Friday, June 29, 2018

JURASSIC WORLD: SCREAM . . .THEN RUN


I didn’t go to see the latest installment of the Jurassic Park film franchise expecting to have a problem with its philosophical approach. I expected Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, helmed by Spanish director J.A. Bayona, to provide me with plenty of popcorn-worthy thrills as roaring dino-creatures pursued greedy humans. In that I was not disappointed. It is an action franchise, after all.

But this particular film introduced a new way of thinking about the creatures cloned from the DNA in the blood in the belly of that mosquito trapped in amber way back in 1993’s Jurassic Park. And here Jeff Goldblum’s mathematician character and I parted ways with everyone else in the film.

[Spoiler alert! Sorry, there is just no way to talk about this without giving things away!]

Up until now, it’s been an underlying assumption of the Jurassic Park universe that cloning the dinosaurs in the first place was a dangerous mistake. Dr. Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and his assistant Dr. Wu (B.D.Wong—who reappears in this film) were the stereotypical mad scientists, over-reaching in the name of science, although with every good intention. In previous films they took precautions, of course, like making sure all their little dinos were female so they can’t reproduce. And, at first, everyone was charmed by the wonder of it all—seeing dinosaurs in their natural habitat for the first time in millions of years, yadda, yadda. 

But, then, as Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) so aptly puts it, there was “the running and the screaming.” Not just once, but, so far, five times (in the original film; The Lost World: Jurassic Park; Jurassic Park III; Jurassic World; and Jurassic World: The Lost Kingdom). Once might ask, will we never learn?

Apparently not.

Because in this latest film a volcano is set to destroy Isla Nublar, site of the original Jurassic World theme park, an event which would kill all the remaining dinosaurs. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum), in testimony before the U. S. Senate, argues that maybe this is a good thing. (One is reminded of Captain Kirk’s vehement statement about the Klingons facing a similar fate: “Let them die!”) The mathematician is asked whether he’s suggesting that God is taking a hand. He shrugs and demurs, but says maybe He was just trying to fix what we had screwed up by messing in His business.

In the end the Senate decides not to act, BUT Hammond’s one-time partner Benjamin Lockwood agrees to help, and off we go to SAVE THE DINOSAURS! (Oh, yes, they are to go to another island where they will be isolated from everything else (sure) and no theme park this time!) Does anyone else have a problem with this?

Certainly not Jurassic World’s former Operations Director Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and hunky raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). They are all about saving the dinosaurs, especially Owen’s raised-from-the-egg-raptor, Blue. It’s not until Claire and Owen get knocked in the head and almost left behind while the dinos are brutally corralled that our heroes begin to get an idea that something is not right.

Of course, the dinosaurs are not headed for their idyllic island, but rather for auction to the highest bidder. The evil scientists and a greedy assistant to the dying Lockwood have joined up to “weaponize” and commercialize the innocent creatures. Claire and Owen, aided by Blue and some surprise allies, must save them from this horrible fate!

Unfortunately, this involves MUCH more running and screaming. And, in the end, a decision that violates every environmental and ethical choice made in every Jurassic Park franchise movie so far, not to mention every “monster” movie since the beginning of cinematic time. When once again faced with the wrenching decision to let the dinosaurs die a quick death or release them to the “wilds” of Oregon, the adults in the room rightly make the hard choice to save our current biosphere. But a child pushes the button that allows the dinosaurs—eleven species of them—to escape into the world. Because they’re innocent. And “clones, like me.”

Yes, okay, fine. A rattlesnake is “innocent,” too, but I don’t want one in my kitchen. Much less a three-story-tall creature that has been extinct for 65 million years and can eat its weight in steer beef every two hours.

