Thursday, December 04, 2014

Super Secret Sequel Teaser Trailer Roundup... Jurassic Wars Episode XI: We Can Sell Your Childhood Back to You Wholesale

This past week there was a great disturbance on the Internet, as if a million souls watching movie trailers cried out and then all reason and productivity were silenced.  In Hollywood* (*Now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Disney corporation), there is no such thing as luck because the inhabitants of that strange land have tapped into a power even greater than the Force: cold hard cash.  And it seems like they are intent on using this diabolical power to serve us up another heaping helping of franchise frozen dinners.  If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Hollywood is a dish served boiling hot around the edges but still frozen in the middle no matter how long the instructions on the box say to leave it in the microwave.

Two cinematic juggernauts are being brought back from the dead, though whether they turn out to be abominations akin to Frankenstein's monster or thoroughly awesome like Neo in the last five minutes of THE MATRIX (who totally would have beat the shit out of that impostor Neo in that weird alternate universe of the two sequels (That's the only way the world still makes sense!)) remains to be seen.  Both the JURASSIC PARK sequel, JURASSIC WORLD, and the seventh feature length STAR WARS film (not counting BATTLE FOR ENDOR and CARAVAN OF COURAGE), STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, both started peaking down their respective birth canals.  For now they are still floating blissfully in those delicious placental juices, but far sooner than we realize, they will arrive in the world, kicking and screaming and soaked in various, life-giving, vaginal fluids, and be set on the path towards becoming president of Earth or an overweight stripper strung out on amphetamines.

Jurassic World

Honestly, JURASSIC WORLD wasn't even on my radar.  After the original JURASSIC PARK left its indelible mark on the world, its legacy was then squandered as thoroughly as possible with two, increasingly worse sequels.  THE LOST WORLD and JURASSIC PARK 3: WE RAN OUT OF IDEAS FOR SUBTITLES weren't absolutely terrible (Absolute Terrible currently existing only as a theoretical absolute like Absolute Zero), but neither were they great and/or necessary.  Like all great movies, JURASSIC PARK had something to say and dealt with several philosophical ramifications about the cloning that lay at the heart of the movie's plot and also about the great power that life holds that is not to be treated to lightly.  The sequels (especially JP3) were just excuses to show more dinosaurs and a small child using gymnastics to kick a raptor out of a window for some goddamned reason.

That being said, the trailer for JURASSIC WORLD actually peaked my interest, bringing it from Instantly Dismiss to somewhere between Meh and Whah? on my Curiosity-o-Metre.  It did exactly what a "teaser" trailer is supposed to do and got my attention through the power of suggestion, a skill deftly employed by those involved in the erotic arts. It gave just enough of a taste to initiate the salivation process and indicate that there might be something worth sinking my teeth into.  It looks to be a continuation of the exploration of humankind's hubris when tinkering with the very fabric of life.  Also Chris Pratt hanging out with some of his raptor buddies, as one will.

Also, it seems to be setting itself up as a modern cautionary tale that money conquers all, as the very existence of the titular amusement park in JURASSIC WORLD indicates that its proprietors were able to overcome the huge legal, ethical, social, and political hurdles that the events from the previous three films would have undoubtedly created.  The only way it seems that an attraction like Jurassic World would even have the remotest possibility of existing is if there were apatosaurus-herd-sized amounts of cash greasing the monstrous wheels.

In that way JURASSIC WORLD is an oddly and probably unintentionally meta film in that its existence is predicated entirely on its ability to make more money than its predecessors and be bigger than its predecessors, in this case by literally incorporating larger dinosaurs.  It can't be coincidence that the giant aquatic dinosaur that pops up in the trailer is baited by what appears to be a great white shark, the main antagonist in JAWS--the grandfather of the modern blockbuster--that also happened to be directed by one Stephen Spielberg, JURASSIC PARK's original big screen caretaker.  There's an irony there that I'm not convinced the filmmakers are entirely aware of, which makes it all the more poignant.

Star Wars The Force Awakens

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (although, seeing as it's a J.J. Abrams movie, I'm not sure if the colon applies) has been inescapably on the periphery of my consciousness for some time, what with my aforementioned proclivities towards the series.  Unlike the JURASSIC WORLD trailer, the teaser trailer for THE FORCE AWAKENS actually did very little for me in terms of arousing my curiosity (despite already having my attention).  This is because the "teaser" for THE FORCE AWAKENS wasn't really a teaser at all.  All it did was flash some familiar STAR WARS iconography at us, (very) briefly showcase a few of the actors, and then flash its title onscreen to the sounds of music previously crafted by giants in a bygone era.  

