Only 13 films watched in June, and most of them were re-watches as I worked my way through all the Jurassic Parks and Despicable Me films in advance of new installments at the cinema. I never got round to posting my review of Jurassic World Dominion as it’s own post, so here it is.
Jurassic World: Dominion
I rewatched all five previous Jurassic Pak films in the run up to going to see this at the cinema and that made me very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the previous films, and made me appreciate the consistency. I’ve struggled a bit to write this review because it just doesn’t feel like there’s much to say about the film, it’s a good closure for the series, brings back lots of ideas and faces and does a solid job of tidying things up neatly. The only thing I can really think of to call out is that it occasionally gets a bit crowded, and that the principle villain doesn’t make much sense. But then none of it really makes sense, so it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that the effects are good, the characters engaging and the action sequences bounce along. It was a great cinema experience and a solid ending to the series. 7 / 10
A quietly powerful film that took me slightly by surprise. Set after the first world war it’s a snapshot of life focussing on Jane, a maid in a relatively small house. This isn’t Downton Abbey with dozens of servants and strict rules, everything is a little more relaxed. We focus on her, and her secret relationship, but we also see into the lives of the owners of the house and the lasting impact that the war has had on everyone. The performances are excellent, the direction intimate and I was completely gripped. The only problem came in a few scenes that bracket the film, jumping forward to Jane’s future. It did show the longer term impacts that events have on her, but it felt a bit unnecessary to me, and I would have been more interested potentially to see more of the stories of the other characters. 7 / 10
I’m not sure whether the world of Sherlock Holmes just naturally lends itself to quirky film making, or whether once it’s been done that way once, everyone else has to follow. This is Holmes in the style that’s become familiar through the BBC series and the Robert Downey Jnr films, full of spark, and speed; bouncing around and zipping along at the speed of the genius’ mind and bringing the audience along for the ride. It’s just that this time the Holmes isn’t Sherlock, it’s his 16 year old sister, and without a Watson to explain everything to, she talks (or just rolls her eyes) at the audience directly. Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things fame more than carries the film, she’s charming, smart, witty, subtle and original; playing a character with all the intelligence of Sherlock Holmes, but with added emotion that is a very welcome addition. I actually really loved this film, the twists and turns of the plot were satisfying without being too challenging and although it maybe drags on a little bit and lacks some focus, I really enjoyed it and really hope that the open ending means this will turn into a series. 8 / 10
I have no problem with complex films, I purposely go to the cinema and watch films to distract my brain from the world around me and so a film where I have to concentrate helps that. Christopher Nolan films push complexity to the limit, respecting that the audience is more intelligent than many films suppose and that they want to be challenged. The problem I found with Tenet wasn’t that I couldn’t understand it, it was that I was never given the chance to. There was no breathing room, explanations were rushed through and swiftly followed by action, I just wanted things to pause for 30 seconds to allow me to really sink into the ideas, but I was always being rushed on. Then in the middle of action sequences I wasn’t quite sure whether things were going to plan or not, because I’d never quite grasped the plan, so I didn’t understand the jeopardy and lost the emotional connection. Also in thinking about the film since watching, I’m not entirely sure it hangs together – did the stuff at the start about the bullets actually make sense and/or matter? A second watch hasn’t helped on any of this.
There are secondary problems with the film that are similar to other Nolan films as well. Dialogue was often mumbled and overwhelmed by some terrible sound mixing. The lead female character was depressingly poorly-written, little agency of her own and an object for the male characters to engage with. However the cast were very good, the stunt work superb and the creativity is certainly refreshing. 6 / 10
The film that spawned a thousand merchandising opportunities! My house is full of minions and they just never fail to make me smile. They are beautifully introduced and utilised with a combination of slapstick and silly noises/words being laugh out loud funny. Although the minions are the standout stars, the film itself is very well put together, with a sweet and engaging plot that holds up to multiple viewings. 8 / 10
Despicable Me 2
The producers of Despicable Me clearly learnt from the first film that while the story was enjoyable enough, what audiences went absolutely nuts about were the little yellow minions. So not only has Despicable Me 2 been accompanied by dozens of trailers and shorts featuring the minions, but they take a much larger role in the film too. And it really works. I love those little guys. As soon as they appear I laugh and I hardly stop for breath. The rest of the film is perfectly servicable, and by itself would have been entertaining enough, but whenever you go more than five minutes without a minion, it feels like an eternity. 8 / 10
Despicable Me 3
Not enough minions. I know the point of the Despicable Me films isn’t the minions, but I can’t be the only one that is mostly watching these films for the minions. It didn’t even really feel like there was enough Gru in the film. The other characters (with the exception of Agnes) are all just a bit bland, or on the edge of irritating (Lucy). The plot is just about ok but I didn’t really like the twin brother bit. Mostly though I just found myself constantly hunting the backgrounds for minions and not finding them. 6 / 10
I love the minions. I adore them. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch their clips on youtube, I laugh every time. They can literally bring me out of a bad mood. I just can’t resist them. So I was equal parts excited and terrified by there being a whole Minion film, they couldn’t just be the comedy sidekicks, they had to carry the whole thing. The potential for disappointment was huge.
