Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: J.A. Bayona

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum

Screenplay: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow

128 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.

 

I think a lot of people would say, when Jurassic World came out back in 2015, that it was the best film in the series since the original. That may be true. What’s also true is that it was the safest choice to make by following very closely the trajectory of the original film. That’s not really the case with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Fallen Kingdom picks up some time after the events of Jurassic World. The park is closed and deserted. Dinosaurs roam free. But people haven’t forgotten about Isla Nublar. There are groups of dinosaur rights activists, one of which is led by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help, Gold) who are trying to protect these precious species. When Claire is given the opportunity to work with a team on the island to save these creatures from certain destruction at the hands of the island’s no-longer-dormant volcano, which is set to erupt, she goes to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Lego Movie) for help. With a team assembled, they head back to the island in hopes of saving these creatures, but there’s a much more nefarious reason for this expedition.

Fallen Kingdom got a lot of hate this year for a film that performed so well at the box office. I got married the week it was released so I didn’t actually catch it until it hit home video. This means I was able to temper my expectations, which were high considering that it was directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, A Monster Calls), a highly-skilled director with a particularly good eye for horror.

What’s great about the choice of Bayona as director is what he brings to the second half of the film. I won’t delve into spoilery territories but there are elements to the back half that are reminiscent of a horror film. And this is really a film of two halves.

The first half of Fallen Kingdom boils down to a standard sequel to Jurassic World. In fact, it’s a plot point hinted at since the original Jurassic Park novel by Michael Crichton that a dormant volcano lies at the center of the island. The second half of the film is ballsy and ambitious. Does the second half work? Some of it did for me. I’ve heard criticisms about the final moments of the film and yes, I agree, they are infuriating for how they play out, but I get it given the character development we’ve seen from these people over the course of two films.

The biggest issue that rises up from me is some of the timing inconsistencies in the film. The opening literally has characters talking about a dinosaur that should be dead by now that are not, and then there are moments brought up later on that do not confirm this timeline. Even co-screenwriter Colin Trevorrow’s answer to the mystery of how much time has passed makes it seem like he really didn’t put much thought or care into the decision of setting the film at a specific distance from Jurassic World.

I think that Fallen Kingdom puts the characters from Jurassic World to better use in a more interesting narrative. Claire is more accessible and, in a lot of ways, this is more her movie whereas the previous film is more Owen-centric.

Overall, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a really ambitious installment of the franchise, and while I don’t think it really works as well as it should, I found myself engaged with the plot of both halves of the film, and I’m shocked that it was allowed to be made at all. If you haven’t seen this one yet, don’t listen to the naysayers and give it a go. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, and it makes me very excited for where the series will go next.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

For my review of Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwich Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

149 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.

IMDb Top 250: #37 (as of 9/1/2018)

 

Well, it happened. I almost cannot believe it, but it happened. After 10 years and numerous storylines, everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has culminated in this.

Let me say that word again: culminated. I like that word.

So a lot has happened. I’ll try to sum it up as quick as I can.

Thanos (Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men, Sicario: Day of the Soldado) has one goal driving his very being: to collect all six Infinity Stones. He already has one, but to get the others, he will have to go through the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight, Now You See Me 2) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman, 12 Strong) are quickly dispatched, Thanos sends his minions, The Black Order, to Earth to search for the remaining Earthbound stones while he finds himself facing off with his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar, My Little Pony: The Movie). Now, it’s a fight to protect the stones from the increasingly more dangerous Thanos as the Avengers team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game, The Child in Time), Spider-Man (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Pilgrimage), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, 42, Marshall), and others, but do they even stand a chance?

Avengers: Infinity War almost needs to be looked at differently than other films. My goal here and in all my reviews is to look at each within the context that it exists. When I watch a horror film, I look to be scared, thrilled, or shocked. When I watch a comedy, I look to laugh or smile. When I watch a Uwe Boll film, I look to hate myself at the end. Context.

So Avengers: Infinity War needs to be looked at on its own terms as well as how the film changes and shapes the characters in this universe. It’s a season finale of sorts, and it does an incredible job of juggling so many character arcs and stories that have existed within the confines of ten years of storytelling.

