Darke Reviews – The 5th Wave

So the first review of the year. January release. Not good usually. Examples? Sure!

Let’s face it January is mostly garbage so the Oscar bait at Christmas and whatever other studio juggernaut came up at the end of the month. *stares at Star Wars* It just isn’t a good month for film. You can fully expect that the studio just dumps something they have no faith in and hope they get another Cloverfield.

Did they get it here?


Based on a YA sci fi novel by Rick Yancy, the film covers the story of a young teenage girl who survives several waves of an alien invasion and her quest to save her brother. The first wave is an EMP that takes out technology, the second is an earthquake/flooding to take out coastal regions, the third disease, and fourth …well watch the movie to learn about the 4th and 5th waves. It’s not a bad setup and the overall execution is pretty solid on the narrative with the story taking place in two places with simultaneous arcs happening with the girl and her brother.

The novel was adapted for the screen by Susannah Grant (Erin Brokovich, Pocahontas – yes that one), Akiva Goldsman (Insurgent, I Am Legend, and…and), and Jeff Pinkner (Amazing Spiderman 2 and a lot of TV). Most of these guys are also producers in their own right and spent a lot of time with the TV crowd.  They have a pretty good pedigree of things just above mediocre as the group with Grant being lauded for Brokovich. So with that in mind how is the overall plot so…Ok? I mean the dialogue is Ok. The Plot is  Ok. The contrivances are  Ok. It’s Ok. Ok?

Maybe it’s the director? J Blakeson, who gave us the less impressive sequel to The Descent. I can see so much in the writing and direction that wants to be more than it is. There’s nuggets of something more here that just don’t come to fruition. One of the plot points requires everyone’s IQ to drop by about 50 points. The entire row of people in front of me in the theatre had the same reaction I did in one of the moments with a Spock level eye brow raise.


Sense. That made none.


That being said, it annoyed in the moment and was gone. That is because of the actors involved. Chloë Grace Moretz leads the cast in admirable fashion bringing a natural charm and humanity in what typically is a blandish role without much character. She (with some help from the script) deftly avoids some tropes and charms us as she glides into others. Helping the movie along is also Nick Robinson (the older brother from Jurassic World); and while his role is largely reserved he does a lot with a few expressions which keeps him from being a cardboard cut out with lines. The same cannot be said of Alex Roe, who tries. He really really tries and just can’t be more than the stereotype his role gave him.

Production wise? The effects are just slightly better than average. The flooding is getting to the point of being over used. Since the Japan disaster a few years back and Sumatra before that everyone is in awe and fear of the Tsunami so any disaster needs one now that we can see what they look like. A few other tricks aren’t bad, not great, just not bad. There’s very few eye rolls from the effects side which made me happy. Some of the transitions were done fairly well. I had to admit there was a good colour palette from the cinematographer to reinforce which of the two arcs you were dealing with. Very intentional and very functional. The music does what you expect, but otherwise is simply pleasant.


Despite how middle of the road this sounds, the movie was kinda enjoyable. I had moments of fun amidst moments of meh. While this may seem like a compromise (and it kinda is), I am ok with that. I do expect more of movies. YOU should expect more of movies. But if I even have a bit of fun I have no problem rewarding the film with that faint praise. It’s better than a meh and that means something since at least I felt *something* about it.

It does some things I haven’t seen before. There is inspiration here, I think if the Three Writer rule had not been invoked it may have been an even better film. Something more than Ok.

Though for a January? OK is good. I will take the win I can get.

Will you buy it?

Actually – yeah. I think I will. There’s stuff to the main characters arc I really enjoyed seeing handled.

Do you recommend it?

Ahhhh maybe. If you like Young adult style films? Sure. Go right ahead. You’ll probably like this more than some Hollywood has tried to give.


So that’s it. First review of the year. Could have been A LOT worse.

Darke Reviews – Jurassic World (2015)

Being a pessimist is a blessing and a curse, usually a curse. The blessing is that I expect so little of people and the world that when they deliver above my lowest expectations I can be pleasantly surprised. Since the first hyper saturated trailer came out for this film I have been pretty much quick to condemn it. Too much CGI. Too much hyper color correction. Chris Pratt with a pack of velociraptors around him. It really looked bad. Point in fact one of the people who had intended to see the movie, with me today, and myself were going to full on MST3K this film after it was over.  I expected bottom of the barrell Hollywood paycheck garbage.

So where did it land?


