Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Crimes of the Future (2022) Review

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Crimes of the Future (2022)

Time: 107 Minutes
Cast:
Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tenser
Léa Seydoux as Caprice
Kristen Stewart as Timlin
Director: David Cronenberg

As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the body undergoes new transformations and mutations. Accompanied by his partner, celebrity performance artist Saul Tenser showcases the metamorphosis of his organs. Meanwhile, a mysterious group tries to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.

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I was interested in Crimes of the Future. It looked quite intriguing, had a good cast which included Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, but most of all, it would be David Cronenberg’s first movie in many years. Not only that but it would be a body horror movie, and the last one he made was in the late 90s. I’m glad to say that I quite liked this movie.

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Something worth noting is that David Cronenberg had previously made a movie called Crimes of the Future back in the 70s, although it seems that this new film has nothing to do with that. This newer film tells an intriguing and bizarre story that I was pulled into. It is certainly a weird movie with a strange potential future. Viggo Mortensen is essentially a man who can generate new internal organs and collaborates with Lea Seydoux as performance artists, with Seydoux removing said regenerated organs in front of live audiences. In Crimes of the Future, humans have adapted to live in a synthetic environment, with their bodies undergoing numerous transformations and mutations; most humans don’t even feel pain anymore. In this futuristic society, surgery has become performance art (which Mortensen and Seydoux takes part in). Cronenberg does some great worldbuilding, and it is an interesting setting to watch. It was a very unique vision of the future of human evolution, and I was interested in learning about this new world. Admittedly it can be full on, in the first hour alone it thrusts you into this world with so much jargon, and requiring you to keep up with the information provided so you can grasp what is happening.

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One of the most advertised aspects of Crimes of the Future was the body horror, not unexpected of course (especially with Cronenberg returning to this subgenre). So the trailers and images focussing on the gore and grotesque (including to by not limited to a man with ears all on his body) is somewhat understandable. That being said, its not quite the disturbing and graphic body horror that it was advertised as. It felt more like a dystopian sci-fi futuristic thriller with some body horror aspects and a good amount of neo-noir mystery elements. As for the body horror itself, it works to serve its concept and story and never feels like its there to provoke a reaction in the audience. That being said, if you don’t like body horror at all or can’t deal with gore, then you still won’t be on board with this movie. As you can expect, there is a lot happening thematically. There’s a clear fascination with the human body and how it evolves over time, and poses interesting and thought provoking questions. There are even little moments of humour throughout which accompany the bizarre nature of the movie wonderfully. The pacing is definitely slow, but I thought it worked; I wouldn’t want it to be rushed at all. Crimes of the Future was an hour and 50 minutes long, and honestly I wished that it was a little longer. It felt a little abrupt, to a degree I was hoping for more. I liked the note it ended on, but the story did feel incomplete. It left me wanting a sequel to see what would happen next, and I can’t tell whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

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There is a good cast involved. Viggo Mortensen and Lea Seydoux are great as the lead characters, while Kristen Stewart is a scene stealer in a very meek yet creepy and twitchy performance as a voyeuristic bureaucrat. She left an impression, but I just wish she was in the movie more. Other actors like Scott Speedman also play their parts wonderfully too.

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David Cronenberg’s direction is on point as ever. The cinematography is outstanding and beautiful. That and the production design helped to convey the vision of the future excellently, and it feels very lived in. The practical effects, especially those involving the body, are fantastic. There are definitely moments of gore, but they are used sparingly and when appropriate. If you’ve seen some of Cronenberg’s other movies, Crimes of the Future doesn’t push boundaries on that front, in fact it feels comparatively tame. Howard Shore composes the score and its one of my favourites of this year as well as one of his best yet, and that’s saying a lot.

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Crimes of the Future is a welcome return to form for David Cronenberg. It’s a bizarre, fascinating, intriguing and thought provoking film, which is directed excellently and has some great performances from the cast. There are parts where I wanted more and it was a little incomplete, but I liked what we got. If you really don’t like body horror, then this won’t be one for you. With that said, don’t go in expecting a gore fest, it’s a lot more than just that. So far, Crimes of the Future is one of my favourite movies of 2022.

Men (2022) Review

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Men

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, suicide themes, nudity & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jessie Buckley as Harper Marlowe
Rory Kinnear as Geoffrey
Director: Alex Garland

In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside, hoping to find a place to heal. However, someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. What begins as simmering dread soon becomes a fully formed nightmare, inhabited by her darkest memories and fears.

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Men was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. I like Alex Garland as a writer and a director, and I particularly liked his directing work with Annihilation and Ex Machina. His next film would be a full-on horror movie and would have the excellent talent of Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear. Unfortunately, I had to wait an extra month before I got the chance to see it here, but in that time, I heard the very mixed reception from people who watched it. Men finally released here and I’m glad to say that I liked the movie, even if I didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would.

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Men starts off well at the very least. The first hour is very intriguing as we follow main character Harper (Jessie Buckley) as things about her traumas are revealed to us, and tensions rise as she encounters unsettling things in her new environment. There’s an uneasy atmosphere and seemed to start out as a mystical folk horror, which I thought was effective. Much of the movie can be a bit vague and leans more into atmosphere and vibes over the story, and while not everyone will like that, I thought it worked. I was intrigued to see what would happen next. The tone was interesting; some moments were a bit funny, but I couldn’t tell whether they were intentional or not. This is especially with the ‘horror’ moments. Intentional or not, they result in an off-kilter tone which I actually enjoyed. The third act of is one of the aspects of Men that will linger in the minds of most people who watch it. Some may call it “craziest movie ever”, its really not that crazy or insane for the most part, but the ending certainly is. I can certainly see the metaphor that this gory and grotesque climax is going for, so I won’t reveal too much about what happened, nor the message it was trying to convey. But it just can’t shake the feeling that its only here to be disturbing and memorable. The worst part may be that despite its efforts to be shocking, it generated more laughs than scares with how over the top and goofy it is. This combined with Jessie Buckley’s underwhelmed reactions made me wonder whether it was another intentionally funny moment from Garland. Shock and gore aside, it just doesn’t work as a satisfying conclusion in any way. The ending is so abrupt with no sense of closure, and doesn’t even work as a horror movie ending. Men is a tight film at just over an hour and a half long but it felt like it needed more, the narrative was a little underdeveloped by the end. I think it would’ve been better if it was made as a short film, or if it was longer and fleshed out more of its ideas.

