Category Archives: hollywood

“Downsizing” belittles the important details

When you get a high concept idea for a story, you need to work through the writing process and see where the story will take you and develop deeper themes. For example, the high concept of “The Matrix” is ‘what if we were living in a video game reality’, but the story is really about breaking free of boundaries and developing inner confidence. In “Jaws”, the concept is ‘what if a shark attacked a small coastal town’, but the film is about the protagonist overcoming his fear of the water. In “Downsizing”, the high concept of people being shrunk to reduce waste and improve economic well-being is a great and strange idea. The deeper themes are not.

Written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor and directed by Payne, “Downsizing” is the story of Paul Safranek (Matt Damon). He convinces his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), to go through the recently announced downsizing program to increase their wealth and hopefully their happiness. When Audrey backs out at the last moment, Paul finds himself abandoned as a five-inch tall man in a community living in dollhouses. A clash with his new neighbor Dusan (Christoph Waltz) leads him on a strange road to downsizing creator Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen (Rolf Lassgard) and Vietnamese refugee Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau).

The first 40 minutes of the film are a slow buildup to the first reveal, but once Paul is on his own,  the film takes off and sputters at the same time. Like the point above, the film should be about something else other than just people shrinking. And it is. But “Downsizing” investigates themes of overpopulation, extinction, social class, finding happiness, finding love, finding purpose … It’s all just too much and not enough at the same time, the characters being lost in the shuffle of themes and plot. It feels as though Payne and Taylor had so many different ideas of where to take the story that they just threw as many concepts as they could at the script and just hoped one would stick.

And when the characters are giving breathing space to influence the direction of the story, there’s just not a lot to them. They’re more stereotypes than actual people, especially Ngoc Lan Tran, an annoying cliche of Asian mannerisms that is unacceptable in today’s world.

All in all, “Downsizing” is a great concept, but one bogged down by too many themes and not enough characters. In the hands of someone else like Charlie Kauffman or John Waters (someone more avant garde), the theming could have worked towards much greater and stranger effect, but Payne and Taylor are not the right filmmakers for this sort of concept.

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“Christopher Robin” as touching and sappy as Pooh’s honey- but that’s okay

Written by Alex Ross Perry and Tom McCarthy and directed by Marc Forster, “Christopher Robin” tells the story of the titular character (Ewan McGregor) who went on so many adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods. Now a husband, father and businessman, Christopher has forgotten the frivolity and joy of his childhood. As the company he works for looks to downsize and tasks him with cutting employees, a friend from his past, Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings), appears to him and realizes he’s become a Woozle.

Much like “Hook”, the film follows an adult character from a classic story to see that he has lost his youth and innocence. It’s a very predictable story from disillusioned adult to joyful parent, but a heartfelt one nonetheless.

In fact, perhaps a little too heartfelt. Images of Robin fighting in World War II, screaming at Pooh and ultimately embracing his old friends against a brilliant sun push the film perilously close towards schmaltz. But with a narrative of this type, with characters as beloved as these, some schmaltz is not the worst thing. It is, after all, a story about a man being reunited with his teddy bear.

Perhaps the film’s greatest sin is in its casting with 47 year-old Ewan McGregor paired with 36 year-old Hayley Atwell as his wife, Evelyn. It’s another example of Hollywood casting substantially older males with younger female co-stars.

But the film is a low-key, sweet tale of regaining perspective amidst an adult world of cynicism. Kids will like it. Adults might like it more.

Hollywood has a bad case of Marvelitis

There was a time when hype was built up for a great movie experience. All cinephiles can remember that excitement for the motion picture event of the year. There was Jaws in 1975. There was Jurassic Park in 1993. There was Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 1999. The was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001. There was Avatar in 2009.

The world was given glimmers of the promise of truly breathtaking filmmaking leading up to the release of each of these films. People rushed to the cinemas to see something that became more than a movie, it was a global phenomenon, something that changed the way we think about film culturally. Where has that gone?

For studios, it’s no longer about one film anymore. It’s about franchises. Why put all of your eggs into one basket when you can have multiple baskets? And it has drained the creativity and ingenuity out of the Hollywood marketplace.

The tentpole film is dead for the moment. It can always come back. It probably will at some point. But one film is no longer enough for studios right now. It’s the franchise that rules.

The term is called Marvelitis. It started with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The characters of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor were each given their own separate films before joining up in a mash-up Avengers film (2012). Then the list of characters expanded and more individual films were made before they all joined up again in a second Avengers film (2015). And more characters will be given their own films and more team-ups will come together, an ever expanding universe. And not only have the films become successful, but there is now a need to see all the films in order to stay up in the continuity of the overall story, and the more entries into the MCU, the more opportunities for merchandising. Ever going. On and on.

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And studios are now copying Marvel’s success. The Justice League, the Transformers, the Ghostbusters, the Men in Black, 21 Jump Street, Star Wars. As long as a studio has a hot franchise (or in some cases even not so hot), it can create its own series of films and hook viewers into a continuum storyline in order to suck as much profit as it can out of a franchise’s bone marrow.

