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Face-Off: Jurassic World vs. Ghostbusters (2016)

06.26.2018by: Matt Rooney

Ah, welcome back to the Face-Off, everyone! This session we have a rather interesting bout, and one that will be sure to spark a lively discussion among some of you more die-hard fans. In celebration of the release of JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM we will be looking at not only JURASSIC WORLD, but another movie that, like WORLD, was an attempt to restart a dormant franchise for a new audience: the 2016 GHOSTBUSTERS.

JURASSIC WORLD was the first movie to come out in the JURASSIC PARK series since 2001's JURASSIC PARK 3, and not only did it reinvigorate the franchise, it blew up the box office with a shocking run. Now, the movie didn't earn the best marks from fans and critics, but once the train started rolling there was no stopping it as it chugged to $1.6 billion around the world, a total that still baffles me to this day. GHOSTBUSTERS, also aiming to get new fans on board with the franchise, didn't have as good of luck. Though it won over most critics and has its fans (me included), it was a box office bomb that may have sealed the series' fate for good...or at least another decade or so.

Both of these flicks have their positives and negatives, but now its time to see which movie did the best job bringing their series into the modern era. Sharpen your teeth and prepare your gear, because this is about to go off!

THE ENSEMBLE
Chris Pratt as Owen
Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire
Irrfan Khan as Masrani
Vincent D'Onofrio as Hoskins
Ty Simpkins as Gray
Nick Robinson as Zach
Jake Johnson as Lowery
Omar Sy as Barry
BD Wong as Henry Wu
Judy Greer as Karen
Lauren Lapkas as Vivian
Kristen Wiig as Erin
Melissa McCarthy as Abbey
Kate McKinnon as Jillian
Leslie Jones as Patty
Chris Hemsworth as Kevin
Neil Casey as Rowan
Charles Dance as Harold
Ed Begley Jr. as Ed
Zach Woods as Garrett
Michael Kenneth Williams as Hawkins
Matt Walsh as Rorke
Andy Garcia as Mayor Bradley
Cecily Strong as Jennifer
DIRECTION
Aside from a short and a documentary the only real directing experience Colin Trevorrow had prior to WORLD was the indie darling SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. That movie abounds with humor, charm, heart and great performances, and signaled a bright future for the director. However, much of that does not translate to his work on JURASSIC WORLD. Aside from some forced bonding moments, the movie is lacking in any sort of heart or soul, and the pacing is very by-the-numbers. Basically, when the dinos are not on screen, it's difficult to glean any sort of distinct style on display from Trevorrow, which certainly hinders the movie from being great. However, Trevorrow does have a knack for shooting big, spectacle moments, and certainly has an eye for crafting striking VFX-driven shots. For example, some of the early shots of the Indominus give the beast a sense of menace, and the shot of the T-Rex approaching Claire from its paddock gives the climax a greater sense of scale. All-in-all it was a solid first run at blockbuster filmmaking with noticeable positives and negatives, and he demonstrated skills and flaws that can certainly be improved upon.
With Paul Feig, I see a flip side to the same coin as Trevorrow. Across his career in TV and film, Feig has become incredibly skilled at working with actors and bringing out their best traits, letting them fuel the project. For a movie like GHOSTBUSTERS that is of extreme importance, as the team is what sells the movie. By focusing so much on this talented cast he gives the movie a style and personality that sets it apart from the original in an entertaining way. But while he trumps Trevorrow in character work and giving his movie a distinct voice, he fails at mixing it with any terror, thrills or visceral style required for an action comedy like this. The action is clunky and over-produced, which is made even worse given the silliness of the rest of the movie. I don't mind the silliness or humor at all, but it's not a great combo when you're also trying to deliver on very expensive action scenes. Feig is great with ensemble work, but for a budget this size he may have been a bit over his head.
STORY/SCRIPT

Twenty and some odd years after the events on Isla Nublar (and some more bad times a few years after that), Jurassic World has finally turned dinosaurs into the attractions audiences from around the world can flock to see. Sadly, this means more tinkering with modern science, and after failing to learn from the errors of the past, the people at the park create a dinosaur too deadly to comprehend. After the massive beast escapes, Claire, the operations manager, must enlist the help of Velicoraptor trainer Owen to help hunt down the beast and save her nephews who have been lost in the park. Seriously, these people never learn.

