Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Future of the Jurassic Soft Reboot

By: Selina

In my Top 20 article, I was very clear about where I stood on the Jurassic franchise.

Just in case you missed it, here’s the TL:DR: I fucking love it.

No matter how bad the original sequels got, I still watched them. Over and over again. I mean, I can quote the third one from 2001, which was just a few bad graphics away from being a Syfy original creature feature. Half the reason I got through college was because the original Jurassic trilogy acted as comforting background noise when I was blocked on a paper.

Hell, I still watch them on repeat when I need to get something done and can’t figure out how.

I don’t really get to see movies on opening night anymore, but I did get to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) this passed weekend. I enjoyed it, but that’s not what this is about. I have some thoughts I’d like to share. (Besides, I was always going to enjoy it, so there’s nothing interesting about that.)

Since Jurassic World (2015) was first announced, people were calling the new movies a ‘soft reboot’. That confused me after I saw the film.

Clearly there were some call backs to the old movies, but it was also very clearly a sequel. There weren’t just some side-eyed references to Jurassic Park (1993), the characters would actually reference the park itself, indicating the events of the original movie definitely happened in that world. I loved that concept… but it didn’t help me clear things up in my mind.

Whenever the subject came up and people would mention that the new films were a soft reboot, I’d ask them to explain. They always said that it was because The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001) were being retconned.

That just bothered me more.

Sure, they weren’t good movies, but the ideas weren’t entirely unsound in either of them. They were just executed very poorly. There were better ways to bring those ideas to life.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom brought everything into a new light for me.

Here is where the spoilers will come in. If you do not wish to be spoiled on any of the films, do not read passed this line. There will be minor to major spoilers for each of the films throughout the rest of this article. You have been warned.

Fallen Kingdom concentrated on the same main characters (minus the kids) as Jurassic World, but was otherwise undoubtedly where the soft reboot came in. It took its storyline almost completely from the original second film – only it was executed MUCH better.

I particularly liked that they still gave a nod to The Lost World by including Jeff Goldblum, but that’s beside the point.

As the plot went: the main characters were hired to go to the island to save the dinosaurs from becoming extinct due to a volcanic eruption. They were then betrayed by the company that hired them – without the head of that company’s knowledge. The company transported dinosaurs to the US, and shit went haywire. Oh, and there was also a plucky little kid that saves the day.

The only reason you know I’m talking about Fallen Kingdom and not The Lost World right now is because I mentioned the volcano. Everything else? Pretty much the same, eh?

So, what made this version good and the 1997 version a joke?

That’s a simpler question to answer than you might think.

One of the most thrilling aspects about the Jurassic Park films is the fact that there’s no real escape from the dinosaurs. They are either huge or apex predators or both, and there’s no way off that little island to get to safety. You just have to survive until help arrives… and the herbivores are no help.

In The Lost World, Steven Spielberg and David Koepp deviated from that thrill factor by bringing a single Tyrannosaurus Rex and its one baby to the US.

It’s easy to escape from the dino in that case. Pretty much anyone can board a train or bus out of state and the rich can hop on a last-minute plane. Facing the dinosaur is even easier. The United States government isn’t going to want one of those things running around, so they’re going to send out teams with giant weapons to take it out. The most unbelievable part of The Lost World is that both animals made it back on the boat alive.  

However, Fallen Kingdom did not make the same mistakes.

The dinosaur trade involved in the film was all illegal and off the radar. The creatures were transported to a giant mansion and kept underground in horrifically small containers. They were mistreated and sold to highest bidders. The military never would have gotten involved, because it was clear they didn’t know about it. In The Lost World, it was all public – even televised.

Furthermore, because it all happened in an enclosed space, you get the claustrophobic thrills of the indoor scenes from Jurassic Park with newer aspects that made it seem much fresher.

Everything was a lot more believable, and there was still a need to suspend quite a bit of disbelief anyway. But even the plucky little kid was given more thought. Instead of just happening to be a near-Olympic level gymnast, this little girl was mostly normal. She resembled Lex from the first film more than Kelly from the second. Of course, she was special in her own right, but that’s a different story that I don’t need to go into.

Now that I’ve seen Fallen Kingdom, I get that ‘soft reboot’ claim, and it gives me what I need to predict where this series is going.

My husband seems convinced that the movies are leading to an apocalyptic conclusion, but I disagree.

Although an apocalypse by dinosaur would definitely be interesting, I can’t imagine the studio will want to go that way. It brings the films into a different genre, and that’s a problem for many fans. You see that a lot with any series or film that suddenly switches its genre.

A few months, maybe a year, ago, Trust the Dice reviewed Cosmopolis (2012). On the surface, it looked like a decent drama/romance. The ending, however, flipped things into thriller territory. It was just the last five to ten minutes of the film, but it was enough to make people HATE it.

Similarly, Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) was the same silly bullshit as the first two, but it was widely hated by both critics and audience, likely because of the necessity to suspend disbelief as it took a step into action-movie territory. It wasn’t what people wanted from the third film in the trilogy, and they let the studio know.

So, the idea of the Jurassic series suddenly going apocalyptic… seems far fetched to me. Instead, I believe they’re going to soft reboot the third original movie, the way they rebooted The Lost World. The problem is, they can’t go back to the island.

That’s not entirely true. They COULD go back to the island and pull some bullshit out of their ass about how dinosaurs survived on the highlands… but if they do, they’ll be walking a very fine line and they’ll have a lot of explaining to do. It wouldn’t be worth it. My opinion is that the volcano exploded and they should move on.

That said, a lot of dinosaurs DID escape. Some were sold to some of the worst people in the world and transported to various lands before the climax of the film, while others were released into the wilds of the US. There were also quite a few specimens saved by scientists.