The problem then is that nothing of much substance happens in the films. When drastic things happen in the plot, the story is closer to its end. In order to stretch out the story as much as possible, dramatic things have to be delayed, which leads to far less interesting stories. The results are watered down films where not a lot happens.

And the effect on the audience is a dilution of substance. We are not as emotionally engaged anymore because we know certain characters are “safe.” Captain America is not going to die because he is signed on for three more films. And even when characters die, they often come back, further diminishing the effect of death in film. The dramatic stakes are immediately lessened based on the cinematic universe approach.

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Audiences will tire of this approach eventually. There are already box office signals that the ruse of milking profit and franchises for all their worth is fading. It will take a few years still, but it will happen. Will the movie event of the year film come back at that point? Perhaps. A true emotive film experience is not built up over a series of watered down movies, but over true emotional change in the life circumstances of characters, full of love and loss and hope and desire. The movie events of year’s past had those qualities in spades in addition to advances in technology and breathtaking thrills. They can’t be back soon enough.

 

New “Halloween” a return to form for Michael Myers

John Carpenter’s original 1978 “Halloween” is a classic, the original slasher movie with a great score, scary villain, deep message and genre-defining storyline. Its seven sequels and remake however… not so much. Except for some interesting ideas in “Halloween III: Season of the Witch”, the “Halloween” franchise has consisted mostly of hack jobs meant as a quick means to turn a profit. None of them are in the spirit of the original.

So it’s a relief that the new “Halloween” (which is not given any new identifier) shows great reverence for its source. It’s a direct sequel to the original, dismissing 40 years of lethargic sequels and lazy remakes. And considering that it is by all accounts a good, not great but pretty good, movie, forgetting all those other films just became a whole lot easier.

“Halloween” takes place 40 years to the day Michael Myers went loose and butchered several people in Haddonfield, Illinois. The girl who escaped, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), still lives with the events of that night every day. Her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), thinks her mom is an old kook, obsessed with safety against an old foe long gone. Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak), tries to connect with her grandmother but is caught between her extremism and her own mom’s pragmatism. Michael, long in confinement, breaks out of prison the night he is being transferred and returns to the town, intent on killing. Laurie, long waiting for this night, is ready to finish him and end her years of torment.

The film is focused on the characters, specifically the three generational Strode women in Laurie, Karen and Allyson. This gives the story a strong foundation to build the relationship between them and how they confront the nightmare that is Myers. Laurie is a survivor who has been scarred by her experience, believing the world is out to get her. Karen believes the world is inherently good. Allyson is caught in the middle, young and still learning about life. It’s an interesting study about trauma and worldview that becomes somewhat muddled at the end, but nevertheless gives the film some gravitas.

Due diligence is also given to pretty much every random character, killed or not. Some moments feel rather forced in and don’t really go anywhere, but the characters are not stereotypical chum meant purely for slaughter. Much like the original film, we’re slightly sad when they get butchered. That means a lot.

Perhaps the thing that works best in “Halloween’s” favor is that it feels consequential. It feels like a sequel that maybe not necessarily needed to be told, but still feels important as a continuation of the original’s story. That’s due to the dedication of screenwriter Danny McBride and director/co-writer David Gordon Green, along with a returning John Carpenter to do the score. They respected the original, studied and tried their best to make something worthy of a follow-up. It’s not a classic like the source, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needed to feel consequential and it does.

It’s almost a shame that Michael Myers will return. Given the box office success of this film, it’s a given that there will be another movie. And perhaps another after that. And after that. Much like the success of the first “Halloween” spawned 40 years of lackluster cashgrabs, perhaps it’s the franchise’s destiny to be plagued by an incessant need to cash in whenever a substance of quality is made. This “Halloween” feels like a natural conclusion. But Michael will return.

That’s the scariest trick he ever pulled.

“First Man” falls frighteningly flat

It is doubtless that man setting foot on the moon is one of the greatest achievements of mankind’s history. So often, the history of man is one of regret: war, famine, bloodshed, conquests, plagues. But landing on the moon galvanized every person on the planet in 1969. Here was man doing something amazing for the benefit of our species. Yes, part of the impetus was for the United States to beat the Soviets to the punch. But even the most cynical of selves could still feel something majestic in the act of a person on the moon.

That’s what most people would expect from a movie that tells the story of Neil Armstrong, the first man to take that monumental step: a story of bravery, ingenuity and endeavor. Instead, “First Man” is a morbid, dreary, sometimes boring tale of death and sacrifice with Ryan Gosling doing his best Ambien impression.

Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) is mourning the death of his young daughter as he serves as a pilot for NASA. The mounting pressure on the agency to beat the Soviets to the moon forces them to keep pushing the boundary of science and innovation. Pilot after pilot dies including Armstrong’s good friend, Ed White (Jason Clarke), as the program moves forward, the pressures on Armstrong exacerbated by his diminishing relationship with his wife, Janet (Claire Foy), and his family. After Gemini 8 nearly fails under Armstrong’s command, he is given command of Apollo 11. Can he push through and get to the moon?