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Third act and tonal issues aside, the problems stack up most of all when you look at the film on a thematic level. Unfortunately, you can’t really watch the movie and understand it without looking at it metaphorically in some way. It doesn’t work when you watch as a simple horror movie, it won’t make sense on any level. Some viewers have labelled Men as pretentious. I try to refrain from calling movies pretentious, not only because it’s a rather blanket statement, but its also very easy and there’s usually a better way at highlighting the specific problem. It is certainly a movie that wants to say something, from some of the conversations and all the symbolism and imagery especially with religion. Despite that, it doesn’t end up having much to say. The themes in Men are blatant which isn’t inherently bad; my problem is that they are a bit too easy and simple, yet the film lingers on them for so long. Men is yet another horror movie about trauma. There seems to be a lot of those especially nowadays, and if you are getting tired of these kinds of horror movies (especially with it being another one from A24), the film might irk you because it practically ticks all the boxes. I will say that it is a decent portrayal of trauma, but it is not an exploration of it by any means. It’s definitely a present aspect throughout the film, but it doesn’t go into depth any depth, and is overall a very basic take on grief. This is probably because even though we spend time with Harper in pretty much every scene, we don’t learn much about her as a character. The other main theme which you can probably guess from the title is about men, masculinity, patriarchy, toxic masculinity, etc. As far as I understood, the theme of Men boils down to “men are all the same, and men are all bad”. Perhaps Alex Garland has a lot more to say, but whatever that is, it doesn’t come across here. Now that theme isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t really lend itself to much interpretation or analysis. It really doesn’t help that its not as propound as the movie seems to think it is. Looking at the plotting and the themes, Men’s script feels like it is very close to being really good, but could’ve done with more drafts in order to nail it. As it is, it felt like it just missed the mark.

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The performances are some of the best parts of the film. Jessie Buckley as usual delivers another outstanding and powerful performance here. You follow along with her as Harper, and while the film really doesn’t give the character much, Buckley sells it so well. She feels like a believable person and makes it all work whether it be conveying the trauma and grief, or the reaction to the present horror events at her new location. I would say that Buckley’s performance alone makes the movie worth watching. The overall cast of the film is quite small, Rory Kinnear makes up most of the supporting cast. He plays almost all the men in the film, separate characters with their own personalities but with the same face. It is an interesting and intriguing gimmick. However outside of a metaphor about men being all the same, the movie really doesn’t do much with that concept. There isn’t even a moment where Harper reacts to this, even when she’s in a room with 4 Rory Kinnears. Nonetheless, he is great here, and his performances are ambitious to say the least. He effectively jumps between different levels of sinister and conveys the differences between of the characters. Kinnear is generally a supporting actor who is in the background in most movies he’s in, but he really gets to shine in Men.

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I think that Alex Garland’s work is once again great here, for all its faults, it is strong on a technical level at least. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is amazing, the visuals are stunning and really take advantage of the beautiful locations, with nice shots of the English countryside and the great production design is put on display well. Without spoiling what happens, the effects for the third act are strong and effectively gory. One of the first things I noticed in the movie was the sound design and sound mixing, which are excellent and were integral to some intense scenes working as well as they did. The soundtrack by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow is really good at setting the right tone for the film and helps to make you feel uneasy. There are a couple of hiccups on a technical level, there is a boy who has the face of Rory Kinnear CGI’d onto him. It looks very weird and uncanny, but I guess it works to make him look unsettling. As previously mentioned, the film didn’t succeed at scares despite its attempts, and came across as being funny than anything.

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Men is a very flawed movie and I think it is definitely the worst of Alex Garland’s directing work so far. I do understand why some people really don’t like the movie. It could’ve used a lot more fleshing out for many of its ideas. While there are clear themes on display, the movie doesn’t seem to have much interest in exploring them despite fixating on them so much. Even outside the themes it does suffer from other issues, including some failed attempts at horror and a third act which might be trying just a little too hard to provoke a reaction. With that said, I still like the movie. I enjoyed the atmosphere and off kilter tone, Alex Garland’s direction is pretty strong with some outstanding visuals (which were amazing to see on the big screen), and the performances from Rory Kinnear and especially Jessie Buckley were fantastic. Men is a divisive movie and its hard to tell who the movie would be for, but I do think it has some great aspects that make it worth checking out if you’re into horror.

Jurassic World: Dominion (2022) Review

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Jurassic World Dominion

Time: 146 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Pratt as Owen Grady
Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing
Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler
Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm
Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant
DeWanda Wise as Kayla Watts
Mamoudou Athie as Ramsay Cole
Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood
Campbell Scott as Dr. Lewis Dodgson
BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu
Omar Sy as Barry Sembène
Justice Smith as Franklin Webb
Daniella Pineda as Dr. Zia Rodriguez
Director: Colin Trevorrow

Four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar, dinosaurs now live and hunt alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures.