Four movies in, and the story still centers around human beings never learning from their mistakes, having yet again messed with nature to the point where it's messing with them back. There's certainly not a ton of ingenuity here in the script from Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (there have even been some solid comparisons to DEEP BLUE SEA), but in a very small way, they continue to explore a theme from the first movie. WORLD, like PARK, deals with how humans utilize science once they've unlocked new secrets, trying to take advantage for personal gain. Nothing is ever enough, and we will always want bigger and better. Their script doesn't seem as interested in establishing characters, as they're rather one-dimensional and their relationships are unengaging. Still, at least there are stakes and scenarios that drive the characters forward, even if there are far too make discussions in stuffy-looking rooms. Ultimatley, the story mostly makes sense and the themes and danger are present, even if the characters at the center pale in comparison to their prehistoric co-stars.

Coming together for their love of the strange and spiritual, four women create the paranormal investigation group Ghostbusters with the intent of tracking down ghostly phenomena. They soon get more than they bargained for when a weirdo begins placing devices all over New York with the intent of breaking open a dimension of angry spirits to hurt the people who bullied him. The team must then suit up, light up their proton lasers and take down some ghost scum. Can you take down something that's already dead?

The script and story here are a bit of a mess and one that sticks way too close to the same beats as the original movie. The team investigates some ghosts, get mocked, and then fights off a big paranormal threat. They even have to go into a historic building and fight off a green ghost at one point, destroying part of the interior of the building. Sound familiar? Where the movie earns its originality is in the personality and dynamics of the characters, creating a strong bond between the group that would be worth exploring in newer movies. I say "newer movies" (which we won't get) because the script certainly doesn't explore them here. They're a unit, and they stay a unit with little hesitation or concern about their mission. There is even some animosity between Erin and Abbey that goes ignored after the first 20 minutes, despite that creating room for some solid drama and depth. Feig and writer Katie Dippold have a firm grip on the movie's tone with the aim of establishing the team as a strong, unshakable team, even if that's a poor stage for complexity and conflict.

BEST BITS & LINES

Welcome to Jurassic World

A New Dinosaur

Owen Grady, Raptor Tamer

Owen: "You might have made them in a test tube, buy they don't know that. These animals are thinking, "I gotta eat. I gotta hunt. I gotta..." You can relate to at least one of those things. Right?"

Seeing the Park

Indominus Rex Escapes

Indominus Eats the Crew

Henry: "Monster is a relative term. To a canary, a cat is a monster. We're just used to being the cat."

Traveling in the Dino Sphere

Indominus Attacks the Sphere

Killing for Sport

Relics of Park's Past

Ariel Assault

Riding with the Raptors in the Pale Moonlight

A New Alpha

Owen: "Watch your six! Raptors got a new alpha!"

Escaping the Raptors

The T-Rex

Rex and Blue vs. Indominus

Mighty T-Rex Roar!

Meet the Gang

Jillian: "Just try saying no to these salty parabolas."

The Gang's First Ghost Encounter

New Digs

Meet Kevin

Kevin: "Would it be okay if I bring my cat to work sometimes? He has major anxiety problems."

Abby: "You know what? I would love to let your cat live here with you, but I have a pretty severe cat allergy."

Kevin: "Oh, I don't have a cat. He's a dog. His name's My Cat."

Kevin: "You know, an aquarium is a submarine for fish."

Enter Patty

The Proton Laser Gun

Erin: "Why am I operating the untested nuclear laser?"

Jillian: "You have the longest arms."

Patty: " I guess he's going to Queens - he's going to be the third scariest thing on that train."