Written by Josh Singer and directed by Damien Chazelle, the film fails mainly because of the characterization of Neil Armstrong. Yes, we feel for him losing his daughter, but for the entirety of the film, he mopes around, rarely happy, disconnected from the action. He mistreats his wife and his family and his journey to the moon seems more like an exercise in testing death than achieving any sort of personal or philosophical ideal.

Granted, it’s nice in a way to see a different approach to a space film other than the chest-beating, patriotic slant of “Apollo 13” or the space-is-otherworldly thrills of “Interstellar” and “Gravity.” But a movie about a moment such as this should feel triumphant, not morose.

His daughter’s death could have served as motivation for Armstrong. Perhaps she always wondered what the moon felt like and talked with her dad about it before she died. Some sort of motivation for Armstrong would have done wonders. But Neil is given no motivation. Why he wants to go to the moon and fly his missions is a mystery to us. For the thrill? For achievement? For family? To beat the Soviets? We get nothing and that leaves us with an empty feeling.

In contrast, Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) is presented as a witty, sarcastic SOB. You’d rather be with him because he at least seems interesting or have him played up against Armstrong’s dour persona. Perhaps they learn from each other on the journey. Just give us something.

It’s a shame because with the deluge of space movies lately, you’d think one about Neil Armstrong would fit right into cannon. The editing and presentation of space travel are tense and realistic, the sense of danger real. But behind all the facade and technical prowess beats an empty heart.

“Atomic Blonde” has great action, little intrigue

In the era of #MeToo, having strong female characters in mainstream movies is more important than ever. But just having a strong female lead is not enough to guarantee success. You still need to tell an interesting story and “Atomic Blonde” isn’t able to do that.

Written by Kurt Johnstad and directed by David Leitch, “Atomic Blonde” tells the story of Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), an undercover MI6 agent sent to Berlin right before the wall falls. A list of double agents has gone missing and everyone wants it. As Broughton digs into the deep underworld of the city, discovering allies who may be foes and foes who may be allies such as David Percival (James McAvoy) and Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), the fight to find the list and avenge old colleagues comes to a head.

The action scenes are intense and dynamically filmed. The viewer really feels the pain of each blow and the desperation of each agent as blows are exchanged and bullets fly. The attention to detail is exemplary.

But that in itself is the whole film. A random collection of fight scenes. The plot itself is thin. The McGuffin isn’t memorable, the double crosses are relatively easy to anticipate and there is nothing to really distinguish the film from other spy-action flicks.

Theron as Lorraine Broughton can go toe to toe with male spies like Ethan Hunt from “Mission Impossible” and James Bond from… well, you know. She’s every bit as intense and dramatic, tough and imposing. But she’s not that interesting. More information about her backstory, perhaps some personal vendettas and hidden motivations would have gone a long way towards fleshing out her character and giving us an emotional stake in the story. We ultimately don’t have reason to care.

As it stands, “Atomic Blonde” utilizes style over substance and relegates the film to forgettable.

“Jurassic Park” Analysis

Story Analysis Description

*Analysis based off work of Robert McKee, Joseph Campbell and Syd Field

*Special thanks to Movieclips for their clips below

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CHARACTERS

Protagonist Alan Grant
Desire Conscious: Finance his dig and discover dinosaurs
Unconscious: Become a parent
Conflict Levels Inner: Fear of evolving
Personal: Dinosaurs, Lex and Tim, Ellie, Malcolm
Extra-Personal: Parenthood, Finance
Character Characterization: Gruff scientist
True Character: Hero
Turn: Caring father figure
John Hammond
Desire Conscious: Finance Jurassic Park
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner: Possible madness
Personal: Gennaro, scientists
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Freewheeling billionaire
True Character:
Turn:
Dennis Nedry
 Desire  Conscious: Make a lot of money by stealing dinosaur embryos
 Unconscious:  
 Conflict Levels  Inner:  
 Personal:  Hammond, Arnold
 Extra-Personal:  –
 Character  Characterization:  Corrupt computer hacker
 True Character:  
 Turn:  
Muldoon
Desire Conscious: Neutralize raptors
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner:
Personal: Velociraptors
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Cunning hunter
True Character:
Turn:
Malcolm
Desire Conscious: Get together with Ellie
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner:
Personal: Ellie, Allan
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Egotistical mathematician
True Character:
Turn:
Gennaro
Desire Conscious: Shut down Jurassic Park
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner:
Personal: Hammond
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Corrupt businessman
True Character:
Turn:
Principle of Antagonism Positive Evolution Pessimistic Ebbing evolution
Negative Stagnation Negation of Negation Tampering with nature
Controlling Idea: Evolution must be a natural process because tampering with nature leads to catastrophe.

