Colin Treverrow's Jurassic World returns the mighty hand of the Kennedy/Marshall/Spielberg peak decade of Amblin. The themes are recurrent and so are the steady readmissions that shot this one to number three on the all-time domestic list. Siblings band together to face divorce and death defying events (see E.T. through War of the Worlds). Here the romantic leads carry their threads across other plot points, no less absurd than any other film this summer, yet deadpan is nimbly alternated with hysteria, like an RKO 1930s adventure, and the film never let's off. Unlike every other film this year made in U.S.A., World pushes a very smart visual plot that it doesn't have to explain. Droll teens try playing it straight; heroic outlier does the scowl of wisdom; villainous privateer his smirk; by the numbers Jane tries her hand at fun, finally the Billionaire fantasist goes out on a phoenix note. All get their five to twenty minutes of emotional resonance, and however diagrammed it is, Treverrow manages to convince us not to hate the archetypes, he's a humanizer; no one is mean for means sake. It's more under the surface romantic than even Spielberg, with divorcing parents getting one last postcard in before the credits roll. Treverrow's generous to characters, nothing is in itself threatening because we're taught through the basic biological tale. Death is pointed, not abstract, and continual. And the on other side of the glass, he manages to instill a slight amount of characterization to the dinosaurs. "You can see it in their eyes." says billionaire Masrani, and we can. They behave, at moments, cognitively. And they communicate. The Jaffa/Silver pairing naturally follows the retooling of Apes, here suddenly aware and subtly realized prehistoric reptiles work in coordinated ways, and Treverrow and his team instinctually know how to build it without lecturing or explaining us to sleep. From the film's opening pairing, we're offered baby dino talons breaking through an egg followed by a super macro of bird's feet thunderously slamming on snow. Visuals make the case; gesturally he's got the Spielberg deontic down, maybe a little too eerily. The optical geography is controlled: when he's offered a cookie-cutter moment, Treverrow manages break the visual mold. Coming across a discarded tracking pinger, a group of sacrificial Dino containment guards are picked off ingeniously until the camouflaged gigantor finally pops into frame.
When Hammond successor Masrani takes a good look at his Indominus Rex, he realizes it's chameleon-like "You didn't tell me it's white*." (we never really see it being white). Cut to a hazy, defocused Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) whose ghostly face materializes in the security glass's reflection doing her best coy-girl offering "is that bad?" and we've just been cued to the buried motif: the monster under this all is the white-girl. Her spreadsheet efficiency, servicing the goals for more of everything. She's the mirror to this monster. (Later on ghost stories are retold). Clever visuals punctuate the story non-stop; I-rex puncturing its eggshell with tiny talons flips later when the fully grown one pierces a lexan transporting sphere.
And that's why this is the best film of the year. It's visually orchestrated. You take any of the best Marvel, it's still a jumbled mess visually, the hideous potpurri everyone gets at the holidays. Here the metaphors get locked in a progressive pattern. The first full screen glance at the unleashed I-rex's jaws is juxtaposed against the familiar logo's T-rex, on a jeep's door, turned upside down and black and white. Anyone wanna guess what that means metaphorically?* Action is built out of descriptive structure rather than the typical explanatory lecture that afflicts blockbusters nowadays. A junk food crunching watchman is crunched himself seconds later, every act has its follow-up, it's the clever rube goldberg yellow-pages of kinetic antics Spielberg can deliver, now somehow coming out of a late protogee gangbusters. He's learned his lesson well, the audience wants a laugh. So he does to World what Carl Gottlieb brought to Jaws. A sense of humor. When meeting Claire, we see her reciting descriptions of the people she's about to meet. It's a snippet tour de force, duplicating what we're doing with her: she describes the impending two men by their appearance and the lone woman by her experience, she subtitles advice she'd never tell her to her face: "Deserves more." Another direct look in the mirror. Here's the student it took Spielberg three decades to find, and he comes with the master's comparative skills down cold. The elder teen has the biggest arc; he says goodbye to his girlfriend who's a dead-ringer for his mom, then he spends the film eyeing other girls at the theme park, triggering his