Suiting Up

Capturing the Rock Concert Ghost

Convincing the Skeptic

Jillian: "Booyah! Emphasis on the boo."

Possessed

Warning the Mayor

Mayor: "Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!"

Ghosts Unleashed

Cabbie: "I don't go to Chinatown, I don't drive wackos, and I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

Fifghting Off Ghosts

Jillian: "You guys, this is exactly how I pictured my death!"

Attack of the Logo!

Erin: "What year is it?"

Jillian: "It's 2040. Our president is a plant!"

Ghostbusters

MUSICAL MASTERY
When you want John Williams but can't get John Williams, call Michael Giacchino. Did I hit the nail on the head with that one? Okay, that may sound like a snide remark, but I actually quite enjoy Giacchino's work here. There's the expected incorporation of the Williams theme, but then Giacchino adds his own bit of whimsy to the music, with the occasional sweeping pieces to accompany big action bits. The movie may not get a lot of magic from the story or characters, but Giacchino injects some wonder back into the proceedings with his work here.
Theodore Shapiro does a serviceable job with the movie, with it at its best when he's mixing in some gothic, slightly creepy sounds into his score. But too much of the movie comes off as standard blockbuster movie music that can't help but go unnoticed in the background. There are nice little nods to the original theme in there which was, understandably, too iconic to leave out (like with Williams' music in WORLD). The music's great crime comes in the form of the original song by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot (What is this, 2005?) which is played at a key point in the movie. Must I go into the mindnumbing effects of the nonsensical rock music mixed with unnecessary rap accompaniment. Ellie King's "Good Girls" is a better piece of music to close the credits to, but Jesus, if that FOB song doesn't haunt my days.
VISUAL EFFECTS
When it comes to the VFX of any future JURASSIC movies they will always pale in comparison to the original movie. You just can't beat the mix of practical and digital effects there. But, for what it's worth, the effects in WORLD are pretty solid with some cool looking dinosaurs, varying between the Indominous and the, uh, flying creatures and the giant sea beastie (Don't go making me look for all their scientific names). There's a nice homage to the practical effects with the dying dinosaur that Owen and Claire comfort, which is probably one of my favorite scenes in the movie. The effects are on full display in the final dino fight, and you can't say that didn't look amazing and bonkers.
The effects in this movie are...yeah. Look, I understand this is a big, expensive movie about ghosts, and in this modern age of franchise-building, studios feel like they need everything to be big and cataclysmic. But the ghost effects look messy here, with WAY too much going on in the final climax. I don't mind when there are fewer ghosts on screen, like with the ghost of Gertrude in the house or the ghost in the subway, as there are little nuances you can grow to admire. But during the chaotic scenes, there's too much coming at you and everything looks silly in the midst of the action. Perhaps that was the goal, but that's a lot of money to spend on visual gags.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE
When JURASSIC WORLD gets going it is indeed a ton of fun. Perhaps it takes too long to get into, and there's not a lot of originality to the action. But if you want dino action, then dino action is what you will receive. I can't help but mutter the word "badass" under my breath when Owen is riding alongside the raptors, or when Blue and the T-Rex are teaming up to take down the Indominus. This is a two-hour movie and much of the beginning is spent on tons of exposition and failed attempts at generating chemistry, but the final hour almost makes it all worth it.
What makes GHOSTBUSTERS worth coming back to again and again (at least for me) is the incredible work from the cast and how they make this movie constantly hilarious. Watching the movie in theaters I had a big grin on my face the whole time, with major shout-outs going to McKinnon and Hemsworth. There were too many lines to add to the above section, but I find this movie is never not funny. It's the movie's main strength, and luckily it lasts from beginning to end. And, yes, I say that competes evenly with dino chaos.
CHARACTER DYNAMICS