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PLOT

Inciting Incident Hammond proposes to Alan and Ellie to come to his island
Act One Climax Alan, Ellie and Malcolm meet the Brachiosaurus
GAP Alan discovers that Hammond is tampering with nature in dangerous ways
Progressive Complications The park malfunctions and Allan is thrust into a parental role
Midpoint The T. Rex eats Gennaro, injures Malcolm and forces Allan to care for Lexi and Tim
Act Two Climax Alan saves Tim after he’s electrocuted
Climax Alan grabs a gun and decides to save Lexi and Tim
Act Three Climax The T. Rex kills the Velociraptors and Alan, Ellie, Lexi and Tim escape
Resolution Alan realizes he’s evolved into a parent

HERO’S JOURNEY

ORDINARY WORLD Alan and Ellie dig up dinosaur bones in the desert
CALL TO ADVENTURE Hammond invites them to his island
REFUSAL OF THE CALL Alan doesn’t get in the car with Lexi or Tim
MEETING THE MENTOR
CROSSING FIRST THRESHOLD Alan saves Lexi and Tim from the T. Rex
TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES Alan teaches Lexi and Tim to feed the Brachiosaurus
APPROACH TO INMOST CAVE Alan leads Lexi and Tim past the Gallimimuses
ORDEAL Alan saves Tim after he is electrocuted
REWARD Alan learns how to be a caring parent
ROAD BACK Alan leads Lexi and Tim back to the visitor center
RESURRECTION Alan puts himself in danger to save Lexi and Tim from the Velociraptors
RETURN WITH ELIXIR Lexi and Tim sleep on Alan’s shoulders on the helicopter

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ARCHETYPES

HERO Alan Grant
SHADOW Gennaro, Hammond
MENTOR
ALLY Lexi, Tim, Ian, Ellie
HERALD Hammond
THRESHOLD GUARDIAN T. Rex, Velociraptor
TRICKSTER Dilophosaurus
SHAPESHIFTER Dennis

 

THEMES

Tampering with nature disrupts evolution and creates monsters Hammond is reckless in his pursuit of creating dinosaurs, seeking to impress the world through sheer will, but he does not grasp the will of nature. Tampering with such primordial forces is an affront to the natural world and will result only in catastrophe. Evolution is a subtle act that effects all of us beyond our control. Trying to play God will have consequences.
Money leads to corruption Both Gennaro and Dennis are primarily influenced by money, causing each to act against others and, in essence, nature. Gennaro betrays his borrowers by fully buying into the idea of Jurassic Park to make money. Dennis betrays his employers to steal embryos and sell out. Both actions subliminally are an affront to nature by acquiescing to Hammond’s madness and these choices cost them their lives.

STORYLINES

Alan Grant Evolving
John Hammond’s Madness
Dennis and the Embryos
Ian and Ellie
Gennaro’s Greed
Muldoon and the Velociraptors