Let’s look at an early condemnation for the film by my own rules. The writer count. You get to excuse Michael Crichton (being dead is a good excuse) as he is simply credited for the characters. That leaves us with 4 unique credits on the writing. You have Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver on story, then again on screenplay. Two additional names show up on screenplay as well, Colin Trevorrow (who also directed) and Derek Connolly. Jaffa is probably best known for his work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and an older horror movie called The Relic (it’s not too bad). Silver has worked on the same projects beat for beat as writers and both functioned as producers on the last two Apes movies. Helps when they are married I suppose, but I can see that they do work well together and put out some of the best films we have had in the sci fi genre in the past few years. Their story work is evident here as the movie does focus on the little interactions amidst life threatening chaos. Derek Connolly seems to have been brought in as an addition to put touches on the script as well, probably due to the fact that he and writer/director Trevorrow worked on SNL and Safety Not Guaranteed together. So in reality the movie defies the 3+ writer rule and brings it down to 2. You have two pairs of people who pretty much work exclusively with each other, they feed off of each other and build on each other in a collaborative way that can be both bad and good, but the end result is a well oiled machine that knows how to function and isn’t trying to ‘fix’ someone else.

From a story standpoint itself, the movie has a few points I think it wanted to elaborate more on but either they were cut or not fleshed out. These personal stories weren’t really all that gripping or necessary to the point I think I might have preferred them removed and something else more relevant for the individual characters instead. There is one trope I could have done without that isn’t offensive, but mostly tired. A few points are cringe worthy and without the slightest hint of subtlety. Does it really have a negative impact on the movie? No. Not really

Part of that credit must go to the director. Colin Trevorrow is a man who has never had a budget of his own before now. I think much like Gareth Edwards on Godzilla after Monsters, was a bit overwhelmed, but stuck to many of his roots (where the studio allowed)  and told a good story with rather good performances from his actors, no matter their age. If anything he fails at it is some of his decisions on camera work with the director of photography. A few scenes move too quick and cut too fast to let you try to make sure you are seeing what you are meant to see. I am not sure if that comes from trying to hide the CG work or just bad design.  I also must blame him for some of the editing flaws in the movie and decisions to keep certain beats in where they weren’t needed. Otherwise, he did pretty well in letting you savor the action, the tension, and helping to overcome the significant flaws of the abomination that is Jurassic Park 3. The writing quartet and director remembered to make the characters likeable so you care if and when they die.

The credit must also go to the actors here. Look let me put it in blunt terms. Chris Pratt rules this film like a T-Rex in his own right. You have no choice but to watch him as he is consistently the most interesting thing on screen. He is larger than life and is supposed to be. He nails it perfectly and I am happy. There’s a rumor that Disney may be targeting him for a certain fedora and bullwhip and to that I say – yes please (after this film). Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village, The Help) is also surprisingly good in this. I enjoy her character far more than I anticipated and she (and the director) put some subtlety and nuance to her performance through the film that I was happy to see. While she isn’t as big as Pratt in this one, she does hold her own screen presence pretty well.

Let’s talk children for a moment. One of the driving forces of this story, as they were in the original. The kids. They act. They act well. Screw you Shyamalan (note: this is an eternal screw you for his abomnination of The Last Airbender and horrible acting from the children).  Ty Simpkins (Insidious, Iron Man 3) does well as the younger brother and doesn’t make you want to grind your teeth. He is matched by Nick Robinson as the older brother who had such potential to be something not good. Thankfully again the writers, director, and Robinson hold their hand well and let the character be something a bit more than stereotype. Thank you guys.

Ok, so I ripped the movie for technicals just from the trailers. Should I? Yes. The CG work is flawed. The effects team used daylight and hyper saturation of the color pallette to try to hide the lines, but it (as always) doesn’t work. Not every piece of CG work is bad mind you, but the parts that are – really are. What the trailers didn’t tell me and  I was happy to see was PRACTICAL. While not to the scale, effect, or execution of the original Jurassic Park, the practical effects are good. They are also sorely needed amidst everything else. Also – guys….(not that anyone on the team will see this) I can tell when you reuse assets. It’s not the worst sin in the world, but it’s still a sin. Speaking of sins. CinemaSins will probably have some fun with this one as my first thought seeing the kids room was ‘there’s an orgy of evidence that this room belongs to a young boy’. The product placement in this also is near sin worthy if it weren’t so intentional. It is a little ridiculous at times, but I consider it a small price.


It’s a good movie folks. If you are like me and have some seriously intense nostalgia for the original film, try to keep that in check. For better or worse the industry has changed and our awe at seeing a dinosaur on the big screen will never be the same as it was in Jurassic Park. I paid attention to the people around me. The kids. The adults. The elderly couple next to me. They enjoyed it. They weren’t comparing it to the original film (which does hold up 20 years later) they were just watching this.

They were watching dinosaurs walk, fly, and swim. They laughed, they jumped, they gasped, but they had a good time. That right there is all that matters.  All critiques and criticisms, and trust me I can tear into this movie with a few things, don’t really matter. People had a good time. The film makers wanted that and they succeeded. It isn’t as great as the original, but is the original as great because we had *nothing* to compare it to and it in turn became the benchmark we compare other things to? Are some of the moments completely ridiculous? Yes. I didn’t care and neither did the audience. Movies have changed for better or worse.

This is a summer blockbuster that is going to happen.

It should happen.

So for whatever it may be worth I think you should go see Jurassic World and you will probably enjoy yourself. 

I know I did.