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I was going into Jurassic World: Dominion only mildly interested. I’m not the biggest fan of the Jurassic Park franchise. The first movie is known as a classic and was highly influential for cinema, I liked it but wasn’t in love with it like many other people are. At the same time, I like all the movies in the series. The sequels are definitely flawed and aren’t as good as the first or even second movies, but I found some enjoyment in them. So I went into Dominion fairly open minded and expecting to like it, and I did.

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I had fun watching Jurassic World: Dominion but I had some issues with it, mainly the writing. You can tell that it really pitches itself as this grand and epic conclusion of the Jurassic Era, by that I don’t mean that it feels epic, but rather that it is trying to feel epic. Despite all that, Dominion doesn’t seem like a conclusion to the Jurassic World trilogy let along the whole Jurassic “Saga”, and it doesn’t feel like much has happened by the end. It is also very long at around 2 hours and 30 minutes, and by the end it just felt dragged out, messy and bloated. I think it does have a very weird plot for a Jurassic Park movie, even more so than Fallen Kingdom which had one half about saving dinosaurs from an erupting volcano and the second half a suspenseful mansion sequence with a killer raptor. Instead of it being isolated to one location full of dinosaurs, Dominion has a globetrotting and at times convoluted plot with so many subplots and too many moving parts. The characters don’t go through much development, it is just them moving from one place to another. The movie itself didn’t get off to a great start with its opening 30 minutes. 4 years had passed since the events of Fallen Kingdom and in its first scene it attempts to recap what happened since then. Whether it be with the returning Jurassic World characters, the original Jurassic Park characters, and the overall world, it just feels rushed and messy. The recap of what happened with the world is worst of all with a montage and a narration flat out telling you, the worst part is that they made it in the form of a NowThis video. The movie is pretty bad at exposition dumps, even if nothing is as bad as that opening monologue. Exposition aside, the dialogue is awkward much like the previous Jurassic World movies. The worst cases are with some of the dialogue between Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant (Laura Dern and Sam Neill) because its them having to say really bad lines. I really could’ve done without Laura Dern having to deliver the line “he slid into my DMs”.

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Dominion takes a lot from the previous Jurassic movies and can be repetitive, not really covering new ground. The main theme once again is about how humanity shouldn’t meddle with nature, there’s yet another story of an amoral billionaire using science to profit (and going full Umbrella Corporation). Without getting into too much depth, the movie even ends up having its own ‘park’ despite the world now being established as having dinosaurs roaming free. Instead of taking advantage of the end of Fallen Kingdom, it introduces this random plot about locusts which ends up being a central part of the plot. One plotline that is continued into Dominion however is the one focussing on the character of Maisie and her being a clone. It’s still weird and crazy considering that it is in a Jurassic Park movie, but I liked it more than I expected. At the very least there was more going on with her compared to some of the other characters (especially Owen and Claire). Dominion does lean into some absurdity thankfully, especially with a sequence in Malta. It really picks up in the second half and it is nonstop action in the third act. Of the Jurassic World trilogy, Dominion tries the hardest for nostalgia, which you could probably expect considering that they brought back the main trio of Jurassic Park characters into the plot here. I don’t think it earns the nostalgia, but I don’t dislike their inclusions.

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The returning Jurassic World characters aren’t that great, mainly Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, despite some decent enough performances from both. The highlight of the whole movie for me were the returning Jurassic Park trio: Laura Dern as Ellie Sattler, Sam Neill as Alan Grant, and Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm. It’s definitely a play for the nostalgia crowd but I can’t deny, it is so great to see them back. A lot of the time they’re not really given great material to work with, but their presence added a lot to the film and I would’ve liked the film a lot less without them. There are some new characters, DeWanda Wise is my favourite performer of the movie outside of the aforementioned Jurassic trio, and I really liked her. The villainous characters are quite generic and over the top but not nearly as silly as the ones from Fallen Kingdom. The central antagonist is the main corporate billionaire played by Campbell Scott who seems like he’s basically playing Tim Cook. Scott is clearly enjoying playing a goofy biotech mogul and it’s a fun performance at least, making the cliched character more enjoyable to watch.

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Colin Trevorrow’s direction isn’t great but I do think its an improvement over his work in Jurassic World. The visuals are fairly nice, the dinosaurs look great and fun to watch too. It seems that they finally found the right balance of practical and special effects. There are some enjoyable action sequences too, from the sequence in Malta involving a motorcycle chase with raptors, to the thoroughly enjoyable third act. I actually think the moments of horror are really well done, there are some good scenes of suspense.

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I would say Jurassic World: Dominion is probably one of the worst movies in the series, but it’s at least better than Jurassic Park III. It has some entertaining moments and aspects I really liked. Still, I think a lot of the other films achieved what they were setting out to do a lot better. The plot is very bloated and strange and there’s fun to be had with that, but for a film aiming to be an epic conclusion, it was underwhelming. I can’t tell who’ll like the movie, but if you disliked the previous Jurassic World movies, I’m pretty sure you won’t like Dominion. As someone who generally likes all the films in the series however, I enjoyed it.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) Retrospective Review

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Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Pratt as Owen Grady
Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing
Rafe Spall as Eli Mills
Justice Smith as Franklin Webb
Daniella Pineda as Dr. Zia Rodriguez
James Cromwell as Sir Benjamin Lockwood
Toby Jones as Gunnar Eversol
Ted Levine as Ken Wheatley
B. D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu
Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood
Geraldine Chaplin as Iris
Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm
Director: J. A. Bayona

Three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) return to the island of Isla Nublar to save the remaining dinosaurs from a volcano that’s about to erupt. They soon encounter terrifying new breeds of gigantic dinosaurs, while uncovering a conspiracy that threatens the entire planet.