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SCENE BREAKDOWN

Scene #1 The Velociraptors are Transferred
Protagonist Muldoon
Desire Load the Raptors safely
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP A raptor breaks free and grabs the gatekeeper
Value Survival
Role Muldoon Inciting Incident: The Raptor attack convinces him that raptors need to be destroyed because they are too dangerous
Analysis The film starts right off with the central theme: man and its inability to control nature. We have man utilizing technology (grids, electricity, lights, gates, tasers), trying to control a creature born out of a lab, the Velociraptor. Man can’t control this beast, resulting in the death of the gatekeeper. Spielberg is able to elevate the relatively simple attack by using his wide skills of cinematic talent, highlighting the hunter/hunted dynamic, the ferocity of the raptors and the most important lesson he learned from Jaws: not seeing the creature is worse than seeing it.
Scene #2 Gennaro at the Dig Site
Protagonist Gennaro
Desire Shut down Hammond’s park
Antagonist Hammond, Rostagno
TP Rostagno tells Gennaro Grant won’t come to the park
Value Money
Role Gennaro Inciting Incident: Shut down Hammond for losing his investor’s money. Hammond Inciting Incident: Get backing to finance his park.
Analysis Gennaro is the first representation of greed and corruption in the film. He doesn’t fit into the natural world he walks through, nervously balancing on his boat, tripping over rocks, bumping his head in the mine. He will view the dinosaurs as a great scheme to make money, displaying a lack of respect for nature.
Scene #3 Alan Dig Site
Protagonist Alan Grant
Desire Find and learn about dinosaurs
Antagonist Kid
TP Grant terrifies the kid who mocks him
Value Parenthood
Role Introduction of Grant
Analysis We are introduced to Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler. Alan is gruff and dedicated to his mission as a paleontologist. Ellie is his better half, trying to help him evolve into a parent, an underlying desire he rejects. We are again introduced to faulty technology as the underground scanner they use is shotty. We also come to understand how informed Alan is, particularly in regards to Velociraptors, knowledge that will help him later in the story.
Scene #4 Hammond Proposes Plan to Alan and Ellie
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Get Alan and Ellie to come to island
Antagonist Alan and Ellie
TP Hammond proposes to fund their dig for three more years and gets them to visit island
Value Finance
Role INCITING INCIDENT: Hammond gets Alan and Ellie to go to his island and the chance to finance his dig for three years. Hammond Act One Climax: Impress group so his park can be financed.
Analysis Hammond serves as a herald to the adventure, bringing both Ellie and Alan to Isla Nublar. His entrance again highlights his disrespect to nature, his helicopter loud and boisterous, nearly destroying the fossils being excavated. And he opens a bottle of champagne, wearing all white, showing his wealth. Alan and Ellie by contrast are dirty and in work clothes. Given the opportunity of wealth to continue funding their dig, they take it without question, again showing the corrupting power of money and greed.
Scene #5 Dennis Paid
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Make money
Antagonist Hammond
TP Dennis takes money
Value Money
Role Dennis Act One Climax, Dennis Inciting Incident Offscreen: Hammond doesn’t pay him enough money, sending him on a course of betrayal.
Analysis Greed and gluttony rear their ugly heads again. Dennis cares only about money, not respecting nature and its power. Consumed by greed, he works to betray Hammond by selling dinosaur embryos. By accepting Dodson’s money, he embarks on his journey.
Scene #6 Helicopter Ride
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Get island financed
Antagonist Gennaro
TP
Value Finance
Role Malcolm Inciting Incident: Attracted to Ellie
Analysis We are introduced to Ian Malcolm, a slightly crazy mathematician who starts his journey by hitting on Ellie, mentioning his concept of “strange attractions.” The helicopter flight is another example of Hammond’s wealth as they zoom across the ocean and through the island mountains. This is Hammond’s gambit, to impress his entourage of Gennaro, Sattler, Malcolm and Grant (GSMG) and to finance the park. And another example of technology not working right, the helicopter landing is bumpy, portending to technology failing the characters at the end. And much has been made of the irony of Grant using two female belt buckles and tying them together, just as how two female dinosaurs will eventually breed.
Scene #7 Gennaro Threatens Hammond
Protagonist Gennaro
Desire Threaten Hammond with shutdown
Antagonist Hammond
TP Gennaro Threatens Hammond
Value Money
Role Gennaro Act One Climax
Analysis Gennaro puts his cards on the table, threatening Hammond and committing to defunding the island for money.
Scene #8 Meeting the Brachiosaurus
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Show his dinosaurs
Antagonist Grant, Sattler, Malcolm, Gennaro (GSMG)
TP They see the dinosaurs
Value Finance
Role ACT ONE CLIMAX
Analysis Grant commits to the journey as he witnesses the rebirth of dinosaurs. In a way, it is his own call to evolve.
Scene #9 Introduction to Sciene
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Show off his science
Antagonist GSMG
TP GSMG break out of restraints
Value Finance
Role Explanation of how Hammond has engineered the impossible
Analysis The characters and the audience learn how Hammond has been able to bring dinosaurs back to life. Hammond is selling his science as foolproof, something Alan, Ellie and Ian have qualms about.
Scene #10 Velociraptor Hatches
Protagonist Malcolm
Desire Question Ethics
Antagonist Hammond, Dr. Wu
TP Malcolm states that life will find a way
Value Morality, Finance
Role Introduction of doubt about playing God
Analysis Malcolm serves as a cautionary voice, warning that what Hammond is doing is dangerous and a disrespect to nature. Hammond is literally playing god, birthing a Velociraptor in his own hands, the others overcome by the power of creation. As Malcolm speaks, the potential for danger grows in their minds.
Scene #11 Velociraptor Cage
Protagonist Alan
Desire Investigate Raptors
Antagonist Hammond
TP
Value Survival
Role Muldoon Rising Action
Analysis Muldoon, hardened by his experience as a hunter and harrowed by the memory of the slain worker, reports on the danger of the Velociraptors. This is yet another example of man trying to control nature in a way he can’t understand. He commits himself to the idea that the raptors should be destroyed.
Scene #12 Sea Bass Lunch
Protagonist GSMG
Desire Caution Hammond
Antagonist Hammond
TP Grant condemns park
Value Morality
Role Gennaro Act Two Climax
Analysis More examples of wealth include an expensive lunch, waiters and flashing pictures on the wall of progress and technology. Hammond is completely oblivious to the dangers of nature he is trying to control. Only Gennaro, clinging to greed, sides with him against the caution of Alan, Ellie and Malcolm, altering his goal of defrauding Hammond and committing to profiting off the island. Hammond’s ears are closed to counterarguments against his beloved park, a rock against which the currents of caution have no effect.