brother's fears of the divorce. Cleverly we're shown dad's probable behavior triggering their split through his son's. Then the brothers go rogue, sacking domestic anxiety for thrilling fear, leading them to an Indiana Jones-level decipherment scene from Jurassic Park (a film-set posing as a never used theme park - the kids are like Treverrow - students of his: this is gonzo media archeaology at play); the ruins are Park's climax Lobby. They reverently touch an image of a raptor, offering it like a religious icon to two modes of memories. Using a plastic dino bone, for a torch, they set fire to the banner that ended Jurassic Park; later they'll hurl a pressurized air tank, a la Jaws, at pursuing Raptors. For a finale, the triumphal T regains the view from the same spot villain Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio) did mid-second act. The whole flick spouts visual structure and breakneck characterization, more so than even the series's first film. The star here is the genetic hybrid, the mosaically defined Indominus Rex, who always seems to have a plan running. Worse than any reptile, the I-Rex (clever, aint they) plays Jurassic World as slaughter videogame, inflicting maximum carnage by prompting the zoo to revolt, only to have the zookeepers and members restore order as a team. It's a dark tale told swift enough, nobody has to fell the weight of its choices. Corporate abuse, rank commercialization and environmental issues play the greek chorus of warning, but it's mostly ignored. Why? We know a sequel is inevitable to a film this tight, those warnings are all directed to the moviegoers, challenging them to ignore the dual corporate/studio-speak mantra: the audience always wants bigger things...and besides, the sub-rosa monster chick has escaped. She's just paired off with the film's hero. She'll be back for more carnage they'll both be taming. Jurassic Park defined the digital age, and heir this is the heir that bends analog just enough to scare. It's got the nightmare down, laughing at it and with it.
Seymour Hersh's detailed autopsy of the official tale of the death of Bin Laden, if true, dissolves the common view: a brilliant piece of detective work aided by torture - capped by adernaline soaked early morning gunmen. Instead in Hersh's account there are no stacks of hard drives and techies, just a few diaries. No courier to lead them back to the compound. All that hardnosed analysis and groundwork was an illusion in the CIA's myth. In his telling, there wasn't even a risk for the Blackhawks crossing the border from Afghanistan. UBL's sale was approved by Pakistan Intelligence and given wide berth, including team passage across radar monitored areas. In Abbattobad, Bin Laden was carefully watched, and wasn't allowed to lead any underground. The city is, after all, the intelligence community's second residential city. And now, it seems preposterous to think the mastermind of Al-Queda would hole up in a military elite locale like Abbattobad: in Hersh's narration, the city gave him up. On the night of the raid, the neighborhood Bin Laden resided in had its power shut off, surrounded by families tied to the inteligence and military academies. Obviously Bin Laden would never have chosen to be here. Nor was he even a moving target. According to Hersh, Bin Laden was no longer spry, but a man in bad shape healthwise. The strangest of all is that Bin Laden was sold by a walk-in to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, and that his presence, though never verified visually, was easily proven from DNA samples by a team of American investigators housed in-country for the op. Price for the intel? 25 million reward fee and the op's cost. And a cover story was planned, pinning Bin Laden to the Hindu Kush mountains. Scheduled to emerge the week after. Problem? The copter crashed, and was potentially ruinous to the cover story. So Obama rolled the dice and got reelected.
With Hersh's story more than likely plausible, running through Zero Dark-Thirty means living inside a CIA fantasy version of it. One concocted, even triangulated through two ex-SEAL accounts of the raid. The weirdest part would be the alternate version that comes out about now, if the Blackhawk had never bonked. Hersh would be denouncing a far more effective story, set in a remote, empty area of mountains, and telling us about UBL's Abbatobad compound, which would sound ludicrous and absurd. And at that point, it would be long erased by bulldozer.
Here the myth is far less believable. And makes us wonder, how did we even start believing the story of a master terrorist, hiding in plain sight, never viewed.
footnote: The guards surrounding Bin Laden were ISI (Pakistani), and were there 24/7. They were told once they heard the roters coming to split. Bin Laden was left unarmed for the raid.