In fact, when I first watched the trailer, I had to doublecheck with multiple sources to make sure it wasn't yet another fan-made homage/fake-out that have been running rampant on YouTube lo these many years.  In fact, a lot of the fan-made stuff actually looks better and is more tantalizing that what Abrams and Disney decided to release.  Overall, the effort seems--as the British might say--very slapdash.  It didn't hint at anything except that we'd be seeing more of the same things we've already seen for six movies.  This, of course, isn't necessarily emblematic of the quality of the movie, which can only be determined once it is released, only of a poor start to the marketing campaign.  Although, that in itself is--or should be--at least slightly troubling to any hardened STAR WARS fan.  It's hard to extrapolate from one teaser trailer, but the impression I got was a lack of any real effort to wow or lure audiences, instead relying on previously attained laurels and a built-in fan base.  Complacency as an ethos is so dangerous particularly because it is so difficult to self-diagnose.

 And the only sort of new thing that THE FORCE AWAKENS trailer revealed wasn't really that new at all.  The Internet has been abuzz with millions of bored people posting their thoughts while at work (a-hem), sounding off on the new "variation" of the lightsaber.  Even Stephen Colbert himself entered bravely into the fray:

There are a lot of people out there who do get very... passionate about the focus of their interests and will brook no dissent from their worldview.  However, debating the minutia of an artistic endeavour such as this is part of the enjoyment.  For me, the new lightsaber design seems to be more about creating a distinctive visual palate than actually making practical sense (within the STAR WARS universe, that is).  It's kind of symptomatic of the introduction of Darth Maul's double-bladed lightsaber introduced in EPISODE I, which ended up being one of the least shitty and, in fact, most awesome things about the prequel trilogy.  Look, lightsabers on the whole are probably largely impractical weapons based upon the likelihood of it inflicting real and permanent damage upon its owner with one, simple mistake or misstep (kind of like unprotected sex).  Believability was stretched, but not entirely broken (kind of unlike the vagina during childbirth).  Plus the coolness factor of the weapon helps to mitigate any real scrutiny.

I can't say much about the design of the new lightsaber variation unveiled and on display for a total of three seconds in THE FORCE AWAKENS teaser trailer, only that my first gut reaction was overwhelmingly negative.  Even if the two smaller blades extending perpendicular to the main, large blade were meant to act as some kind of crossguard as typically seen on real-world swords, it still makes no sense because the crossguards on traditional swords aren't made of smaller swords.  It seems like a design that is just as if not more likely to injure the wielder of the blade rather than any opponent, moreso that any previous saber designs.

It's weird trying to talk about things "making sense" in a world where faster-than-light travel, artificial body parts, semi-sentient robots, and every planet seems to be dominated by one geographical feature and have the exact same atmosphere and gravity are simply givens.  This may also seems like a very unproductive and very geeky topic to discuss in great length (the kind of thing that might get you beaten up and stuffed in a locker in high school), but--like it or not--STAR WARS has become a huge part of the cultural fabric and these things do actually matter more than they probably should.  The fact that such a simple element of the upcoming STAR WARS film has become such a pervasive topic of discussion in a very public sphere is quite telling, and love it or hate it, it is another cultural marker around which a growing number of people seem inclined to be rallying.  The power to inspire dialogue (constructive or otherwise) is a rare and power gift.

I've made my thoughts about the very concept of these sequels abundantly clear to all who will listen.  I think there is far greater risk that something will go horribly wrong than there is a chance that everything will go terrifyingly right.  I have nothing against movie franchises per se, but I would much rather taste the sweet, sweet fruits of inspiration and innovation than risk drinking from the stagnant waters of mimicry.  That's not to say that both JURASSIC WORLD and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS might not end up rocking my proverbial socks and kicking entire orphanages worth of ass.  I am a huge fan especially of STAR WARS, and I'm going to be more inclined to buy in to whatever latest version of this particular drug that they happen to be peddling now.  But, I'm going to tell you right now that no matter how good either of these movies ends up being, I would much rather watch some new intellectual property that took inspiration from the past and moved forward rather than any that cling desperately to the past unable to let it go (looking at you, Bond...).

Even George Lucas, for all of his many, many baffling attempts to shit all over his own legacy, began the STAR WARS saga as another link in the chain, drawing on his own cultural influences of everything from swashbuckling adventures like THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, 1930s serials such as FLASH GORDON, and even the works of legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa.  I think if we took that specific page from the Lucas playbook, it would free us up to new realms of possibility instead of bog us down in the comforting mires of the well-known.

Still though, it's important to be reminded that things can always be worse (which can be found in the bulk of Lucas' playbook, as demonstrated below):


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