Going in with that knowledge was something of a shield, so when the film was not the greatest thing I’d ever seen, I was braced. The minions were their usual charming and funny selves when they were just left to play about. When they could do little skits, little observations and do hilarious stuff in the background. When they were needed to drive the plot forward however, they just weren’t so great. When they talked for too long, it edged from cute into irritating and the individual personalities of the minions didn’t quite stick in place all the time. The plot and characters around the minions just didn’t quite live up to those of Despicable Me, it just felt a bit by the numbers and lacking in the heart that those films did with Gru and the girls.
None of that about the overall quality of the film should really distract from the fact that I still laughed and loved the little yellow guys. But, just like with the Despicable Me films, what I loved about them were the little moments (the chandelier, the historical sketches at the start, the torture chamber), but the glue to hold those together just wasn’t as strong. 7 / 10
I can’t believe how old this film is (1993) and how good it still is. The effects still look good, thanks to some very careful direction and editing so that ropey bits are hidden behind lighting and dramatic music. There’s a decent plot behind the running and screaming, but it doesn’t get in the way of the death and maiming and even the small kids aren’t too irritating. The music is possibly the best soundtrack ever, and the moment they first see the dinosaurs and the music swells makes me beam with joy no matter how many times I’ve seen it. 9 / 10
Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World
This film should have been good, it would probably have never been as good as the first, but there was more than enough material to play with, a cast and budget to die for and yet it ends up being insulting bad. The biggest issue was the plot. The first half of the film is entirely driven by characters doing stupid things (particularly the lead female unfortunately who loudly proclaims to be an expert on these things and then does absolutely everything wrong). Then the second half when they leave the island is so riddled with plot holes that you can drive a sauropod through them. Then the crappy icing on the rubbish cake is that somehow, 4 years after the original, the special effects are substantially worse. Jeff Goldbloom is the only thing better in this film than the last, as the lead he evoloves his character from the sleazy irritation of the first to something really very watchable. 5 / 10
Jurassic Park 3
Jurassic Park 3 is not as bad as Jurassic Park 2. While it’s not a high bar to step over, it is something to celebrate. This film keeps things relatively simple, just a small number of people trying to get away from the dinosaurs through a series of set pieces that felt rather less organic than they could have done. Everything about the film is fine – it’s playing up the humour rather more than the first one did, and so it feels quite light in comparison, bordering on flimsy. I didn’t have any particular emotional investment in any of the characters but the action sequences barreled along. Some cheaper special effects were hidden away behind things being dark rather too often, but at least they were hidden I suppose. It’s fine, but it’s nothing special. 7 / 10
I was particularly harsh about this film the first time I watched it in the cinema. I felt that they’d over-commercialised the idea and lost the heart and soul of it. I called out the moment early in the film where it lost me – the music swelled into the familiar theme, one that in the first film played as the helicopter swept over the beautiful landscape, eventually coming to a climax as the herd of brontosaurus are revealed to audience and characters for the first time. John Williams’ genius score carried us along with the power of nature, the joy of the paleontologists seeing dinosaurs walking around – the majesty, the surprise, the delight, the wonder. In Jurassic World, it plays as we pass over a sweeping landscape of shops at a theme park. The music automatically made me feel all the old emotions and then made me hate myself because I was connecting them with commercialisation. I acknowledged that this was possibly done deliberately to show us the wonder being turned into a dollar sign, the product placement being ironic… but it just felt hypocritical and smug rather than self-aware.
However. I’ve just watched it straight after watching the original trilogy, and while it isn’t in the same league as the first one, it’s a definite step back in the right direction compared to 2 and 3. At least this film was made with competence and even some heart, where the previous two felt like absolute cash ins that they couldn’t even be bothered to make any effort at all with.
The plot and characters make sense here, the action sequences and special effects are really well done (and mostly in the daylight rather than hidden in shadows) and the way some of the ideas have evolved shows thought rather than lazily rehashing the same things. Chris Pratt is rapidly turning into the go-to guy for this kind of charming, slightly insufferable hero. He injects an energy and a heart to the film that is otherwise sadly absent. And Bryce Dallas Howard is a perfect partner for him.
It’s not the original, but it ain’t terrible. 7 / 10
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
This film manages to find some of the heart that was missing from the previous films, raising some interesting questions about the dinosaurs and tug at the heart strings. The mixture of actual plot and action sequences is just right, never leaving it too long without some excitement, but also not dragging sequences out until they get dull. Yes, there’s plenty of cheesy moments, and the plot doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, but the characters are fun, the cast charismatic and the special effects convincing. There wasn’t a single moment of the film when I was bored or my brain escaped back to the real world. Exactly what I’m looking for in Jurassic Park films. 8 / 10