the Tumbler, it’s equally intimidating. The roar of the engine screams, “test me. I dare you.” The chase scene pursuing the Penguin was just as exciting as the police chase from Batman Begins. Some might say even more so. If have to see it again to be sure. In any case, this might be my favorite Batmobile but only thing will tell.

Prior to the film’s release, selections of Michael Giacchino’s score were released online, and my initial reactions were lukewarm. After hearing them within the context of the film, I immediately fell in love with his composition. He brought something wholly unique that doesn’t attempt to replicate or pay homage to previous scores from earlier films. It fits within the Gotham presented and elevates the film to another level. Giacchino is a masterful composer who is a chameleon in the film industry. Seriously, compare his score here to his work on the Incredibles movies, or Dawn and War of the Planet of the Apes, the more recent Star Trek films and even the MCU Spider-man trilogy. Unlike legendary composers like John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman and so on, he doesn’t have a signature sound and for that I commend him.

The Batman was a film I wasn’t sure I wanted after seeing DC attempt a cinematic universe, but now am glad we got. In a world where studios clamor to create their own cinematic universes to make billions upon billions of dollars, I have to applaud DC and Warner Bros. for taking chances on unique takes and to hell with connective tissues. Sure, it would be cool to see other DC characters in this universe, but honestly, I don’t really want to see it.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

I anxiously anticipated Christopher Nolan’s end to his Dark Knight trilogy. We hadn’t yet become accustomed to the Marvel method of filmmaking, so trilogies were usually expected with movies like this. As I mentioned in notes for the Dark Knight, the film, as I understand it, was meant to feature the Joker very prominently in the story. However, recasting Heath Ledger was not in the cards, so the script was rewritten with a new villain. But my biggest question with that in mind is whether or not the character of Bane was swapped in the Joker’s place with some retooling or did it require a major overhaul? But then again these are rumored stories, so who knows how much of it is true.

In any case, I was in for another Nolan Batman. All of our remaining cast members return and all perform at their top capabilities, as usual. As far as the newcomers go, let’s start with Catwoman. After the abysmal failure of the Catwoman movie, I guess I can understand why this film wasn’t keen to make her a comic book accurate Catwoman. She’s just a cat burglar with an outfit that kinda sorta looks like it has cat ears but it’s not really cat ears. And while Anne Hathaway does an admirable job in the film, I’m not blown away with her either. Furthermore, I think the film could have worked without her in some ways. She genuinely feels like she’s in the film so Bruce has a proper love interest by the end. But I didn’t rewatch the film for this so I may be forgetting an important plot point.

I like Joseph Gordon Levitt in this. He’s a great actor and I really dug his role in the film. However, the whole “Robin” line at the end felt shoehorned into the script. Just because he was a pseudo-sidekick in the film and he was taking over the Batcave by the end, doesn’t mean he needs to be name dropped as “Robin”. Why would he need to be Robin if he’s clearly taking over the mantle of Batman. At least that’s what was implied. Batman is a symbol, remember? Idk. It’s such a pointless moment and added nothing to the story at all.

When Tom Hardy was announced as Bane, I was like, “Oh ok,” mainly because I was not aware of him. I had seen several films he had been in, but couldn’t have told you who he was in those films. I couldn’t have recognized his face in a line-up and this film was not going to help with that. And I applaud them for that honestly. It’s so common these days for a hero to just pop their mask off because we have to SEE the emotions of the actor. But I guess you CAN see his eyes, so there’s that. Plus, Bane doesn’t seem all that emotional about things so probably doesn’t really matter.

In regards to the voice, I can take it or leave it. Before a trailer even released, there was this BIG deal going around about Bane’s voice and how no one could understand it. Then the trailer released soon after. And while I didn’t QUITE understand him initially, I caught it the second time around. But it didn’t matter. In the early days of fan outcries that didn’t get all the major attention but were starting to find their foothold in Hollywood, demands for Bane’s voice to be changed came through. Luckily, Christopher Nolan gave two shits about what Batman “fans” thought of HIS vision. And while some will still no doubt complain about the voice to this day, you can’t deny it’s now iconic status.