Scene #13 Tim and Lexi Arrive
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Use children’s awe to impress GSMG
Antagonist
TP Ellie sees Alan’s fear of children
Value Finance
Role Moral need disrupts Alan’s world
Analysis Alan’s worse nightmare arrives: children. Lexi and Tim pose a return to Alan’s dormant desire to be a parent. He consciously forces down this desire and stands petrified.
Scene #14 Boarding the Cars
Protagonist Tim and Lexi
Desire Connect with Alan
Antagonist Alan
TP Alan brushes off Lexi and Tim
Value Parenthood
Role Alan shrugging off call to evolve
Analysis Tim serves as Alan’s conscience, following him around and asking him to accept him. Alan rejects him, slamming the door in his face. At the moment, we believe Alan won’t do anything for Lexi and Tim and would never put himself out there for them. Malcolm also continues to seek out Ellie.
Scene #15 Headquarters
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Impress GSMG
Antagonist Technology, Dennis
TP Muldoon shuts everyone up
Value Finance
Role Introduction to how rocky things are behind the scenes
Analysis Behind the scenes, Hammond is much more ornery. Battling with technology and Dennis, he voices grievances and bickers. We realize that his charming persona in front of GSMG and his grandchildren is a fake to hide his deep fear and uncertainty.
Scene #16 Tour Starts
Protagonist GSMG
Desire Evaluate park
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP No dinosaurs show up
Value Finance
Role Further proof of the inability to control nature
Analysis Nature can not be controlled as none of the dinosaurs show up to be shown off to GSMG. The lamest attempts to coax the dinosaurs out are failures, again illustrating how Hammond and InGen don’t understand what they’re handling.
Scene #17 Malcolm Explains Chaos
Protagonist Malcolm
Desire Explain chaos
Antagonist Ellie
TP Ellie jumps out of the car after Alan
Value Love
Role Malcolm continuing pursuit of Ellie
Analysis Malcom moves in on Ellie, unaware that Alan is her partner. His explanation of chaos is laced with sexual undertones, overted more than subverted. For Alan, he is uncomfortable standing up to Malcolm, showing a reticence to fight for her. Chaos theory itself plays out in the plot of the film. As the forces of nature mettle against man’s inclinations, chaos will reign.
Scene #18 Meeting the Triceratops
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Understand the Triceratops
Antagonist Illness
TP Ellie goes to dino droppings
Value Finance
Role The awe of dinosaurs may sway GSMG yet.
Analysis The awe of the park again appears to GSMG. It wows the audience as well, appealing to our childhood wonder, the desire to see and touch a real dinosaur.
Scene #19 Storm Moves In
Protagonist Muldoon
Desire Investigate storm
Antagonist Weather
TP Headquarters decides to stop tour
Value Finance
Role Hammond Act Two Climax: Hammond believes his tour a failure and his park’s future is in doubt.
Analysis Hammond curses the weather, a hindrance in his mind to his ambition, another aspect he can not control.
Scene #20 Dino Droppings
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Determine next course
Antagonist Weather
TP Ellie decides to stay while group goes back to Jeeps
Value Knowledge
Role Separation from Ellie
Analysis The group separates, leaving Malcolm and Alan together. This sets Alan adrift in a way.
Scene #21 Dennis Plans His Heist
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Steal embryos
Antagonist Weather
TP No promises for weather
Value Finance
Role Increased risk for Dennis
Analysis The pressure on Dennis mounts as the storm complicates his plan to steal the embryos. Time is now a factor as the risk increases.
Scene #22 Dennis Puts Plan in Motion
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Steal embryos
Antagonist Weather, Security
TP Dennis shuts down system
Value Finance
Role Dennis works on plan.
Analysis Dennis commits to his plan and moves to get the embryos.
Scene #23 Ian and Alan Talk
Protagonist Alan
Desire Keep Malcolm away from
Antagonist Malcolm
TP Malcolm backs off from Ellie
Value Love
Role Malcolm Act One Climax
Analysis Alan tries to talk to Malcolm, but they don’t have much in common. Alan has seen how Malcolm is flirting with Ellie. He lets Malcolm know about their relationship, ending his pursuit of her.
Scene #24 Dennis Steals the Embryos
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Steal the embryos
Antagonist Hammond, Arnold
TP Dennis gets the embryos
Value Finance
Role Dennis Act Two Climax
Analysis Dennis’ plan seems to be working as he gets the embryos and shuts down the security grid to escape.
Scene #25 The T. Rex Breaks Out
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Lex and Tim
Antagonist T. Rex
TP Alan uses a flare to save the kids
Value Survival
Role MIDPOINT, Gennaro Act Three Climax
Analysis Nature breaks free fom the constraints of man’s technology. As the park shuts down, the T. Rex emerges from its pen, causing havok. Gennaro is killed for his lack of respect for primal nature, ending his storyline. For every other character, their goal changes. The goal of the evaluation of the park morphs into a need to survive.
Scene #26 Alan Gets the Children Out
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Lex and Tim
Antagonist T. Rex
TP Alan climbs down into paddock
Value Survival
Role Alan Midpoint
Analysis Alan is faced with a choice: hide in the car and wait or try and save Lex and Tim. He chooses to save the kids, his inner parental instinct taking over. This represents his character midpoint as he changes his goal from avoiding children to saving them.
Scene #27 Headquarters Wonders
Protagonist Arnold
Desire Get the park back online
Antagonist Dennis, Nature
TP Arnold admits he can’t get the park back online without Dennis
Value Survival
Role The stakes deepen
Analysis The repercussions of their actions begin to become apparent to those in headquarters. As the park crumbles around them, Hammond feels the burden of his decision bare down on him.
Scene #28 Dennis and the Dilophosaurus
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Get off the island
Antagonist Weater, Dilophosaurus
TP The Dilophosaurus attacks Dennis
Value Survival
Role Dennis Act Three Climax
Analysis Dennis’ greed becomes his destruction as his disrespect for nature (and the fault of technology symbolized by his car) come to pass. The Dilophosaurus kills him, ending his storyline, and the embros are lost to the mud, a symbol of man’s faulty ambition.
Scene #29 Escaping the Tree
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Tim
Antagonist Car
TP Alan saves Tim
Value Survival
Role Continual development for Alan
Analysis Alan faces another test of his parental instinct. Lexi begs him not to leave and he needs to convince Tim to get out of the car. Again, the car represents man’s faulty technology, helpless against the power of nature. Alan successfully saves Tim.