Let’s start with the most important arc in the film: Thanos’s. Josh Brolin does the performance capture justice in his work as the Mad Titan. We spend more time with Brolin’s character than anyone else in the film, and for that reason, this is very much Thanos’s film. He’s the protagonist. He is the one with the goal who initiates the action, and our heroes are only trying to stop that mission. He is a believably insane tyrant who moves from planet to planet wiping half of the population out in order to restore order. It’s a crazy idea but he believes it wholeheartedly which makes him all the more frightening. He’s well-written, thoughtful and menacing. There are of course a few similarities to Kurtz from Apocalypse Now or its source novel Heart of Darkness. It’s mostly surface level but it also works pretty well and helped me to understand how his mental faculties would lead him to such a sinister mission.

The rest of the cast get mixed amounts of time, most of them only about 10 minutes onscreen with the biggest characters getting closer to 30 minutes. Thor has one of the better arcs, especially following the opening of the film. He has vengeance in his heart and a plan to stop Thanos. He joins up with Rocket Racoon and Groot to accomplish his mission and it’s an enjoyable and important set of sequences. I would have liked to see a bit more emotion from Hemsworth as the film goes on but he kind of falls back to comedy as a backup.

Mark Ruffalo also gets a lot of time with his journey, especially considering that he spends a lot of the film not being the Hulk. We see a side of both of them that I’m not sure we’ve seen before, and it’s the first time in a while that we see Banner having to deal with not turning into the Hulk.

It’s also nice to give some more time to Gamora, who has gotten some development in the Guardians of the Galaxy films but always as a companion to the others. Now, she has a really interesting relationship with father Thanos. I just wish more time would have been given to further develop the two.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, and Dupree, Welcome to Collinwood) and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Pain & Gain) developed what was later termed as strange alchemy, the forcing together of characters that don’t usually spend any time together. This idea works really well and is a large portion of what makes The Avengers films so fun and so anticipated. It’s what I’m looking forward to more than anything else for next year’s Avengers: Endgame.

The Russos did a tremendous job of weaving all of these story threads together while never once sacrificing the flavor that comes with each film. I love that they devoted time to ensure their film would not be ruined for viewers who were not there on opening night. Each of the separated groups further the problem that this team works best together but now they are caught up in different parts just trying to plug a leak, essentially, and these directors and screenwriters never let the story dry up or get stale.

Avengers: Infinity War is not a perfect movie. The ending, upon a second viewing, doesn’t really feel like it has stakes (though that may change next year), and some more character development would be much appreciated, but overall it accomplishes its goals and in context of what the film is trying to be, it succeeds in almost every way. This is an event film if there ever was one, and it is endlessly re-watchable. If you haven’t seen the film yet (and don’t kid yourself, yes you have), then what are you doing? Go. Now. Watch it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russos’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei

Screenplay: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

133 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive content.

 

Spider-Man is back. For the third time. In 15 years. Good lord, I hope this one works out.

The MCU proudly welcomes Spider-Man to their slate of Phase 3 with Spider-Man: Homecoming, featuring a teenage Peter Parker (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Edge of Winter) trying to prove to de facto mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Chef) that he has what it takes to be an Avenger. Peter also the task of balancing his heroics with a failing social life and his schoolwork. Meanwhile, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton, Birdman, American Assassin) has been acquiring alien tech with the help of his villainous crew and a mechanical winged suit. Peter thinks he has what it takes to unmask the Vulture and defeat him, but Tony knows better. But as Peter makes foolish mistakes that risk his own safety as well as the safety of his aunt May (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler, Spare Parts), he finds himself coming closer to the Vulture…and closer to losing it all.

Spider-Man: Homecoming proves that as a franchise continues, it doesn’t necessarily have to get bigger. The Vulture is a real villain (with unreal tech) who only wants to provide for his family. There is a heart to his mission even if it is a villainous one. He’s relatable, except that he flies around in a Vulture suit.

The tone of the film is nicely executed by director Jon Watts (Cop Car, Clown) and gives off John Hughes vibes which was the goal of the film. Spider-Man: Homecoming never gets bogged down by heavy exposition or darkness. It always stays light and fluffy and fun.