As a mythology, the Marvel Universe is theraputic. It's here to help us (the U.S.) process the aftermath of 9-11 and the subsequent wars we sought vengeance through. Nobody really misses the point with a group of security obsessed, tight-wearing superheroes proclaiming themselves "Avengers." What are they avenging?
In mythology, murder and destruction are taboos made sacred by the sacrifices of the protagonist: with the primary scarifice being isolation. Nolan's Batman is the only comic book character in motion who enacts this violence as ritual. He is a loner by nature and though he's rescued by sleight of hand by the end of Rises, we believe he dies alone. The Marvel Universe, however, has its lead serial Iron Man announce his identity as a mission statement. These heroes aren't going to hide, nor will they brood too much. M.U. insists on blending 1950s values of family (Guardians and Avengers, Parkers vs. the Osbornes) and sex-roles with taboo carnage and death so that none of the outcomes can be read as sacred. Instead a false family is born, a criminal family not unlike other families that practice violence in myth (like the Corleones). They are somewhat empty tales, usually ignoring the psychic role violence plays, and so they erase the sensations of collective responsibilities from audience minds. Why are they here suddenly, and why are they so successful? The films are essentially mental degaussers that absolve resposibilities for the carnage we've turned loose on the world under the guise of liberating dictatorships in the past 15 years. We are the empire, share this moniker with the other world powers. We practice warfare without sanction, kill chosen by drone. And we seem to be unaware of how this is perceived on the world-stage. And the Marvel Universe might help us to remain blind to our self image. Certainly the last Avengers was a 'world-stage' battle.
Time for new mythologies before it's too late.
Some back-up: Damien Straker's Ultron review http://www.impulsegamer.com/avengers-age-of-ultron-3d-film-review/
After wandering in the desert of adaptation, The Wachiowskis finally return to their self-designed micro/macrocosmic battles; the Earth's Chicago stands tall as the simula CITY did circa 1999 (aka The Matrix) whose macro was a dessicated, darkened wasteland where things moved mechanically only in a city made solely from machines. Here live the rulers of humans of CITY, and lo, they ruled as well, indirectly, over the escapees in ZION. "There" actually came out in 1999. "Here" in 2015 the macro is a galaxy sized madhouse where all embedded earthly conflicts between ownership, class and animal kingdom are magnified and spliced genetically into a swampland of data and potential plastic toy figurines. It is 'out there' the rulers of Earthly humans live, and like the blank citizens of The Matrix, we too live unaware of their rulership. Essentially the same dark satire of The Matrix that veers into kinetic comedy. The mechanics of Lucas's prequel trilogy blended unevenly into The Matrix's liberation theology from unseen imprisonment. When it works it's great (scenes minus dialogue), think of the looney Fletcher Hanks photographically under more stable hands. Fights, aerial and zero-g battles are top-notch, the battles feel effortless and swift. That first dogfight above Chicago is stellar to its end, an 8 minute battle is gone in seconds. And moments of the space arcadia work, but the shifts in tone are out of tune. We know these siblings can hack it, but the light tone they've embedded since Speed Racer doesn't fit. We know how dark it is out there: The reveal of Jupiter's eye as an industrial smokescreen for the Abrasax empire's chokehold on life-giving serum is a typical moment underplayed, left strangely unnoticed by the editing. There's a moment that should be bringing the paradox home, relatively, instead it's merely a spot that Channing Tatum's Cain Wise has to go to "get her." When it doesn't (work) - Marxist theory meets pulp comic - it turns into a pummeling, chuffing out of control train that's managed (somehow) to tie you to the tracks before it runs you over. The problems lie in the constraints (both for the audience and the onscreen Earthlings). The Matrix was perfectly imagined with ingenious limitations in mind (obviously: a simula starring dreaming humans that still must walk and drive to work), Jupiter stretches the opposite tack, where anything goes and it goes overboard. Eye popping 'scapes, feats of physicality that defy sanity, feats of tone that defy deliverability. And no one seems to be able to explain why Earth is so valuable, why the universe's queen spends a day in bureaucratic hold-ups, and why protocol and deception can't beat pure and simple assasination. The Wachiowskis should be the first to know that going all the way isn't at the root of entertainment. Spectacle needs a certain amount of withholding to pop. Otherwise it fizzes.