Scene #30 Ellie and Muldoon Save Malcolm
Protagonist Ellie and Muldoon
Desire Save Alan, Lex, Tim, Malcolm and Gennaro
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP Escape T. Rex
Value Survival
Role Deeper stakes as headquarters realizes that Alan, Lexi and Tim are missing and Gennaro is dead
Analysis Ellie and Muldoon come face to face with the power of Hammond’s creations as the T. Rex chases after them and they realize Gennaro is dead.
Scene #31 Alan, Lexi and Tim Sleep in the Tree
Protagonist Alan
Desire Reassure Lex and Tim
Antagonist
TP Alan tosses his Velociraptor claw
Value Parenting
Role Alan development
Analysis Alan ditches his old self symbolically by tossing the Velociraptor claw. His comfort with Lex and Tim as their surrogate father continues to develop.
Scene #32 Petticoat Lane
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Justify actions
Antagonist Ellie
TP Ellie chastises Hammond
Value Justification
Role Hammond Act Three Climax: Hammond realizes his mistake.
Analysis Hammond’s past drives his present, so much so that he may have gone mad. Desperate to regain control, he realizes that his actions have been foolhardy, a fact illuminated by Ellie. His goal changes from searching for control to retrieving his grandchildren.
Scene #33 Brachiosaurus in the Morning
Protagonist Alan
Desire Educate Lex and Tim
Antagonist Lex, Brachiosaurus
TP Petting the Brachiosaurus
Value Parenting
Role Evolution of Alan
Analysis Alan continues his adaptation into a parent by teaching Lex and Tim about dinosaurs.
Scene #34 Dinosaurs Breeding
Protagonist Alan
Desire Discover secret
Antagonist Nature
TP Alan realizes how the dinosaurs are breeding
Value Morality
Role Alan learning the value of Malcolm’s theory
Analysis Alan confirms to himself and to the audience about the versatility and resilience of nature. Malcolm’s theory of chaos has occured on the island as the dinosaurs take over.
Scene #35 Arnold Shuts Down the System
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Get the park back online
Antagonist Arnold
TP Arnold agrees to shut down system
Value Survival
Role Hammond’s goal has changed to saving his grandchildren.
Analysis Hammond is trying to get the park back online, but not to save his idea of the park, but to save his grandchildren, an evolution of his character.
Scene #36 Outflocking the Gallimimus
Protagonist Alan
Desire Escape stampede
Antagonist Gallimimus
TP Duck under tree
Value Survival
Role Alan, Lex and Tim venturing to safety
Analysis Alan, Lex and Tim are tested as they venture back to headquarters, seeking safety.
Scene #37 Going to the Breaker
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Turn the park on
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP Ellie decides to go to the breaker
Value Survival
Role The stakes deepen
Analysis A new sequence begins as Ellie and Muldoon have to venture out and turn the park back on. This wil test them and their ability to survive.
Scene #38 Ellie Runs to Breaker
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Get to Breaker
Antagonist Velociraptor
TP Ellie makes it to breaker
Value Survival
Role The desperation grows
Analysis Ellie must work to save herself and in so doing, Alan. The escape of the Velociraptors puts greater risk into the mission.
Scene #39 Ellie Turns the Park Back On
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Turn park on
Antagonist Tunnels, Velociraptors
TP Ellie finds the grid and turns it back on
Value Survival
Role Glimmer of hope and fear
Analysis Ellie turns the park back on, but the Velociraptors hunt her. Time is now running out before there is no hope for the survivors.
Scene #40 Tim Electrocuted
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Tim and Lexi
Antagonist Fence
TP Tim electrocuted
Value Survival
Role Alan, Lex and Tim tested
Analysis Faulty technology proves dangerous to man again as Tim is electrocuted.
Scene #41 Ellie Runs from Velociraptor
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Evade Velociraptor
Antagonist Velociraptor
TP Ellie jams Velociraptor behind door
Value Survival
Role Ellie survives
Analysis The intelligence, speed and ferocity of the Velociraptor is demonstrated as Ellie is hunted. This sets up the final threshold guardian for the group to overcome.
Scene #42 Alan Saves Tim
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Tim
Antagonist Electric fence
TP Tim wakes up
Value Survival
Role Alan, Lex and Tim tested.
Analysis Alan does everything in his power to save Tim. In marked contrast to his earlier apprehension with children, Alan is now their parent.
Scene #43 Velociraptors Hunt Muldoon
Protagonist Muldoon
Desire Shoot Velociraptor
Antagonist Velociraptor
TP Velociraptors get the jump on Muldoon
Value Survival
Role Muldoon Act Two Climax
Analysis Muldoon enters the ring against the Velociraptor, the one-on-one confrontation he had been dreading. He puts all of his knowledge about the creatures to his own instincts as a hunter. He loses in his contest against the raptors, their wit outsmarting him. This concludes his storyline.
Scene #44 Alan Finds Ellie
Protagonist Alan
Desire Find Ellie
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP Alan finds Ellie
Value Survival
Role Malcolm Act Two Climax
Analysis Grant and Ellie are reunited, signifying their union as a couple after being apart. After Malcolm budding into their relationship, this concludes that storyline as Ellie chooses Alan.
Scene #45 Velociraptors Hunt Lexi and Tim
Protagonist Lexi and Tim
Desire Escape Velociraptor
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP They lock Velociraptor in freezer
Value Survival
Role Lex and Tim tested
Analysis Lex and Tim are alone, without Alan. Their resourcefulness is tested as they must use the tricks taught to them by Alan to escape the raptors. This is a test of Alan’s parenthood and teaching played out against the raptors.
Scene #46 Lexi Hacks the Park
Protagonist Lexi
Desire Turn the park back on
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP Lexi turns on the door locks
Value Survival
Role A last chance for escape
Analysis Lexi uses her computer skills, hinted at before, to turn the park back on, giving the characters hope as the raptors move in. This is their last chance.
Scene #47 Escaping the Raptors
Protagonist Alan
Desire Escape the Velociraptors
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP The T. Rex saves them
Value Survival
Role ACT THREE CLIMAX
Analysis Alan, Ellie, Lex and Tim must work together, using all of their skills to best the dangerous raptors. The T. Rex, again utilizing the chaos theory of Malcolm, intervenes and inadvertently saves the day. As the final vestiges of the park collapse around them, nature has taken over the island from man’s mettling.
Scene #48 Escaping the Park
Protagonist Alan
Desire Get off the island
Antagonist
TP The helicopter takes off
Value Parenthood
Role Alan’s reward
Analysis As the characters depart, Ellie sees Alan’s growth as a parent, Lex and Tim asleep on his shoulders. He has evolved, just as dinosaurs had evolved into birds.