Marion Cotillard felt like an odd addition to the film, initially. With Catwoman running around the rooftops of Gotham, what purpose was there to add ANOTHER love interest for Bruce Wayne? But then internet spoilers cleared that right up for me. Yes… this was one of the first few films to be spoiled for me thanks to the lovely folks on the internet. Scream 3 was actually my first spoiled film, but that was more of a blessing in disguise. Lessened the blow of disappointment, you know? In any case, the reveal of Miranda’s true identity being that of Talia Al Ghul was pretty damn cool, even though all the signs were there.

Hans Zimmer returns for a third time sans James Newton Howard for the score and does just fine on his own. I especially love the composition labeled Gotham’s Reckoning that it built around four beats that repeat via drum and even vocal chants while the rest of the instruments play around it, slowly building to an intense crescendo that continues to build the composition even further with an intense string piece adding to the sense of tension.

The story here seems to be a loose combination of Batman stories Knightfall and No Man’s Land and the Nolan Brothers along with David S. Goyer creates a pretty solid narrative from the source material. Most reviews I’ve seen for this film either praise or lambast the story. While we all go to the cinema for a Batman-centric film, I think Nolan was attempting to tell a Bruce Wayne story juxtaposed with that of Gotham’s fragile state equal to his own at that time. And yeah, there is an absence of Batman but Bruce Wayne is Batman and Batman is a mortal, so it’s not like we’re getting robbed of some big superhero spectacle.

That said, there is something to seeing him in the cape and cowl that gets us pumped. And I get why the audience would feel let down over a lack of it. But I appreciate Nolan’s attempt at something unique. His films grounded Batman in a way that we’d never seen before. He was telling stories that posed a bit of “what if” to the real world. At the end of the day, there IS a nice polish to it, a sense of heightened reality. I just think being mad at a Batman movie for not having enough Batman, despite a solid narrative, is a bit silly. Even though I get where the argument is coming from.

This is a story showing the people of Gotham reclaiming their city, figuratively and literally. This is a story about Bruce Wayne being able to let go of his crusade and live a somewhat normal life. I felt it was a bold move to “kill” Batman. I figured he escaped from the explosion. He is Batman after all. But the arc was complete for the character and that, for me, was truly satisfying. I’m glad we didn’t see a continuation of this universe because we don’t NEED to see Officer Blake become Batman. We just needed to be reminded that Batman is not a man, but a symbol.

THE DARK KNIGHT

After the exciting little tease of the Joker at the end of Batman Begins, I was more eager than ever to see a follow-up. Seeing how Nolan crafted such a dark and gritty version of Batman made me wonder how far he would go with the Joker. But I wasn’t necessarily sold from the outset.

Heath Ledger was an actor I was familiar with but hearing he was cast as the Joker did not line up with MY vision. In fact, my first choice for this darker world was Crispin Glover. I felt he was the right kind of weird for the role as well as the right build. I’ve always seen the Joker as a gangly character. Ledger, last I checked, was pretty darn fit. But this wasn’t my movie and Nolan saw something in Ledger I didn’t. Which is why he’s the one making movies, not me.

Ledger blew me away as he did so many people. He was a unique take on the Joker, one that felt much more sinister which built the tension along with his unpredictability. Look no further than the “making a pencil disappear” moment upon his entrance and you know you’re in for a legendary performance. Everything about it is so intricately crafted. The make-up. The voice. The little lip licking tic. And his well-crafted plans. Tour de force I think is the term here and he earned that Oscar. Whether or not he would have actually won the award had he still been alive is the real question. I don’t want to believe it was just given to him.

Furthermore, the man didn’t become so engrossed in the film that he killed himself or whatever lie the internet leads you to believe surrounding the circumstances. He had problems prior to the movie and unfortunately it caught up with him. Considering the Joker survived the end of this film and was planned to return in the sequel, it really makes you wonder what that film would have been.

Bale gets a lot of flack for his Batman portrayal in this flick, because the voice is so gravely. But I like to think it’s a progression from the last film. In Batman Begins, he speaks with a slightly modified tone. Not quite gravely but not Bruce Wayne. Here, we see that Batman is working overtime and perhaps the voice is a byproduct of that. It doesn’t bother me. The man plays the role to perfection.

All returning cast members are a welcome sight and none of them feel under utilized which can happen with larger ensemble casts. Maggie Gyllenhall is equally good as Rachel, replacing Katie Holmes. Again, just wish the cast was consistent.