Only on Earth could you see a film like this. Physically legible only in IMAX.
Edward Snowden is revealed as the leaker of the N.S.A.'s convulsive and monumental data collection capabilities. Hearing him wax about Web 1.0 buys the whole enchilada in the gambit. Listening into a brief analytical speech about how metadata is spawned between the linking of your transportation ticketing to your credit/debit card gives everyone a ground level view into the software's mortar. Our 'freedom' vs. what's never really mentioned: an attempt to built an A.I. for oraculation and prediction purposes, dominantly in the service of a vast military network. One that attempts to head off minute miltary events, while far greater populations die from disease, starvation, you name it. Billions if not trillions spent to create the ultimate totalitarian listening service inside a democracy. And that leads to a basic question: can governments really continue to grow if they're paradoxical Januses? Statistically, this is the real prequel Terminator film (it fits the Matrix too), and Snowden is the first John Connor/Neo archetype, instead here he's fighting a ghost of a machine that can't materialize as yet, it its place is The State. He can live in redoubt, somewhat safe from the drone capabilities of U.S. forces. He's deadly serious, possessing a will to match world leaders. The direction is restrained. A must see.
Manucher Ghorbanifar was an arms trader during the heady days of the Reagan administration. The Executive Branch fiasco known as "Iran-Contra" was led by men who devised a new import-export system for dangerous times: the exportation of U.S. arms (proxied by Israel) to Iran and the importation of hostages (proxied by Iran) from Lebanon to the U.S. A scheme so elaborate it was bound to collapse, exposed by a dissident within the Iranian ultraconservatives who despised the two-faced nature of the realpolitik. Manucher was both duplicitous, failing every lie detector test the CIA gave him, and indispensible, rehired after every failed test to continue his shady work. Was he an Israeli agent or an unaligned profiteer, history has been unable to solve the puzzle of Manucher...
Trailer for the presumed Episode VII bookends the awakening John Boyega (as a Stormtrooper gone AWOL) with the title itself. There's a good possibility he's been inhabited by an overload of midichlorian (gives him headaches, visions, you know, 'can't sleep' kinda thing). That means he's half of the title role, an anonymous trooper gone light-side's head of the class. Is he Skywalker's paderwan? If yes, he'll be clashing with Driver's "red sword."
The trailer hints that Abrams has his color-wheel work under control (just notice the interplay in hues). Maybe we'll finally get to see the effect of all that TV work. His MI3 was entirely watchable, even with its existentially overwrought climax. Not a pure kineticist/jokester like Brad Bird, Abrams tries to build family tales; he peers into collapsing connections then reboots them by films' end. When the action gets heavy the storytelling gets mired (as does his sentiment), and there's the question. Will the endless caravan of the space opera sharpen his skills? See it next December.
Kasdan is Abrams's secret weapon. Leigh Brackett's swashbuckling overkill of a first draft in 1978 allowed Kasdan to extract Empire from both Lucas's storyline and Brackett's characterizing. Now both he and Abrams are leaping over another character heavy first-draft try (Michael Arendt's). The Disney(Pixar)-Lucasfilm pairing has terrifying potential to alter visual media. Remember Pixar was instigated at Lucasfilm, sold to Jobs for pennies, grown into a genre by itself, and sold to Disney - in-turn making Jobs its largest individual shareholder. Now Lucas follows Pixar into the fold. From staunch independent to Fortune 500 in 30 years, the polar opposite arc to Coppola.
Visual extract: Ep I-III & Ep IV-VI are copycat visual-mirrors of one another (one hint of many, both middle films travel to cities separate from land and set high in atmospherics - above water and clouds. Physically resembling one another, Bespin and Kamino are places Boba Fett escapes from using the same ship, Slave I.) Let's hope the visuals rule again.