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OVERALL

“Jurassic Park” rightfully deserves its place as a classic “monsters” film. Though it is remembered most for its technological advancements, it is the sense of childhood wonder it creates that endears it still today. It perfectly captures the youthful sense of awe each of us would feel if we were to actually see and touch a dinosaur. The respect the film has for that childhood wonder elevates the film beyond simple monster mash.

The dinosaurs are not just monsters that our heroes need to escape from. They are living, breathing creatures, cinematically built up as primordial beasts with intelligence, power and majesty, reverential godlike entities that we can not control. The buildup over the course of the first half of the film, man tampering with nature, unaware of the danger of playing god, fully plays out over the second half of the film as all of man’s preconceptions and safeguards fall by the wayside. There’s a certain amount of glee in seeing the park fail as strange as that is, nature taking its due revenge on people who don’t respect it. The fact that we empathize with characters who are just along for the ride, not responsible for this tampering, gives us a way of caring about their escape. We delight somewhat in seeing Gennaro, Dennis and Muldoon fall because it is their basic flaw of disrespect that causes their demise. Alan, Lexi, Tim, Malcolm and Ellie never committed that sin so we feel sympathy for the situation they are in.

The brunt of technology that Hammond, Dennis, Muldoon and Arnold use to try to control the park is repeatedly referenced as faulty, little clues in the first half hinting at technology being mankind’s tool of control, but nature breaking free of such feeble attempts. It speaks to the sense that evolution is an unstoppable force, tying into Alan’s evolution from selfish paleontologist to caregiver. Accepting evolution then should be mankind’s goal, not trying to impose its will against it.

The film could use some work in terms of the characters and their relationships. Alan, the central character of the film who has an arc, is rather bland. His refusal to evolve into a parent feels kind of shoe-horned into the story to give him some depth and something deeper to do other than try not to be eaten. Perhaps if he and Ellie had tried to have children or couldn’t or there was some reason he felt insecure around them it would tie into the narrative a bit more. But as it happens, Hammond is a much more interesting character: a joyful billionaire who slowly realizes he may have gone mad in his pursuit of creating dinosaurs.

The love triangle between Malcolm, Ellie and Alan is also lacking. It’s just played for a few laughs in the first half, but could have been expanded into more of Alan’s evolution. Perhaps Malcolm is an old boyfriend of Ellie’s that she still has some feelings for. Then Alan’s refusal to have kids and evolve for her would have added weight as she could easily go back to Malcolm who will give her what she wants. But as it plays, Malcolm is more of just an annoyance rather than an integral part of the plot. Cut him out and nothing drastically changes in the plot.

And finally, the ending lacks clear choice. The third act climax should feature the protagonist making a clear choice that illustrates what he has learned over the course of his journey. In this case, that should be Alan, demonstrating his ingenuity. But the film’s ending takes him out of the equation as the T. Rex bursts in and kills the raptors, a deus ex machina, fate saving them rather than Alan. A conclusion that featured Alan saving the day would have been easy enough. Using his smarts as a paleontologist and some piece of knowledge gathered in the park with Lexi and Tim, Alan devises a way to trick the raptors and the Rex and helps everyone escape, proving his mettle as a parent by putting his life on the line to save Lexi and Tim.

Where the film falls in character though, its ability to create awe and build up its action sequences is impeccable, really putting the audience in the park and highlighting its theme to optimal effect.