JUNE 11 — We’re now deep into June, which has traditionally been the start of the summer movie season, with one or two blockbusters hitting cinemas worldwide before the full force of July and its endless parade of movie tentpoles and aspiring blockbusters truly hit us.
The pandemic has meant that it’s been two years since we last saw a truly big summer movie season, with plenty of big titles being held back by the studios for reasons we’re surely familiar with.
Now, I may be a self-professed cinephile and a genre movie enthusiast, but I’ve never shied away from enjoying multiple nights out at the movies feasting on the latest Hollywood blockbusters.
It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid, and the magic and charm of those big Hollywood movies, when done right, can still hit me like no other type of movie can.
Nostalgia and fan service are pretty much all the rage now in movies and even television/streaming, so it’s quite fitting that two of the biggest films playing in Malaysian cinemas now are sequels/reboots/re-quels to two of the most beloved films from the 80s and 90s respectively.
I was probably too young to have seen it in the cinema when Top Gun first came out in 1986 (as a nine-year old kid back then, I was surely more interested in catching the latest Jackie Chan movie in the cinema as opposed to a movie about jet fighter pilots), but I definitely saw Jurassic Park in the cinema in 1993, in one of those big, single screen old movie houses (I think it was Rex Cinema in Ipoh), and that communal experience of watching a thrilling spectacle accompanied by the screams, gasps and laughter of the audience has stayed with me to this day.
That is why, even though streaming is very much a big part of my life now, I’ll always find the time to go to the cinema to see a movie when that option is available.
So, we’ve got two big movies battling it out in the cinema now... which one should you go and see?
Top Gun: Maverick
As I mentioned above, being too young to see Top Gun when it first opened in 1986, I probably saw it way later on VHS when I was a teenager, and up until this sequel’s surprise release after 36 years, I’ve never given much thought to the original film except that it was an 80s cultural phenomenon, and that it wasn’t that memorable to have anything about it stuck in my head afterwards.
I’m glad I decided to re-watch the original before seeing this sequel because even though a second viewing still didn’t manage to change any of my opinions about it (despite my love for its director Tony Scott’s other works, it’s still awfully 80s, cheesy as hell and very much a product of its time), it really helped me get into and appreciate this sequel more.
Forget talk going around social media that this is “one of the greatest sequels ever made” (that’s the bombastic language of social media for you — a thing is either the worst or the best, rarely something in the middle), because improving on the original Top Gun is a very low bar indeed, so saying that it’s better than the original is really not saying much.
But that aside, Top Gun: Maverick is indeed one of those rare beasts — a sequel to a cheesy time capsule that acknowledges and pays earnest, unironic tribute to all them cheesy things (check out that almost frame by frame tribute to the original film during the opening sequence), and making it all sing with a huge dose of nostalgia and feeling.
Like some people on the internet have said, this is like The Avengers: Endgame for old people, with all the callbacks you’d expect (the opening title card, Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone, the volleyball game, that Great Balls Of Fire scene and more) done really well and with full respect by director Joseph Kosinski.
With the new Scream already gracing us in 2022, this has turned out to be a surprisingly good year for re-quels.
Jurassic World: Dominion
I loved Jurassic Park and The Lost World. They’re supreme examples of the kind of movie magic that only Hollywood can deliver.
Jurassic World was pretty awesome too, giving us hope that director Colin Trevorrow (only two films in, following the infectious Safety Not Guaranteed) might just be the heir to Steven Spielberg we’ve all been waiting for.
Sadly, judging from the wreckage that is Jurassic World: Dominion, we may have placed our bets too soon.
A total mess in terms of tone, the film’s first act was really promising, teasing the viewer into thinking that this might be a film exploring how dinosaurs and mankind can live together, and how the illegal trade may have resulted in dinosaurs (at least the non-apex predator kind) suffering fates that are not so different from exotic animals that are traded for consumption or to be kept as “pets.” I was really excited and surprisingly moved by this first act, thinking that I may have just stumbled upon a soulful and touching allegory on animal rights masquerading as a Jurassic World franchise movie, but as soon as the plot kicked into gear and the second and third acts arrived, precipitated by the kidnapping of Blue’s offspring and Maisie (the cloned child from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), the movie went totally off the rails.
It became nothing more than another Hollywood cash-grab, lining up one supposedly “exciting” action sequence after another, and piling on coincidences and frustratingly convenient plot movers like they’re Big Macs, and calling it a Jurassic World movie, hoping people wouldn’t notice.
Comfortably the worst film in the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World franchise, this is indifferent, cynical, by-the-numbers Hollywood tentpole filmmaking at its worst.
Approach at your own risk.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.