This helical book, struggles and always succeeds in contrasting the perceptions of 2001 with our later cautious distance. As many events as possible are demythified one by one. A psychic process of flipping the sacred and relabeling it profane. It reads far more like Kafka than any Kafka book, showcasing freely talking suspects who are then put into torture conditions who then tell their torturers everything they want to believe, and then some. Non-existent ties to Iraq are suddenly strong connections to Al Queda, a non Al-Queda security person (with little allegiance to Bin Laden) later pretends to personify a jihadist. A suspect thought to be the number three man in the group's hierarchy is discovered, after lengthy hospitalization and subsequent waterboarding, to be a mentally ill, delusional travel-agent for terrorists with little operational knowledge. A judge rules the Marine base at Guantanamo as beyond the legal reach of the US on a technicality, allowing the government to perpetually hold suspects. A man in Guantanamo so old the guards name him "Santa Claus Queda." The book exposes our chaotic and lackluster ability to see clearly in times of great stress. Of multiple pivots that hinged world diplomacy together, the US blew away many that connected east and west, isolating itself, largely from the reactions to Bin Laden's planned strikes. Like a drunken, paranoid thrown off by a bottle hurled at it from a crowd, the US is punching in the dark. Here's the manic proof. An FBI Agent almost jokes that he's trying to prevent "an airplane being flown into the World Trade Center." In his custody is Zacaraious Moussaoui who asked to simulate 747 flying without ever having flown a plane. A microbiologist, sent an FBI questionaire to help identify possible anthrax suspects, fingers USAMARID pathogen scientist Bruce Ivins. A former stalker of hers, whom she suspects defaced the sidewalk with her sorority letters, Ivins happened to call her weeks after the anthrax events after having not spoken in 13 years. The FBI dismiss her suspicion, because: "Ivins was the researcher they'd brought all their evidence to." The PENTTBOM and anthrax cases might have been the most preventable and solveable events in a system of merely normal detective work. Beyond the detective work are the judges, who skirt precedent after precedent. Spine chilling laxness is viewed in the corridors of power, where information is used purely in the service of warmongering, rather than pieces of evidence that required confirmation. A will to believe in 'evil' conjures our own mask of evil.
A must read in these very times; get a grip, and group us against only the atrocities, not the unilateral mistakes all superpowers make.
Strangely, almost nothing. Both propaganda by death are desperate yet well-planned attempts to lure the West into a multi-regional war. A first and second attempt to set off WWIII, acts of provocation very similar to the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand one hundred years ago this year. The progression here is from dispersed terror group guest to an Islamic state, to claimed state-level government, however fleeting on these geographic terms, it has a source. The question becomes, why be lead into the first? And was it a feint, was the invasion of Iraq a distraction from the true targets? Fundamentalism within Saudi Arabia, Militancy from Pakistan. Strange, no? We attack a country that enforces sexual equality and religious secularism, true it is a Sunni totalitarian state (Iraq) yet so is a Sunni kingdom with oppressive laws for women and a legal definition of witchcraft that sometimes ends in a death sentence. Diplomacy increases in complexity, are the coming wars symmetric? If not, admit them, assign the internal conflict a name. The east-west divide between Saudi Arabia and pre-invasion Iraq. Something like detente or lynch-pin.
A recent incoherent op-ed by the distant architect of multiple military coups over democratically elected officials (including Pinochet over Allende), Kissinger now writes as if converted to the fantasy view of democracy of Bush 2, not the strern real politik he practiced when in office. The facts are: most world state borders of the 'developing world' are arbitrary, many designed for external colonial concerns, in the aftermath of war. To enforce most of them one needed enforcers, and that's what the West backed, not democratic or parlimentary systems. Each state, no matter its origins, needs a central bureaucratic authority. The fragmenting of power in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and now Libya caused their collapse since they lacked properly defined transitions to power. It's time to teach global realities. A bureaucracy comes before all other realities. If one is shattered, then the country may shatter. Colin Powell's mythic words to his President have come true: "If you break it, you own it."