And did anybody miss the origin? I didn’t, and the film is better for not being an origin story. Spider-Man fans and non-fans all know the origin, and if they don’t know it, they can just watch one of the other Spider-Man films. We don’t need to be reminded of Uncle Ben. We don’t need an unnecessarily convoluted subplot with Peter’s parents or with Aunt May. In fact, Tomei’s portrayal of Aunt May is fresh, too. She comes off like a big sister. Ignore the origin. And don’t force Oscorp in just because it’s Spider-Man. I’m curious to see how they play Harry Osborn if they ever do it, but it would have been unneeded in this film.

Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is imperfect, but it does make a lot of gains for the character and franchise now that he is firmly in the MCU. I didn’t feel like every joke landed and there are some untied up plot threads I would rather see finished, but overall, this is my second favorite Spider-Man film (I really love Spider-Man 2 and Doc Ock). A worthy addition to the MCU.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

So what did you think of Jon Watt’s Spider-Man: Homecoming? Is the MCU the right home for Peter Parker? And what’s your favorite Spider-Man film? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

captainamericacivilwar2016a

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Daniel Bruhl, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Rudd, Emily van Camp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

147 mins. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem.

IMDb Top 250: #140 (as of 6/16/2016)

 

We’ve come a long way with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the past eight years. Phase 2 ended with last year’s Ant-Man, and now Phase 3 begins with Captain America: Civil War, the thirteenth film in this mega-franchise. How does it place? Let’s take a look.

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Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Before We Go, Snowpiercer) has been leading the new Avengers on a mission to capture Crossbones (Frank Grillo, Warrior, The Purge: Anarchy). But when an accident causes the world to look at the Avengers as a possible liability, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt, Into the Wild, Race) is brought in to introduce the Sokovia Accords, a measure to keep the superbeings in check. When Cap puts his foot down against it, he finds himself at odds with friend and fellow Avenger Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Chef). Now, as the superheroes are divided in their beliefs of what is right, a new villain appears: Zemo (Daniel Bruhl, Inglourious Basterds, Burnt), a man on a mission of vengeance who wishes to tear the Avengers apart from within.

Captain America: Civil War is shocking in how perfectly constructed a film it actually is. It chooses to adapt a beloved arc of Marvel lore, and it succeeds. It chooses to properly introduce two very important and very difficult heroes in Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, 42, Gods of Egypt) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland, The Impossible, In the Heart of the Sea), and it succeeds. It chooses to show all sides of the central conflict and create believable arguments for each, and it succeeds. Just about everywhere this film could’ve failed, it succeeds. Well, almost.

Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr share a lot of the screen here, and neither one truly drowns out the other like many had worried. Whereas Cap has seen how great power has been corrupted in the past and believes that history could repeat itself, Tony has drastically evolved as a character since 2008 when he first built an iron suit. Tony once wanted the government to keep its hands off his personal property, he now sees the mistakes he has made in the past (like Ultron) coming back to haunt him, and we find Tony to be the type of hero who carries his pain upon him, like when he suffered PTSD following the events of The Avengers.

But directors Anthony & Joe Russo (You, Me and Dupree) have dealt another master stroke by allowing arcs for just about every other character in this film. We get to see Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan, The Martian, Ricki and the Flash) attempt to reconcile the horrors of his past. We get to see a tortured Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, Godzilla, I Saw the Light) trying to deal with the unique hero Vision (Paul Bettany, A Beautiful Mind, Mortdecai). We get a Wakandan prince named T’Challa searching for vengeance for the loss of a loved one. Even those without full arcs still get a signature moment for fans to chew on until the next solo film. I’m looking at you Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, TV’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Role Models).

For me, the only disappointment of the film falls in its portrayals of the villains. I would have loved for Crossbones to have had more to do. I would have loved for a more cinematic incarnation of Zemo. Not that these were faults, but it felt like they were tossed to the side a bit. As it comes, Captain America: Civil War feels less perfect because of it, but only slightly.

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For a film that boasted that it wasn’t just Avengers 2.5, and on the other side being told that it could’ve been far too bloated, Captain America: Civil War comes out on top as one of the best stories in the cinematic universe. The Russo Brothers have proven that with a great script, top notch performances, and a keen set of eyes behind the camera, any amount of odds stacked against you can be toppled. Bravo, sirs.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

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