Jurassic World opens Thursday, June 11 at the Whistler Village 8 — 22 years (to the day) after the first Jurassic Park hit screens. That film played in the Whistler Rainbow theatre twice nightly for three weeks (all first-run movies were like that in those days. The Village 8 is such a pleasure by comparison) but those first cinematic velociraptors opened movie-goers' eyes to the possibilities of a lesser-known technology called Computer Generated Imagery, or CGI.
Certainly, Star Wars, Tron and especially 1989's The Abyss had used computer effects before but in Jurassic Park the CGI was front and centre for the world to see. And it worked — those dinosaurs (combined with Jeff Goldblum's awesomeness) made a billion bucks, won three Academy Awards and spawned a couple sequels (and a bunch of Universal Studios theme park rides). By reincarnating the legendary lizard kings of our past, Steven Spielberg had shown audiences the future of cinema, and it looked good. (Historical Note: Spielberg also dropped Schindler's List in 1993, which took another three Oscars. Not a bad year.)
Since then, of course, CGI has become the cheapest and easiest way to make a film look awesome (Exhibit A: Kung Fury) although contemporary audiences are savvy enough to it that a physical effects-based flick like Mad Max: Fury Road will now come in like a breath of fresh air. (If you haven't seen Fury Road at least twice it is still playing here in town. Do it.) And now, two decades later and Jurassic World is here, screening in 3D (which is hit and miss kinda like CGI was back in the day).
There's an embargo on reviews of this film until Wednesday (never a good sign) and I haven't seen it but expect lots of spectacle, some kids in danger and some cheesy dialogue. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) stars as what looks like some kind of Dinosaur whisperer at the dinosaur theme park, 22 years on from the first flick. Thanks to corporate meddling and genetic engineering, everything goes to hell when the big new hybrid-dino attraction goes apeshit and dinosaurs start eating tourists, park workers, each other and probably some vehicles as well. Early signs are this is not the greatest movie of the year. In fact, this movie about beasts from our past is a good jumping-in point to keep talking about the future of cinema.
The future will not be a shitload of hyper-expensive summer blockbusters constructed with the "if you build it they will come" ideology. There will always be a place for huge films like Mad Max or the first Avengers but as more and more people watch movies at home, one has to wonder: is Jurassic World, the fourth in the franchise, really unique and good enough to warrant a big screen release and the $150 million to $180 million it reportedly cost to make? When will people get sick of shelling out top dollar for B+ grade content and simply stay home?
Hollywood has resisted the evolution of on-demand and streaming film distribution because it's harder to make as much money that way, but no one can deny movie theatre audiences are shrinking and the reason is that too many movies on the big screen don't deserve to be there. With each passing year, the future of cinema becomes more tied to the home viewer.
Netflix even hit the Cannes Film Fest this year in alignment with their move towards releasing and producing major feature films (they've already done it with shows and docs). Reports are Netflix secured the rights to produce and distribute an upcoming Brad Pitt project called War Machine based on a popular book about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. With Pitt on board with Netflix, War Machine should be a tipping point for a future that will ultimately give us all more access to better movies we can enjoy from the comforts of home.
The movie theatre will (hopefully) never be extinct. It should always be that special place for those shared human experiences I go on about all the time in this column. And there will always be movies good enough to belong on the big screen.
But the next 15 Adam Sandler flicks will be just as effective from your couch. More so probably.