The characters in this movie aren't likely to be remembered in the pantheon of film history, or even the pantheon of 2015 film history. Pratt, coming off fresh from the charming, roguish role of Peter Quill in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, seems bland and restrained here as they try and turn him into the tough action hero. Dallas Howard doesn't do much besides worry and tag along for the ride, and there are plenty of other one-dimensional characters that make you long for more dinosaurs. Then there's the chemistry between Owen and Claire, which feels uninspired, making their kiss after a chaotic moment feel forced and unbelievable. Like the TRANSFORMERS movies, I can't help but want fewer humans and more giant creatures.
Feig has to be one of the best directors doing ensemble comedy today, from BRIDESMAIDS to SPY and then this. Here's a man who knows how to get characters and actors together and let them get the best out of each other. GHOSTBUSTERS features a terrific cast and together they make a perfect team of diverse, hilarious voices, with each bringing something different to the team. As for the depth of each character, they are restrained by surface-level traits, but as a crew, it's easy to completely buy them as a unit, which is something the original succeeds at as well.
REBOOT OF/PLACE IN THE FRANCHISE
The word "fan service" gets thrown around a lot with movies like these two movies as fans scream "cash grab!" With WORLD we at least get a welcome continuation of the story started over two decades ago in the first movie, with the park finally coming to life only to face the same problems as before. Sprinkle in themes of the militarization of scientific breakthroughs and you have a movie that gets into new territory, albeit not as gracefully as we would've hoped. This is preferable to some attempt at a straight remake or a half-assed reboot that tried to be a prequel explaining how this was not the first time dinosaurs were brought back to life, starring a young John Hammond before he got his cane. It's not perfect, but its a solid entry in the series that respects the notion that fans wanted to see what came next. Oh, and it delivered tons of dinosaur action, which is 90% of why we see these movies.
Clearly, the goal with GHOSTBUSTERS was to reinvigorate the franchise for a new audience, much like WORLD. But whereas WORLD continued the same story in the same world, bringing back and recalling characters from past movies, GHOSTBUSTERS decided "Fuck it, let's just start over." While the movie does stand apart from its predecessor in some ways, the movie cannot avoid living in the shadow of the original, and a big reason why is because it mistakenly keeps recalling stuff from the first movies. There's the score, the logo, the cameos from past cast members, etc.. They can't help but try to remind you about the original movie while at the same try to establish its own footing. All that does is beg the question why they didn't just bring back the old characters in their old roles and do some sort of passing of the torch to the new, female team. That would've been fine, and would've continued the same universe while creating something new. This is the ultimate folly of the new GHOSTBUSTERS: Instead of continuing the story or doing something totally new and unique they tried to have the best of both worlds, and in the end lost it all.
AWARDS, PRAISE & MONEY
Golden Schmoes:
    Won:
    Most Overrated Movie
    Nominated:
    Best Sci-fi Movie
    Best Special Effects
    Best DVD/Blu-ray
    Biggest Disappointments
    Best Trailer

**Another 14 Wins & 57 Nominations (per IMDB)**

Praise

Money:
    $652 million domestic ($1.6 billion global)
Golden Schmoes:
    Nominated:
    Worst Movie
    Biggest Disappointment

**Another 5 Wins & 24 Nominations (per IMDB)**

Praise

Money:
    $128 million domestic ($229 million global)
JURASSIC WORLD
The GHOSTBUSTERS movie had very little chance of success after being savaged by internet trolls and passionate, disapproving fans. This is a shame because though it has some noticeable faults it's still a great piece of disposable, hilarious fun. However, the fact that it does play like a simple, summer comedy is what makes it sort of a disappointment. JURASSIC WORLD, on the other hand, plays its cards a little better and embraced more of what audiences loved about the previous movies (well, maybe the first one) to create a mostly satisfying, often exciting, and visually impressive continuation of the series. Is it messy? Sure. Is it lacking in some genuine charm and personality to distinguish it from other blockbuster films? Yes indeed. But when it works it's a ton of fun and can rise above most of its faults. Still, that final box office toll seems WAY too high. Who saw this movie that many times?

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