Image courtesy Universal Pictures

1993, Part Two: Jurassic World, “Originality”, Creativity, and the Fine Art of Making a Proper Summer Blockbuster

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This started out as a straight up review of the movie Tomorrowland but as I started writing it, I ran into the same problem I had when I tried to review Jupiter Ascending a few months ago. At a certain point a movie becomes so bad that reviewing it becomes almost counter productive. It’s like yelling at a dog for pooping on the carpet, the dog has no idea what you’re saying and doesn’t know why you’re mad.

Bad George Clooney, Bad!

Bad George Clooney, Bad! Oh…who could be mad at that face?

And, as bad as they are, these movies aren’t indicative of  Hollywood’s slow, cancerous descent into being an irrelevant non-entity (like Broadway). Don’t listen to what Variety says.

Because Hollywood isn’t dying… it’s dead and it’s shambling corpse still tries to produce good movies every few years.

Hollywood’s death came in June 3rd, 1995 when Parker Posey sat in the POPCO offices and introduced her film Party Girl to the masses, thus becoming the first film to be shown in it’s entirety over the internet. That’s what’s going to kill Hollywood, content producers bypassing the traditional releases and cutting the major studios out of their profits. Hollywood is already dead, quit pretending otherwise.

My crush on Parker Posey, however, will never die.

Unlike my obsession with Parker Posey, which is eternal. Baby, I love you. Still.

So let’s just please stop breathlessly shouting at the top of our lungs about how the failure of these two movies means the death of sci-fi or originality and how our culture is in some kind of downward spiral towards a Kim Kardashian, Fast and the Furious part 12-Sequelitis Mordor. It isn’t.  Tomorrowland‘s utter failure and Jupiter Ascending‘s unsurprising implosion isn’t indicative of anything about Hollywood’s creative climate except that everyone knew they were releasing a bad movie and that’s why they buried it in the middle of May or at the back end of Winter. These movies failed because they were bad and not because they were “original” , so why is everyone freaking out? Why is Hollywood’s artistic rep getting laid on the back of these two terrible movies?

To answer this question, you need to understand the difference between Hollywood’s idea of “Originality” and the actual definition of originality. The trope heavy Jupiter and elitist Tomorrowland were the two least original movies I’d ever seen, acting more like Sci-Fi Paint By Numbers books. “Hope” goes in slot 2, Space goes in Slot 4, etc. They were examples of lazy writing and heavy handed sermons wrapped in special effects laden adventures, by the actual definition of originality they fail and collapse in on themselves.

According to the Hollywood Press and movie snobs everywhere, these films were “original”, as in they were not part of some sort of franchise and they weren’t remakes or sequels. The didn’t have a roman numeral in the title and the ideas inside of them were wholly original. Well, the PLOT was KIND of original but as I said earlier, they were little more than concepts from better movies sewn together into a new movie. But since the bar for originality in this case is really, really low, everybody keeps pinning their hopes and dreams on utter crap.

You wanna know what the best movie of the summer so far is? It’s a sequel and it has dinosaurs in it.

"Everybody...5, 6, 7, 8 and step and step and JAZZ HANDS!"

“Everybody…5, 6, 7, 8 and step and step and JAZZ HANDS!”

Yeah, that’s right Jurassic World is a vastly more original movie than either Tomorrowland or Jupiter Ascending. It cares less about making a statement and being deep than just making a fun movie. It actually is deep, weirdly deep, but it primarily wants to make you have fun and slips it’s message on the back end. Tomorrowland revolved around wagging it’s fingers and make believe pessimists and straw men while using elitism so strong that I could hear the echoes of jackboots marching across the Luitpoldhain towards the Ehrenhalle.

 "And over there you'll see Dan Monaco ruthlessly breaking Godwin's Law"

“And over there you’ll see Dan Monaco ruthlessly breaking Godwin’s Law”

Okay, that might be a bit extreme but lets not forget that the entire message of Tomorrowland is that only special people get to go to Disneyworld.

Jurassic World doesn’t care if you’ve reached an appropriate level of Left Coast Political Enlightenment, it just wants you to have fun and give you a backhanded message on it’s way out the door “oh by the way, respect nature or die. Just FYI, no pressure.”

That is how you make a blockbuster and considering how hard it is to get a movie like that made in Burbank these days, that’s pretty damned original. Bordering on radical, actually. In fact I would contend that more creativity and originality is sneaking into sequels and remakes than any of these so called “original concepts”. Or lest we forget that earlier this summer we saw a fantastic franchise reboot that dropped a whole lot of feminism on us while playing a flame throwing guitar.

It's like the "Feminine Mystique" but with bullets. Well, with MORE bullets.

Imagine Betty Friedan huffing silver spray paint and you have this movie.

Jurassic World and Mad Max stand as rebellious reminders that just because it’s science fiction doesn’t mean it needs to be preachy or gaudy or heavy handed to get it’s point across. It can just be good and present the message inside the world of the film and through the eyes of it’s characters. It can be cheesy, and teach you. It doesn’t need a Tumblr approved political correctness checklist, it can actually be wildly explotive and still give you a sense that you learned something important. As I said before before remembering Parker Posey’s legs, Hollywood is already dead and that’s a good thing because it’s idea of an original movie is “Not Sequel” and it agonizes over the invisible artistic failures of bad movies, then they are out of touch, they have lost the voice of the common man. People don’t need overwrought grit and grim, they don’t need to turn monsters into super heroes, or have a never ending shared universe. They JUST WANT FUN, REAL, UNCOMPLICATED FUN.  Science Fiction Blockbusters today are so obsessed with being smart that they are utterly stupid. They want me to learn a lesson so badly that they hit me in the face with messages and issues and feelings. Sure, sometimes those movies are good, like Inception or Interstellar, but mostly they suck. Hard.

They suck because they were so focused on hitting a drum instead of making me feel like I got my 15 bucks worth of CGI. Just give me dinosaurs fighting army guys in a jungle and let me make up my mind for myself.

Foreign Policy.com

Because as any six year old will tell you, a dinosaur’s natural enemy is the American Military Industrial Complex.

I’m not saying that depth doesn’t have it’s place but why do science fiction filmmakers keep trying to make blockbusters Oscar worthy? Ex Machina was a gorgeous film but it won’t win an Oscar because the Academy is filled with Soulless monsters. If a film that good is going to get stiffed, do you seriously thing Tomorrowland has a shot? Primer was ten times better than both those movies, and didn’t win a single dime of recognition from  the Academy. So who are we kidding? Why try to drape everything in some other guy’s idea of quality? There is more creativity and originality to be found in being honest about what you are than in begging a critic for your approval.

gstatic.com

“The Sundance Jury Prize”, Hollywood’s Participation Medal

Jurassic World broke box office records because it was a fun film with a simple message and I got to watch dinosaurs eating people alive.

Basically it was an early 90s movie released in 2015. You remember the early 90s right? The last Epoch of the good Summer movie? You know what those movies had in common? They were “original”, as in lower case actual original and not Hollywood press upper case “Original”.

Like the Dinosaurs of Jurassic World, I hope to one day see those great cinematic beasts once again roam the earth. To see them stride across the coffee shops and backlots of modern day LA, to hear them make the overwrought meta in-joke of current day Hollywood tremble at the terrible roar of “Fun” and “Uncomplicated”.

Now that would be truly prehistoric.

Until then, gimme my stupid sequel and shut up.

 

 

 

 

Daniel Monaco