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Many people seem to be very split on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, even among those who liked/disliked the first Jurassic World. I was very mixed about Fallen Kingdom when I first saw it, so I was curious about whether my opinion would change that much on a rewatch. I can at least say that I appreciate it a lot more this time, despite its numerous flaws.

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Like with Jurassic World, the main issue here is the script. The story is a mixed bag with plenty of cliched and recycled plot points. One thing notable about Fallen Kingdom is that it is not a film of 3 acts, but of two very different halves. The first half is about Owen, Claire and co. trying to save the dinosaurs from an island whose volcano is about to erupt. I wasn’t such a huge fan of that section, it wasn’t that interesting to me. It felt like it was falling back into Jurassic World’s worst tendencies with humour that falls flat, bad dialogue, and poorly written characters. The second half is where the movie begins to work more for me, going in a different direction compared to the first half. It consists of the main characters being inside a mansion and trying to stop dinosaurs from being sold off, while a special dinosaur wreaks havoc. I liked the plot more in this section and I especially enjoyed the horror aspects.

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I do think that out of the 5 movies thus far, Fallen Kingdom is the weirdest of the Jurassic Park movies, from the closed in haunted house second half, to the weird decisions, and there certainly are plenty of weird decisions. The one that springs to mind is a subplot following a girl named Maisie played by Isabella Sermon, where it is revealed in the third act that she’s not the granddaughter of James Cromwell, but rather a clone of his daughter. It is really out of place from the rest of the movie. Most of all, it feels contrived, like it was only there so that she would make the decision to let the dinosaurs out at the end. Much of the absurdity of these movies continues with Fallen Kingdom. That extends to the militarisation of the dinosaurs which is full on Umbrella Corporation and Weyland-Yutani levels of silliness. However, the first Jurassic World sort of got away with it because of the self awareness and the silly tone. Its follow up however seems to be comparatively darker and serious, making its absurd moments feel even more out of place. There are some genuinely good scenes. The moment with the brachiosaurus being left behind as the boat leaves stands out most of all, very startling in fact, coming out of nowhere. It is a very memorable and effect moment, even if it’s a bit emotionally manipulative. There are also some good character moments, and the plotline between Owen and an intelligent raptor named Blue was one of the highlights and I thought it worked well enough. Also, Fallen Kingdom ends on the note with dinosaurs going into the wild, leading the franchise into a direction that it hadn’t gone in before (and will be shown in the third movie).

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Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return to their roles of Owen and Claire and gave similar performances. Their characters may be more bearable to watch, but their acting isn’t quite as good, and they feel a little bland here. Once again, the chemistry isn’t strong and it falls flat, but thankfully the film doesn’t seem to be focussed on it in contrast to its predecessor. James Cromwell is decent in the few scenes he’s in. BD Wong also returns as a minor recurring antagonist Dr Wu. Jeff Goldblum returns as Ian Malcolm, but really it is just for two scenes, in the first act and at the end. It really feels like he was included just so that he can say “Welcome to Jurassic World” at the end. A lot of the other characters are poor however. There’s a couple of people who tag along with Claire and Owen played by Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda, and they were really a source of a lot of the annoying humour in the movie. Then there’s the villains, who are somehow even more over the top than Vincent D’Onofrio in the last movie. You have Rafe Spall as a character who you can immediately tell is going to be revealed to be evil at the end. There’s also Toby Jones as a generically evil auctioneer for dinosaurs, and as well as Ted Levine as a cartoonishly evil mercenary and dinosaur hunter.

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J.A. Bayona honestly added something to Fallen Kingdom with his direction, more so than Colin Trevorrow in the previous movie. There are some good action scenes and set pieces from the volcano erupting in the first half, to the haunted house in the second half. A lot of Bayona’s horror skills get to be on display here, and the horror elements in the second half work quite well. Even the Indoraptor plays like a full on horror movie villain; there’s a scene where it approaches Maisie in her bedroom like it was Freddy Kreuger. The visuals in Fallen Kingdom were improved from Jurassic World, same with the CGI on the dinosaurs. A big part which probably helped is that in Fallen Kingdom, outside of a few sequences, there usually isn’t an overload of too many dinosaurs on screen at the same time. When the volcano erupts and lava is pouring close to a paralysed Chris Pratt, it looks fake but that’s just in one scene.

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was better than I remembered. There are plenty of bad elements that make the experience frustrating, but it is mainly because there are some other aspects that are really good. For what it is worth, I do think that Fallen Kingdom is slightly better than Jurassic World. There are some really good scenes, and most of all the direction from J.A. Bayona was solid. The end of the movie has an opportunity for the franchise to take a different direction, which Dominion hopefully takes advantage of all.

Jurassic World (2015) Retrospective Review

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Jurassic World

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Pratt as Owen Grady
Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing
Vincent D’Onofrio as Vic Hoskins
Ty Simpkins as Gray Mitchell
Nick Robinson as Zach Mitchell
Omar Sy as Barry
B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu
Irrfan Khan as Simon Masrani
Director: Colin Trevorrow

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfil a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitors’ interest, which backfires horribly.

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Following my rewatch of the Jurassic Park trilogy movies, I also decided to revisit the Jurassic World movies in the lead up to the upcoming new film. Much like the other Jurassic Park sequels, there were some very split reactions to the first Jurassic World, released 14 years after the last film, Jurassic Park III. I liked the movie when I saw it, but also had some issues with it. Having revisited it, my opinion is much of the same but I found much more to appreciate and enjoy.

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One of the things I noticed when going back to Jurassic World is that it wasn’t off to a good start with its first act. It begins following two brothers going to Jurassic World and introduces the setting through their eyes, fine so far. Unfortunately its just missing the impact, probably because its missing the dinosaurs. As they enter Jurassic World and see the massive park, it blasts the Jurassic Park theme over establishing shots over the park, but not showing any of the dinosaurs. When we do finally see them, they’re presented without ceremony. Things do pick up however once the genetically engineered dinosaur breaks out. Ever since Jurassic Park III, the series has been determined to have a special dinosaur as the main villain. Nonetheless, the Indominus Rex works well enough for this part, especially if thematically you view it as the outcome of corporate greed and science going to far. There’s plenty of running, destruction, thrills and dinosaurs and I was enjoying the film. Then in the third act, there is a satisfying fight between dinosaurs (T-Rex and Blue against the Indominus Rex), which ends everything on a high note.

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While there are plenty of issues with Jurassic World, the biggest for me were the human storylines, I just found them hard to care about. The previously mentioned brothers going to Jurassic World while their parents are being divorced, didn’t care for it. Its almost like they are here since every Jurassic Park movie seems to need to have at least one child in peril of being killed by dinosaurs. I didn’t care for the romantic subplot between Owen and Claire (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard), in fact I actively disliked many of their scenes together. And then there’s the Vincent D’Onofrio plotline in which he tries to weaponize dinosaurs. It is absolutely ridiculous even by Jurassic Park standards, but for what its worth it is very enjoyable in an over-the-top cheesy way. The humour in this movie is also not very good, bordering on grating. It’s worse when its coming from delegated ‘funny’ side characters. I think the one thing about Jurassic World that works for me is that it leans into the absurdity of the concept and it is very self-aware. The movie even takes time to poke fun that at the name they gave the Indominus Rex. The self-awareness does at least make a lot of the story easier to digest. Also, the ideas that they’re working with like corporate greed are very much on display, showing that they are willing to genetically modifying and creating dinosaurs just for new entertainment. There are even one or two scenes that are actually really good, like when Owen and Claire come across a field of dead Apatosauruses.

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For me, the performances were okay, but I really didn’t care about the characters. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard played their parts well enough, but their characters weren’t the best. Pratt is having fun in his part, but doesn’t go anywhere beyond another variation of Chris Pratt. I particularly disliked the scenes between Pratt and Howard. The brothers I didn’t care for as played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins. Robinson’s character is particularly hard to like, even if I feel like that was intentional. Vincent D’Onofrio plays the over-the-top villain who tries to weaponize dinosaurs and fair is fair, he does embrace the role, and at least seems to match the movie’s energy. Other actors like Irrfan Khan and Judy Greer really are wasted in their parts, and there are plenty of annoying side characters. However, it was nice seeing BD Wong reprise his role as Henry Wu from the first movie, and he actually has a notable part of the plot.

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The direction from Colin Trevorrow was good in parts, it definitely increases the scale over the original trilogy. The action is quite entertaining and well filmed, the highlight again being the final dinosaur battle. With the scale comes the amount of destruction and deaths and Trevorrow definitely goes all in with that. Although there is an infamous death of one character played by Katie McGrath which is very out of place. The death is so over the top and contrived, it actually feels like a finishing move from Mortal Kombat or Injustice. The three Jurassic Park movies had a blend of CGI and animatronics, with the effects in each subsequent movie being worse than the last but otherwise they were still solid, even Jurassic Park III. However, it was 2015, and as you can expect, nearly all of the dinosaurs are CGI. The CGI on the dinosaurs isn’t necessarily bad, but you do feel that it is CGI, if that makes sense. The visual effects could be inconsistent, ranging from pretty good to rather fake, and I’m not just talking about the dinosaurs.

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As a dumb blockbuster, I think that Jurassic World works. I think after it passes its rather dull first act, and goes into the outbreak and mayhem, it picks up and is quite entertaining. While its not the highest of praises a movie could get, I do think it could’ve been worse. At the very least, I think its better than Jurassic Park III, and it has its moments.

Jurassic Park III (2001) Review

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Jurassic Park 3

Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant
William H. Macy as Paul Kirby
Téa Leoni as Amanda Kirby
Alessandro Nivola as Billy Brennan
Trevor Morgan as Eric Kirby
Michael Jeter as Udesky
Director: Joe Johnston

Paul and Amanda Kirby, a wealthy couple, offer research funding to Alan Grant, a doctor, on the condition that he accompanies them to find their missing son on a deadly island.

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I had been making my way rewatching the Jurassic Park movies. I seemed to recall the third film being the worst of the Jurassic movies but didn’t have much memory of it beyond it starring Sam Neill and being the first film in the series to not be directed by Steven Spielberg. After rewatching it, I definitely think it’s the worst of the series, even though I have some enjoyment with it.

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Jurassic Park III’s plot is a bit weird when you compare it to the previous movies. It plays out more like a creature feature B-movie than a Jurassic Park movie. Not that there isn’t some positives in that, the plot is a relatively and refreshingly simple and straightforward monster movie. It’s also short at around 90 minutes in length. However, the plot just isn’t substantial, it’s a bit too simplistic, dull and is rather paint by numbers. The Lost World increased the number of dumb decisions made by characters, and Jurassic Park III increased them even further. This is especially the case with the Kirbys (as played by William H. Macy and Tea Leoni), who are very likely the worst part of the movie, quite irritating and hard to like. The plot connivences can also be a lot, even the reason to bring Sam Neill’s Alan Grant to the dinosaur island is just so contrived. It is definitely a movie where you need to suspend your disbelief even beyond everything happening with the dinosaurs. There are some very silly moments and aspects. For example, there are times where raptors almost seem to be talking to each other in dinosaur language or something. Sometimes the film can be funny though (intentional or not), like infamous scene in the first act where Alan has a dream, which has become the biggest joke to come out from this movie. It is worth noting that there were issues during production, with the script being written while they were filming, and it certainly shows. Not to say that it is not enjoyable. It does work as a B level monster flick at times, and it can be entertaining. It helps that the plot is fairly tight and is told at a high pace, not letting itself drag. It is basically a slasher movie with dinosaurs and plays more like a Syfy channel flick, and as that, Jurassic Park III does the job alright.

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There is a talented cast involved, unfortunately the characters aren’t interesting. Sam Neill returns as Alan Grant in the lead role and reliably gives a good performance, it was nice to see him again. Alessandro Nivola was a nice addition, he especially works well alongside Sam Neill. Those two were the two performances and characters I actually liked. The Kirbys as played by William H. Macy and Tea Leoni are rather annoying characters who weigh heavily on the plot, despite the talent of their actors. Leoni in particular is reduced to screaming throughout the whole movie and is very likely a strong contender for the worst major character in a Jurassic Park movie. However, the worst handling of a character in Jurassic Park III would be Ellie Sattler as played by Laura Dern, who returns from the first movie but only has a couple of scenes here, she’s barely involved with the plot. It was so minimal it honestly would’ve felt less offensive if she wasn’t in the movie at all.

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Instead of being directed by Steven Spielberg like the last couple movies were, Jurassic Park III is directed by Joe Johnston. He’s certainly no Spielberg, but his work on the whole is fine, the technical aspects are pretty good. The cinematography is nice enough and the production design is impressive. There are also some stunning visual effects, even if they aren’t quite as good as in the previous couple of movies. The action sequences are generally solid and tense, a highlight being a scene later in the movie involving a large bird cage. While the dinosaurs are portrayed okay enough for the most part, they just lack the magnetic screen presence that they had previously. I remember a scene where it tries to replicate the feeling of wonder from before, like when we first see a dinosaur in the first Jurassic Park, with the main characters watching in awe as the John Williams score swells. In the third movie however, it just doesn’t have nearly the same impact and instead comes across as hollow. The deaths are probably the most violent of the whole series, possibly even more so than The Lost World, sometimes it is like its from a slasher movie, just one involving dinosaurs.

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I don’t dislike Jurassic Park III, but its easily the worst of the Jurassic movies. Not that it doesn’t have some positive things; I liked some of the actors (mainly Sam Neill and Alessandro Nivola), the simple approach, and some of the action. However with its messy script, annoying characters and underwhelming (if competent) direction, its just feels subpar compared to the previous two movies. However, as a dinosaur slasher flick, it works. Its no surprise that after Jurassic Park III, there wouldn’t be another Jurassic Park movie until 14 years later.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) Review

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The Lost World - Jurassic Park

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains violence & coarse language
Cast:
Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm
Julianne Moore as Dr. Sarah Harding:
Pete Postlethwaite as Roland Tembo
Arliss Howard as Peter Ludlow
Richard Attenborough as Dr. John Hammond
Vince Vaughn as Nick Van Owen
Director: Steven Spielberg

John Hammond along with few other members try to explore the Jurassic Park’s second site. However, things get complicated when the dinosaurs go wild and everyone is forced to run for their lives.

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Jurassic Park became an instant classic when it released in 1993, becoming both a critical and box office success. However, all the sequels following did not seem to have been received favourably. The follow up was again directed by Spielberg, and some people viewed it as a disappointment. However I ended up really liking it, even if its not quite as good as the first movie.

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The Lost World is distinctly different from the Jurassic Park, but in a good way. The movie is larger in scope, and the concept and set up of having a different island where dinosaurs roam free was exciting. It’s a nice way to make it stand apart from having yet another dinosaur outbreak like the first Jurassic Park was. Storywise, it definitely has more flaws than the first movie, its certainly not as memorable. It also seems to have a stronger focus on excitement and thrills over its story, and leans more into being a rollar coaster ride. With that said, it succeeds as such, with some entertaining and thrilling moments. The Lost World is a darker movie than Jurassic Park, yet also manages to be sillier and on the more absurd side, so it can be tonally inconsistent at points. Characters in monster movies making bad decisions isn’t exactly an anomaly, however The Lost World has a lot more of it than Jurassic Park, and for whatever reason its more frustrating. Its probably because these people really should know better, especially Julianne Moore’s character. There’s also some moments where the plot gets a little far fetched and doesn’t make sense. There are some very silly moments that are over the top, including one involving a dinosaur being taken out by gymnastics of all things. Finally, the third act has a notable setting change that’s out of place from the rest of the movie, even though I enjoyed it.

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The cast of characters aren’t as good as the characters in the first movie, they weren’t as memorable or as interesting, and I say this even though I don’t even think the collection of characters of the first movie were all that great. However, the characters of The Lost World still work in their parts and are performed well. Jeff Goldblum was a scene stealer as Ian Malcolm in the first Jurassic Park and he returns here in a larger part, taking the lead role this time. While I do feel like he works better as a side character than a protagonist, he is still good, fun to watch and has some memorable lines. Julianne Moore, Richard Attenborough, Pete Postlethwaite, Vince Vaughn and others are good, though I will say that Moore does feel a bit underutilised, and Vaughn randomly disappears from the final act.

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Unsurprisingly, Steven Spielberg’s direction was one of the strongest parts of this movie, with strong technical elements. The cinematography is polished and energetic, it is a visually stunning movie. The majority of The Lost World is set at night, and is darker and rainier than even the first movie. The sets are grand and spectacular with some stellar production design. The visual effects and sound design are on top form too. Some of the CGI aren’t quite as strong compared to the first movie, but its nonetheless impressive, and the animatronics still hold up. The set pieces are riveting, entertaining, and very tense. Once again, Spielberg exceeds at the tension and suspense. One moment which stands out particularly is a scene where the main characters are on the edge of a cliff, it is incredibly well crafted. The deaths in The Lost World are interestingly more violent and brutal than the last movie’s, as if Spielberg was carrying over his mean streak from Temple of Doom. The score by John Williams is great as to be expected, and this time has a comparatively darker tone, fitting for this movie.

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The Lost World was a decent follow up to the first Jurassic Park. Once again, it has problems with the characters, and the writing is a bit of a mixed bag. Otherwise, the cast are pretty good, and the direction from Steven Spielberg really made it something worth watching. At the very least, The Lost World is the best of the Jurassic Park sequels.

Jurassic Park (1993) Review

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Jurassic Park

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] 
Cast:
Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant
Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler
Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm
Richard Attenborough as Dr. John Hammond
Bob Peck as Robert Muldoon
Joseph Mazzello as Tim Murphy
Ariana Richards as Lex Murphy
Samuel L. Jackson as Ray Arnold
Wayne Knight as Dennis Nedry
Martin Ferrero as Donald Gennaro
B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu
Director: Steven Spielberg

John Hammond, an entrepreneur, opens a wildlife park containing cloned dinosaurs. However, a breakdown of the island’s security system causes the creatures to escape and bring about chaos.

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With the third Jurassic World movie coming soon, I thought I’d rewatch the movies in the Jurassic Park/World series. To be blunt, I have no nostalgia for Jurassic Park. I didn’t watch the original until I was later in my teens, and I’m pretty sure I saw the second or third movies before it. While I liked the original, I just wasn’t as attached to it as much as others. Having revisited it, that remains the same case, but I still quite liked it and can appreciate the fantastic work here.

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While I do have problems with it, the script of Jurassic Park is solidly written and well crafted; I was on board from beginning to end. The film is 2 hours long, but doesn’t waste time in setting everything up. The first half sets the mood by introducing the park, explaining why it was set up and how the dinosaurs are back. It allows many of the characters to be in awe seeing these dinosaurs brought back to life. Then in the second half, it turns into a thriller when the dinosaurs get loose. As that, Jurassic Park works. I do have issues with the film, nothing movie breaking but enough to prevent me from liking it more. It potentially might be an unpopular opinion, but the characters here weren’t all that interesting, and were a bit thin. That being said, it still has the best set of characters from the Jurassic series thus far. Whenever the dinosaurs are on screen, I think the film really works and succeeds, but a lot of the human drama is rather forced. I think it succeeds more with spectacle and chase scenes over the character moments, which is unfortunate because stronger character moments really would’ve made it so much better. Otherwise, it is a solid script.

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As I said earlier, the characters aren’t all that great, but the performances make up for them. The main trio of Sam Neil, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum are great and make their characters memorable. Richard Attenborough is also great as John Hammond, the creator of Jurassic Park. Out of all the characters in the film, Hammond is given probably the most amount of depth. The rest of the cast including Samuel L. Jackson and Wayne Knight also bring it to their parts. The only acting that doesn’t work that well for me were the grandchildren of Hammond who were a little annoying, but I think most of my annoyance came from how they were written.

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Steven Spielberg directed Jurassic Park and his expert craft is on display here. The cinematography is stunning, and everything is perfectly filmed. The visual effects are fantastic, especially with the blend of practical effects, animatronics, and CGI together, which today appears more fluid than you’d initially think for a movie released in 1993. Speaking of which, the presentation and presence of all the dinosaurs were incredibly effective. Something that Spielberg does incredibly well is build up suspense, things which he brought over from his earlier movies like Duel and Jaws. There are some very memorable and iconic sequences, including but not limited to the introduction of the T-Rex. Finally, you can’t talk about Jurassic Park without talking about the memorable score from John Williams, ranging from triumphant and epic to tense and thrilling. I can’t imagine Jurassic Park without this music.

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I will admit that Jurassic Park is not one of my favourite Steven Spielberg movies and I have some issues with the film, mainly with some of the writing and the rather lacklustre human characters. As I said, I don’t hold the same love for it like most people do. Still, it is undeniably an iconic and monumentally impactful and influential film, and was truly a technical achievement.

Godzilla Raids Again (1955) Review

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Godzilla Raids Again

Time: 82 Minutes
Cast:
Hiroshi Koizumi as Shoichi Tsukioka
Setsuko Wakayama as Hidemi Yamaji
Minoru Chiaki as Koji Kobayashi
Takashi Shimura as Dr. Kyohei Yamane
Director: Motoyoshi Oda

Fishing scout-pilots are startled to discover a new monster named Anguirus alongside a second Godzilla. The monsters make their way towards Osaka as Japan can only brace for tragedy and relive the horror of Godzilla once more.

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I was surprisingly impressed with the original Godzilla released in 1954. Despite how old it is, it has aged very well and remains a stunning, thematic and all around great monster movie. It was such a hit that 6 months after its release it got a follow up titled Godzilla Raids Again. Unfortunately it just did not work nearly as well as that first movie despite its moments.

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First of all I should clarify what kind of film Godzilla Raids Again is. Whereas the first Godzilla was a political thriller with a dark and heavy tone, the sequel abandoned that in in favour of being more of a popcorn action flick with a lot of monster fights. It also lacks the thematic weight of the first movie with its themes of nuclear holocaust and the fear of the H bomb, so there’s much less to analyse and unpack. So at its core it is a dumb monster movie, but I don’t necessarily think that approach is a bad thing. Godzilla Raids Again is essentially about Godzilla fighting another new Kaiju monster, which seems like the most basic direction to go with for a sequel, but there’s some potential and novelty in that concept. However even as this, I feel like it could’ve been a lot better. Unfortunately the film just doesn’t really fully commit to campiness as much as it should’ve. The story itself is boring, underwhelming and feels rather dull. The human story in the first movie was surprisingly strong, however the obligatory story in Raids Again is just bad, it just sort of exists and I barely paid attention to it. Really none of the characters are worth getting invested in and it was difficult to stay invested when they were on screen. This movie is also very poorly paced even at 80 minutes long. It spends too much time rehashing the events of the first movie, and it drags when Godzilla isn’t on screen.

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There’s really nothing to say about the human characters except that they are boring and feel one dimensional. There’s really no one to gravitate towards or like.

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The direction from Motoyoshi Oda is a mixed bag. On the surface it does look similar to the first Godzilla movie. Some shots are nice, and the miniature work is impressive. The action is passable but doesn’t have the same gravity or weight that the original did. The fighting between Godzilla and Anguirius (the new monster) can be pretty fun. With that said, on a technical level, Raids Again it has held up worse than the first movie. The effects really do feel dated, and the fight scenes aren’t nearly as hard hitting. The fights particularly feel like two wrestlers in large rubber suits who can’t see anything slamming each other into buildings. Not that some fun can’t be extracted out of watching that however.

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Godzilla Raids Again is a major step down in quality from the previous film. I wouldn’t say that it is bad by any means, I’m guessing that a lot of the Godzilla movies are at this level of quality anyway. However, it is really something when you compare it to the movie that came beforehand. The scenes of the fighting can be entertaining but at the same time its at the film’s expense given how silly it looks now. The plot is uninteresting, the characters are dull, and the film drags despite its short runtime. Even a silly B-level Godzilla movie should be better than this.

The Island (2005) Review

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The Island

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Tom Lincoln/Lincoln Six-Echo
Scarlett Johansson as Sarah Jordan/Jordan Two-Delta
Djimon Hounsou as Albert Laurent
Sean Bean as Dr. Merrick
Michael Clarke Duncan as Jamal Starkweather/Starkweather Two-Delta
Steve Buscemi as James “Mac” McCord
Director: Michael Bay

Futuristic thriller about a contained, seemingly utopian facility in the mid-21st century. The residents hope to be chosen to go to the Island – the last uncontaminated place on Earth, but when one inhabitant discovers that there are sinister forces at work, he and a female friend make a daring escape.

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I had some recollection of The Island, having first watched it many years ago. I remember it starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, and being one of the better Michael Bay movies. I decided to revisit it and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

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The Island has an interesting setup and premise, and I found the story to be interesting. I won’t say what the plot is about as I think it’s best going into it not knowing the reveals beforehand. It does have some interesting ideas, and occasionally it attempts to raise some interesting ethical scientific questions about its subject matter. Some of the topics can even be thought provoking. The premise has an interesting sci-fi concept that could’ve been explored and made into something special. Unfortunately by the end, the film is an overblown action movie. The film would’ve been better if it had a stronger focus on the heavier ideas it had. The plot itself seems to be divided into two very different halves. The first half is an intriguing look into a particular facility of people, where the lead characters played by McGregor and Johannsson try to figure out the truth about where they are. There were cool concepts introduced and solid worldbuilding here, in fact the movie takes a surprising amount of time to establish its world and characters. The second half of the movie takes place after most of the major reveals have been given, and turns into a fugitive action flick, with not much story or character development. This is where the film really stumbles, it’s just the two main characters on the run with intense chase scenes and doesn’t do much with the dystopian aspect. The two halves don’t really fit together that well. Second half aside, there are still some other issues with the film. Despite the interesting ideas, The Island doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of the genre, and still has a formulaic plot. There are some plot conveniences and some of the dialogue is a little rough. It also lacks in character development, even with the lead characters. It does feel a little too long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes, not helped by the inconsistent pacing. However it does keep you entertained throughout the runtime.

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On the whole, the cast play their roles really well. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are pretty good as the lead characters despite the lack of character depth and development given to them. McGregor particularly gets to do more in the second half of the movie (without getting into spoilers here). The supporting cast are solid too, Steve Buscemi is entertaining in a supporting role, Sean Bean delivers in the main villain role, and Djimon Hounsou makes for a threatening supporting antagonist as a mercenary sent after the main characters.

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Michael Bay directs this movie, and you can recognise this almost immediately. It contains many of his tropes and trademarks, from the style of cinematography, product placement, and more. However I still think this is probably one of his most restrained movies. The cinematography is slick and it has a near future look and feel to it, where the tech is sci-fi, but doesn’t feel entirely out of the realm of possibility. The action sequences are generally fun and creative, with the chase scenes particularly shining. There is definitely an overload of action by the end, but I don’t have a huge amount of complaints about the action itself. There is definitely quite a lot of shaky cam used and it was a bit much at points, but it does add some urgency to these scenes. Unsurprisingly, the movie also features a large and rousing score from Steve Jacoblonsky and works quite well for this film.

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Despite its ideas and promising premise, The Island is nothing special as far as sci-fi movies go. However, I was still reasonably invested with the plot, the acting is good, the action is fun to watch, and I was entertained throughout. I’m aware that some people really don’t like Michael Bay’s movies, but for what it’s worth, I think it’s one of his best, and definitely worth checking out.