Talking Movies

June 17, 2018

Notes on Jurassic World 2

Jurassic World 2, aka Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, certainly is the 800 pound gorilla at the moment. It was playing in the three biggest screens in Movies@Dundrum last night simultaneously. Here are some notes on’t, prepared for Dublin City FM’s breakfast show with the inimitable Patrick Doyle early this morning.

JA Bayona directed 2008 chiller The Orphanage so he knows his way around suspense horror. There is free-floating camera-work that made me dizzy when we follow the shiny new dinosaur Indoraptor. It clambers over the roof and then hangs down over the side to look in a window, and the camera floats with it, behind it, above it, in front of it… There are some delirious moments where characters can’t see dinosaurs just behind them in the shadows, but we keep glimpsing them in flashes of lightning or rains of lava, and so are fully aware there’s a dinosaur sneaking up behind the oblivious characters. Having mentioned shadow though, and aware that Bayona actually used a lot of animatronics, there’s a bit too much CGI vagueness going on. Always be suspicious in a modern creature feature when you end up at night in the rain for your big finale. It’s like Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla, they don’t want you to see the monster too well because they have no confidence their graphics are up to snuff.

There’s a lack of crispness about this sequel despite having the same writers, Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow. They’ve lifted very heavily from the structure of The Lost World. A cold open where people encounter dinosaurs on an island that they are not prepared for. Cut to an old British Person guilt-tripping someone into going to said island to rescue the dinosaurs or something. They meet dodgy mercenary types, and then all hell breaks loose. They bring some dinosaurs back to the mainland, and then all hell breaks loose. They even have Jeff Goldblum for 3 minutes for heaven’s sake because he was in The Lost World. Let us have Goldblum to the full! This is the sort of fear of originality that also bedevilled Star Trek into Darkness with its mirror photocopy routine on Wrath of Khan. Except here, unlike JJ Abrams going big, Bayona goes small, and the dinosaurs don’t run amok in San Diego, they just do it in a stately home. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Bad Times at the Hearst Mansion.

I like The Lost World but why so slavishly follow its exemplar when an even older flaw is apparent? Since Henry IV: Part 2 400 odd years ago sequels have seen characters that went on an arc, reconciled with each other, and looked forward to a happier future together, start the sequel back at each other’s throats, because the writers only knew how to send them on the same character arc, again. Owen and Claire begin the film reset to where they began the last one, and it’s maddening when put beside a wider sense of dissatisfaction. If you read Stephen King’s Danse Macabre at an impressionable age its theory of horror becomes part of your mental architecture: Apollonian order being disrupted by Dionysian chaos until eventually order is re-established. Is it therefore more dramatically satisfying to witness a functioning park descend into chaos like in Jurassic Park and Jurassic World than just have characters walk into existing chaos and get jump-scared constantly? It’s zombies running: it makes it too easy to scare the audience.

I didn’t get to chat about all of these points, but we did cover most of them. Tune into 103.2 FM to hear Patrick Doyle’s breakfast show every Sunday on Dublin City FM, and catch up with his excellent Classical Choice programme on Mixcloud now.

October 31, 2013

Danse Macabre

I thought I’d mark Hallowe’en this year not by unveiling a list but by quoting one of my favourite passages from Stephen King’s Danse Macabre.

stephen-king

Danse Macabre is a fascinating book from the early 1980s in which King throws in a good deal of anecdotage as he unveils his own Apollonian/Dionysian theory of how horror works, and dissects classic horror across media from novels, short stories and comics to television, radio and film to show how that binary dynamic operates. Horror cinema is always slightly disreputable, except at this time of year. But there’s a good argument for it being closer to the Hitchcockian ideal of pure cinema than any other genre. So, if someone tells you tonight that they’re not scared by horror films – just think of this paragraph.

“I tell people who say that horror movies don’t scare them to make this simple experiment. Go see a film like Night of the Living Dead all alone (have you ever noticed how many people go to horror movies, not just in pairs or groups, but in actual packs?). Afterwards, get in your car, drive to an old, deserted, crumbling house – every town has at least one (except maybe Stepford, Connecticut, but they have their own problems there). Let yourself in. Mount to the attic. Sit down up there. Listen to the house groan and creak around you. Notice how much those creaks sound like someone – or something – mounting the stairs. Smell the must. The rot. The decay. Think about the film you have just seen. Consider it as you sit there in the dark, unable to see what might be creeping up…what might be just about to place its dirty, twisted claw on your shoulder…or around your neck… This sort of thing can prove, by its very darkness, to be an enlightening experience. Fear of the dark is the most childlike fear. Tales of terror are customarily told ‘around the campfire’ or at least after sundown, because what is laughable in the sunshine is often harder to smile at by starlight.” (212)

Happy Hallowe’en…

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