In Defense of "Solo" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"
Welcome to the middle of the summer blockbuster season, where we can all get out of the beautiful weather and sit in a dark, air conditioned room. I am what you would call lazy during these hot summer days and have been slacking with a few reviews. So in true slacker fashion, I have decided to combine these two into one long rant. Enough of that, let's talk summer blockbuster movies.
Avengers: Infinity War got ahead of the pack and released in late April and successfully stole a good amount of thunder from the rest of the field. Not only was Thanos's jaunt across worlds to control the universe the biggest of the summer/spring blockbusters, it was probably the best. But that does not mean everything else should be compared to it.
Let's start with Solo: A Star Wars Story, a movie that had it's fair share of troubles during production and even caused a boycott among hardcore Star Wars fans. I had as much trepidation as most of you did when it came to the origin story of everyone's' favorite galactic smuggler, but when I finally saw it in action I was surprised by how little I disliked the movie, and ended up liking it quite a bit.
Where the first Star Wars standalone movie, Rogue One, was an attempt to branch out the genres in the franchise by making it more of a war movie, Solo does the same but for Westerns. Solo is full of great Space Western imagery, complete with a space train robbery, a space Mexican standoff and space backstabbing.
The plot was better than serviceable and all in all is a very watchable movie. I even think Alden Ehrenreich did a fine job of bringing a young Solo to the screen only to be outdone by Donald Glover's scary good rendition of a young Lando Calrissian, not to mention perfectly fine side characters/villains played by Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany and Woody Harrelson yall.
I would really have loved to see Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's version of Solo, but I think Ron Howard did a great job coming in deep into the production and giving us a solid movie that I would even argue is a better "movie" than The Last Jedi, but that is for a different article.
Solo is even chock full of the cheeky nostalgia and original trilogy callbacks that the last 2 mainline Star Wars movies have heavily coasted on, even though the origin of Han's last name made be throw up into the thankfully empty seat in front of me. This is a movie that as of the writing of this has effectively shut down all future Star Wars standalone projects because of the fanboy backlash that led to it's 'meager' 370 million dollar box office.
Now onto Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the sequel to what was once the highest grossing movie of all time. I was a fan and one of the great supporters of Jurassic World, yes it's plot is predictable and full of exposition and character signaling. Yes it rides off the coat tales of the original, so much so that it is basically a remake rather than a reboot and yes, genetically engineered dinosaurs is kinda lame but so what. It's a blockbuster about dinosaurs in a theme park, both of which I like a lot.
I really expected Fallen Kingdom to be a big ole' pile of trash. If Jurassic World was a remake of Jurassic Park, Fallen Kingdom looked like a remake of The Lost World which is itself, one of the great disasters in human history. I saw dinos in bedrooms and had flashbacks to this.
Maybe it was because my expectations were so low but I really ended up enjoying Fallen Kingdom. It is not the type of movie that has me shouting from the rooftops for anyone and everyone to go see, but I found myself often entertained and rarely disgusted. Chris Pratt is a full on action hero in this series and his riding a motorcycle surrounded by trained raptors is only bested by his full on dive-roll through a snapping T-Rex bite in the sequel.
What surprised me the most was director J.A. Bayona doing what I though was never possible in his attempt to return this series to its horror roots. The original Jurassic Park was filled with great tension and visual horror that has become watered down with age and the following movies using dinos as willy nilly, rather than as well made set-pieces.
I should have known given Bayona's horror/fantasy background directing "The Orphanage" and "A Monster Calls". There are some great, if not scary at least hair raising scenes that are the best return to the bone chilling roots that made the original unforgettable.
There is also a return to metaphoric thinking that really has not been seen in this series since the original. Jurassic Park had a strong theme drawn through it about the dangers of the speed in which science is advancing and what may happen if we don't control it. Jurassic World made a solid attempt to run it's theme of "corporations will take advantage of anything that can make them money or kill things faster" but that message is kinda hard to uphold when it becomes the biggest movies of all time.
Fallen Kingdom is clearly, almost to aggressively, about animal conservation, poaching and the human effect on creatures other than ourselves. In my opinion it is a pretty noble stance and one that should not have too many if any detractors, making Fallen Kingdom a movie with little drama associated with it.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has fared a bit better than Solo at the box office, despite being released almost a moth later, Fallen Kingdom has made more than 600 million more than Solo and with a budget that was almost certainly less. But if you look on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, their numbers tell a different story.
Fallen Kingdom right now sits at a 51% approval rate on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. It has a 6.6% on IMDb putting it percentage points above Tomb Raider and Rampage. I'm not saying this movie deserves 9s or 10s, but for all that it is, it is not a below average movie, and does not deserve to be in the same range as those train wrecks mentioned before.
Solo does a little better critically, it sits at a 7.2 on IMDb and a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, both scores that I agree with. The unfortunate thing with Solo is the backlash, most of it unwarranted, which has led to this movie sputtering at the box office and being looked at as a flop.
These are blockbusters guys, they poop out a new Fast and Furious movie that is the same as the last 3 they have made and everyone loses their minds. Solo and Fallen Kingdom try to give viewers something their respective series have not seen before or recently and either everyone critiques like they are in the Academy or does not bother to go see the movie at all.
At the end of this long and, most likely nonsensical rant I want to leave you with this. Movies are supposed to make you think, they are supposed to entertain you and show you new things. In my opinion both of these movies are worth the time and money, and not everything has to be filled with as many recognizable faces and social media meme material to be a good movie.