Not only that, but there is one velociraptor left in all the world, according to Fallen Kingdom.

A big part of the story in Jurassic Park III involved a raptor egg stolen by one of the characters. Since they can’t bring the story back to the islands, I believe their option of a soft reboot is to recapture that plot line. Either they will need to locate Blue and protect/destroy her eggs (depending on what direction they go with it) or they will need to find Dr. Wu and steal back whatever eggs he stole in order to return them TO Blue.

As the focus of a full-length film, this could take care of the soft reboot aspect without trying to convince people that returning to an island destroyed by lava is the right idea.

There’s also the possibility of dinosaurs becoming weaponized in the next film, but that’s something that I also find highly unlikely. It would bring the series into the ‘war’ genre, which might alienate fans. Besides, watching Owen face the moral dilemma of having to destroy Blue’s eggs would be a lot more fascinating in the long run, and it leaves the ending in question.

I like when an ending surprises me. A film like that could accomplish it if risks are taken.

So, there it is, my take on the ‘soft reboot’ aspect of the new Jurassic films and my hypothesis on where the next one will go. What do you think? Are we going to be looking at a new story featuring raptor eggs, or should we get ready for something out-of-genre? I’d love to know what you think.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Set it Up (2018)

Number Rolled: 58
Movie Name/Year: Set it Up (2018)
Tagline: Finding love takes some assistants.
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: TV-14
Production Companies: Treehouse Pictures
Producer: Juliet Berman, Carrie Fix, Justin Nappi, Katie Silberman
Director: Claire Scanlon
Writer: Katie Silberman
Actors: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Joan Smalls, Meredith Hagner, Pete Davidson, Jon Rudnitsky, Tituss Burgess, Jake Robinson, Aaron Costa Ganis, Paulie Deo Jr., Noah Robbins, Leonard Ouzts

Blurb from Netflix: In desperate need of a break from the office, two beleaguered assistants team up to trick their workaholic bosses into falling in love.

Selina’s Point of View:
I went into Set it Up expecting your basic, run-of-the-mill, romcom. In concept, I was correct. In script…

To say the script was special, is an understatement. I’m unfamiliar with Katie Silberman’s (Newsworthy, Party Favors, Booksmart) previous work… but I want to see it all. If there are books to read, I want to read those, too. It is phenomenal that Silberman was able to take a relatively trope-y concept and see to it that I didn’t spend even a tiny amount of time bored.

The dialog was just incredible. It flowed so naturally that it increased the likelihood of me being able to suspend disbelief. The characters, as well, had so much thought put into them. Even the background characters had big personalities.

There was this one moment in the film involving Pete Davidson’s (Trainwreck, School Dance, Saturday Night Live) character that caught me completely off guard. I had to pause the film because I nearly fell off the couch laughing. It was beyond unexpected and SO well timed.

When it comes down to the bare facts, Set it Up is a recipe film. That said, it’s not old-fashioned. It’s more like a Bon Appetit recipe than grandma’s cookies. If romantic comedies went this route instead of feeling like the basic bitch of 90s romances, then they would start to have a bigger following. They would make more money at the box office and they would appeal to people on a deeper level than simply being part of an easy first date.

I want more of this. I specifically want more of Katie Silberman. I’m going to be looking for and consuming every piece of work of hers I can find.

Cat’s Point of View:
This movie was everything I expected it to be – and refreshingly unexpected at the same time. While that seems to contradict itself, there are some distinct reasons both fit to a ‘t.’ I had high expectations going in, after falling in love with the trailer. I know better than to do that, because I often get let down; and yet it drew me in.

I was expecting your average, yet enjoyable, romcom, and what I got was extraordinary magic. There was some serious kismet going on between writing, directing, and casting; let me tell you. I’m boggled that the screenwriter is so new to the scene, and I’m excited for what might come from her in the future.

Though fresh in the primary credited writer department, Katie Silberman (Hot Pursuit, How to Be Single, Midnight Sun) has most of her ‘recognizable’ work as a producer. I did notice, however, that she was the ‘assistant to writer’ for 11 episodes of Ben and Kate (2012-2013). As an assistant, I have to wonder if she had a demanding and exacting employer much as she portrayed in this film. Her perspective in the writing captures the essence of work becoming your life when you manage someone else’s. I know first-hand, as my ‘day job’ is currently as a temporary assistant to the executive assistant of a very busy lady.  That gave this film a little extra zing for me – yet, at the same time making it entirely relatable to those that have never had such an occupation.

Even better – this was the first big screen production for director, Claire Scanlon (The Office, Faking It, Brooklyn Nine-Nine). I want to keep my eye on her, too.

I also enjoyed the mix of Hollywood veterans and the ‘new guard’ amongst the cast for the main characters. Lucy Liu (Detachment, Future World, Elementary) and Taye Diggs (Private Practice, The Best Man Holiday, Empire) had to have had such fun in their roles. As their assistants, Zoey Deutch (Why Him?, Rebel in the Rye, The Disaster Artist) and Glen Powell (The Expendables 3, Sand Castle, Hidden Figures) just fit so well.

I could keep singing their praises but, honestly, I think their work here speaks for itself. The comedy here was on-point and felt fresh rather than recycled gags from other films. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead (1991) are both movies in a similar vein, and I adore them. This film, however, stands well on its own and has landed amongst the multitude of my favorites.

Gold stars for Netflix here. I would recommend this movie in a heartbeat. 

Speech Available: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Subtitles Available: French, Spanish, English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 74%
Metascore - 60/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.3/10
IMDB Score – 6.6/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5

Movie Trailer: