The countdown continues…again!
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is one of the landmarks in populist blockbuster films. Like every child in the 90’s I watched that movie both in VHS and revival screenings. It was an adventure about a theme park populated with genetically re-engineered dinosaurs (brought to life with excellent movie special effects) and the concept alone was enough to thrill me as a child and even today fill me with child-like wonder; but I know that the craft behind Spielberg’s 1993 film was ultimately what makes it so effective even 20+ years after the fact. Nowadays, almost anything that can be imagined will be brought to life on screen, spectacle and imaginative concepts aren’t enough to carry a movie along anymore and modern audiences have become increasingly jaded and cynical with every passing summer movie blockbuster season. Couple that cynicism with Hollywood’s predilection for sequels, franchise-building and recycling old intellectual properties and the landscape for big-budget blockbusters are mostly embarrassing time-fillers of diminishing spectacle. To this, there was a golden opportunity for the fourth sequel in a 20-year old franchise that diminished with each successive feature. The opportunity was two-fold: they could skillfully bring back an aging-yet-respected franchise to a public increasingly obsessed w/ nostalgia OR they could respond in kind to the current state of blockbusters. Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World attempts to do both but fails to bring back any respectability to the Jurassic franchise yet it somehow, against all odds, succeeds as a self-loathing takedown of blockbuster filmmaking. This isn’t a review per se but rather a defense of summer 2015s biggest (it’s hit record-breaking billion $ marks) yet possibly most critically misunderstood movie in a long time.
Filmmaker Matthew Vaughn went and transformed himself from a producer and filmmaker in the shadow of peer Guy Ritchie, to a director-for-hire to a genuine auteur. Don’t get me wrong, his previous efforts such as the underappreciated Layer Cake, the quintessential superhero flick X-Men First Class and the anarchic Kick-Ass were all enjoyable and showed off an impeccable sense of filmmaking craft. As great as his films were, none ever seemed to elevate themselves beyond pop movie. That is until he decided to repurpose an old Mark Millar spy comic called The Secret Service and create one of the meanest, irreverent and cynical satirical work since Paul Verhoven’s Starship Troopers. Kingsman: The Secret Service is violent, chaotic and angry, it uses the framework of a blockbuster James Bond parody for the purpose of angrily indicting issues of elitism, male privilege, and many others. The secret genius behind this film is that it does such a good job as a finely tailored example of the very things it aims its vitriol at that it can be easily mistaken as a celebration of those terrible things. The movie is too self-aware to be taken at its face value, and like the best satirical works, it never lets the audience off the hook.
Lives and society are largely based around the roles people play. Societies exist with an expectation that everyone plays a certain role. This provides order otherwise, it becomes a chaos. By “roles” I mean the “faces” they put on for the outside world, their loved ones and even for themselves. Sometimes it’s an image, a way of dealing with or adjusting the truth, many times it’s a lie to “fit in” with external expectations. Filmmaker David Fincher’s teams up with writer/feminist critic Gillian Flynn (who is adapting her own controversial novel) for Gone Girl, a film that is all about lies: the lies we tell each other, the lies society tells us and the lies we tell ourselves. It is a dark film with a cynical view of people. Gone Girl uses the framework of a standard-issue “whodunit” to create a bleak, darkly clever and absolutely biting satire on gender roles and dynamics, marriage and societal expectations. To go into detail about specifics in the story may in fact alter the experience and so prospective viewers may want to go into this film as “blind” as possible. Nevertheless the best review for such a film as this is to provide the context to get the uninitiated in the best possible mindset for such an experience.