Aaron Eckhart feels like an actor we should be seeing more of because he put in an equally compelling performance as Harvey Dent. His story arc beautifully weaves into the chaos of the Joker and nothing about it feels wrong. Usually with characters taking such a huge heel turn, something can always feel amiss and make you question why. Here, this is a man doing his damndest to clean up the city, to do right by its citizens, seemingly infallible. But when it gets too personal, we discover his achilles heel and see that like most people, he has a dark side. And the Joker exploits that. The personification of Two-Face is also beautifully grotesque. That’s about as real as you could get and stomach looking at it.

The opening scene of the film begins with Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s perfect score for the Joker. Tight, grinding violin strings alluding to something more sinister, creating this uneasiness in the air. The track best known as “Why So Serious?” encapsulates so much of this film and is one of my favorite pieces of cinema composition. The rest of the score is expertly crafted by the composers, but that piece stands out for me.

The film is so expertly paced that even at two hours and thirty minutes, it never felt like a drag. The way the bank robbery goes down, it had Joker written all over it. His first appearance with the most bosses is intense as hell. Shout-out to Eric Roberts as Sal Maroni. The man is a better actor than he’s given credit for.

The truck chase through the tunnels of Gotham is probably one of the biggest highlights of the film, which introduces the Batpod. Not as great as the Tumbler but I like it all the same. It allows for more maneuverability. But then there’s the scene where Batman has to infiltrate the building where Joker has hostages with guns and the goons are the hostages. Then the cops shoot at him too. Good stuff. Then the tension between the two boats. I genuinely thought someone was going to turn the key.

Then the final scene with Two-Face holding Gordon’s son hostage. Once again, I thought they were going to go there. I kept asking myself, “Are they really going to kill this kid?” Everything in the scene made me believe he was going to pull that trigger. Jesus, that was so intense. Which makes the ending all the more tragic yet satisfying watching Batman take the fall for the sake of the city. It has to be done. We all know it. But what else can he do. Makes you yearn for that sequel even though you know its not gonna top what you just saw.

I really love this movie and feel like I saw it more than once in theaters but cannot remember. I do remember watching it several times when it was released on home video. In fact, this movie in particular made me jump on board the HD bandwagon, converting all of my DVDs to Blu-ray because upon viewing the film in true HD on cable, I was blown away by the rich colors and sharp picture.

In my opinion, this film is the highmark for Batman films. Top this film and you’ve done the impossible. This may show my hand for the upcoming episode on the Batman, but I’ve got plenty of good things to say about that. In saying that, I’d rather not see Joker in a Batman film any time soon. Unless a fresh new approach can be done that’s still true to the character, then let’s see some new villains. What Ledger did here was not emulate Nicholson, but find his own way. I have no idea what the fuck Jared Leto was doing, but it didn’t fit within the “Three Joker” rule. I know that’s not officially canon, but dammit it should be.

In any case, I think this might be my favorite Batman film ever.

BATMAN BEGINS

After the abysmal disaster that was Batman & Robin, Warner Bros. wasn’t feeling the desire to allow Joel Schumacher to direct another Bat-film. Funnily enough, before the film’s release, they were committed to the director and were even planning for a fifth film called Batman Triumphant or Batman Unchained. Both titles seem to have coexisted. One or both may be correct. I don’t know.

Fan made poster

This film would have seen most of the cast return and have them face-off against the Scarecrow and Harley Quinn. Potential actors to play Scarecrow were Jeff Goldblum and Nicolas Cage, with Cage being the frontrunner. Courtney Love and Madonna were apparently considered for Harley. This already sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. Fortunately for us, Batman & Robin performed terribly and Warner Bros. changed their minds. 

However, they didn’t settle on an immediate reboot. Rumors circulated for years that Warner Bros. wanted to take the franchise forward and cash in on its hot new Batman, Terry McGinnis. Remember the Titans director Boaz Yakin apparently approached the show’s creators about making the film which was then pitched to Warner Bros. They were obviously ecstatic because now they didn’t have to figure it out, so they allowed Yakin to write the script however he saw fit. When he came back with something that was a definite R rating, everyone began to reconsider. Once film politics came into play, Yakin left the project.

So the studio chose to start over. Revitalize Batman and get rid of the campiness that was reassociated with it. The studio began looking at hot new filmmakers that would have the right edge to bring the darkness back to the bat. Darren Aronosky has recently made a name for himself with his Academy Award winning film Requiem for a Dream (great film BTW). So the studio approached him to make a new Batman. However, Aronofsky’s ideas conflicted with what the studio wanted which led them to part ways.

The studio then looked to Christopher Nolan to direct which obviously worked out for everyone. And luckily they trusted his judgments, otherwise we could have been stuck with the studio choice of Freddie Prinze Jr. as Batman. Deciding to loosely adapt Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, Nolan approved his pitch and allowed him to reboot one of their most lucrative franchises.

From the outset, hearing that Christian Bale was going to be Batman seemed like a great fit to me. Having started out as a child actor, it wasn’t until I saw him in American Psycho that I took note of him. I could see him doing something bigger, but I never expected him to play Batman. To me, it somehow seemed beneath him. However, with a respected director and a respected actor then surrounded by even more respected actors, the project looked to be shaping up as something we’d never seen before.

Michael Caine isn’t necessarily what I picture when I think of Alfred, but he is amazing in the role. He doesn’t just tend to Bruce, but continually challenges him and his decisions at every turn which is what the character needs. Alfred is Bruce’s tether to normality. Without him, he would run himself into the ground. Finally introducing Lucius Fox into the films was great, especially utilizing an actor like Morgan Freeman. He’s a man who’s already wise to Bruce from the start and just asks not to be treated like an idiot. Fair enough, right.

Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon was an inspired choice if I ever saw one. The man had made a career playing eccentric characters and now would have to play one of the most straight-laced, by the book, detectives ever written. Yet Oldman knocks it out of the park and looks like the character come to life on screen.. To me, this is what you call perfect casting.

Liam Neeson was a great choice for Ra’s Al Ghul, even though I was originally taken aback by that twist in theaters. The narrative had me believing that the Scarecrow was the big bad of the film and even when it was revealed that Ra’s was still alive, I didn’t expect to see Neeson appear, but instead Ken Wantanabe. I’m sure the signs were there but I missed them. That’s the strength of an engrossing story to me.

Cillian Murphy was a good enough Scarecrow. I thoroughly enjoyed how the fear toxin was utilized in the film. Shots seeing its effects really made the film stand out to me. Never seen THAT in a Batman movie. Katie Holmes is also good as Rachel Dawes. I thought she did fine here and hated that she didn’t return in the sequel. Casting inconsistencies really bug the shit out of me.

One thing that has gotten tiresome in Batman films is watching the death of his parents. It’s a familiar tale we all know by now, just like Superman being jettisoned from Krypton or as an equal parallel, Uncle Ben dying in Spider-Man. These moments are supposed to define our characters, yet sometimes with subtle changes, it can make all the difference. This interpretation is perfect in my opinion because not only is it a tragic moment for Bruce watching his parents being shot by a random thug, but also because of WHY they wound up in the alley to begin with. Now, it’s not only about Bruce dealing with that loss but a feeling of guilt that he is responsible. That adds so many layers to the character. Perfection.

Even exploring his journey into becoming Batman and WHY he chooses THAT persona is compounded by the minor addition of a fear of bats. “It’s time my enemies shared my dread.” Solid writing. When I initially caught wind of the new Batmobile aka the Tumbler, I wasn’t sold on it. Then I saw it in action and I changed my tune. I know it’s not a universal favorite but I still dig. Not my favorite Batmobile, especially not anymore.

The police chase scene is one of the highlights of the film for me. In fact, props to director of photography Wally Pfister for superbly capturing every frame. Not everyone can shoot car chases and capture the intensity. That was an “edge of my seat” sequence for me in theaters and I still get a vibe to this day.

The score by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer is another elevating element to the film that gives it some gravitas. While most of the musical cues aren’t as recognizable as those in Danny Eflman’s score, his Batman theme is definitely one of my favorites. It just exudes the sounds of a true hero theme. 

Batman Begins was a breath of fresh air for the character on the big screen. The material was more grounded, yet still with a comic book flair. In 2000, X-Men redefined what a comic book movie could be and has even been cited as a source of inspiration for Nolan. But even if X-Men showed how good comic book movies could be, Batman Begins would show how much greater they can be.