The guiding principle of “mad scientist” science fiction, from its beginnings in Frankenstein to this day, is that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. In the end, even Frankenstein’s monster preferred death to life in a world where he didn’t belong. Perhaps we can’t expect a little girl to consider the consequences of her action. But we can certainly expect the writers of this film to consider them. Michael Crichton (who wrote the original Jurassic Park and was a doctor and an environmentalist) would certainly have considered them. But, in this case, I think the writers are only thinking of the sequels.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW) TO THE EXPANSE
This week saw the season finale for SyFy Network’s excellent SF seriesThe Expanse, and what an ending it was! Lots of edge-of-your-seat action and character redemption, along with the mind-bending conceptualization the show is known for. Because the show is moving to Amazon Prime next season, this finale had to wrap up the current plot arc. I must say the writers did so in a very satisfying way. I, for one, will have to make do with this ending, since I’m not a Prime customer, but I do appreciate the care with which the show’s creators left me behind.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It's back in the saddle with the Misfits


When your husband asks you when you're going to finish that book you know it's time to stop messing about with computer games, throw a leg over and get back in the saddle. When he added, "We need the money", I fell about laughing. There are more predictable ways of earning money than writing a book. But who knows? And anyway, it's better fun than being a checkout chick or such.


So it's back to the book for me.

It will follow more-or-less on from Romila's Rescue. Romila has gone off to build a new life for herself selling antiques in Mahanadi, where she may or may not carry on her relationship with archaeologist Sunil. Jirra and Prasad have an understanding despite their taboo relationship, as have Toreni and Alric for whom work comes first. Chet is blissfully unattached, and she has Governor Markus Soldar firmly in her sights. It's her life's ambition to take him down.

The ladies are back on Shar Burk space station, a den of iniquity presided over by Governor Soldar, who could best be described as a dictator and/or a mafia boss, with a controlling interest in every money-making pie on the station. It won't be too hard to think of present-day moguls who fit that description.

Along with our three regulars (Chet, Toreni, and Jirra) I'll be adding a fourth lady to the mix. Marisa has a chequered past, and her own reasons for wanting to dispose of Markus Soldar. But whereas Chet and the girls have been tasked by Fleet to bring down Soldar and all his works, Marisa just wants to kill him in the messiest way possible.

Right, then. Time to get writing.

I do have a cover (see above) – but I don't yet have a title. Operation Shar Burk will do for now. Watch this space.

This will be the third Morgan's Misfits book. These are the other two.

Follow your dreams. You never know where they might lead you.

Jirra’s on the run, Siena’s rescuing her lover, Toreni wants Master Chef status and Chet wants her reputation back. Four women, four goals, and one very small ship. Add a fleet request to free a rebel, the promise of little to no help and a caste-defined society simmering with discontent on the edge of explosion.

Now, on their own, they’re staging an escape from a backwater prison planet and navigating the murky terrain of dreams forbidden by the rigid caste system underpinning their culture.

Success demands more than team work. They’ll have to jettison their own prejudices and forge relationships free of the rules and caste lines.

There’s more than just lives at stake. There’s dreams and a possible tomorrow more fragile than gossamer.

Buy the book at  iBooks Amazon Kobo  B&N

Rescuing Romila

When Jirra and Toreni rescue Romila from a raid on her antiques business the Misfits start off on a mission to uncover a drug-smuggling operation. A new, very potent drug is on the market, hidden in statues of ice warriors carved on a remote world.

But all’s not well within the team.

Toreni and Chet have fallen out, Toreni has received an offer that might be too good to refuse, and Jirra has doubts about her future.  When the drug-smuggling operation morphs into something even more dangerous, the Misfits must resolve their differences. If they don’t act together, and quickly, many lives will be at risk. Including their own.

Action and adventure, with a little bit of romance.

Buy the book at  iBooks Amazon Kobo  B&N


Monday, June 25, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom...or Fallen Franchise?

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom artwork
property of the studio.
I caught Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom yesterday for a matinee, and even at the ungodly-movie-hour of 11:30AM, the theatre was absolutely packed.

Very good sign for the latest movie in the Jurassic Park dynasty. But I'm sure you'd like to know what I thought. Sans spoilers. (Which always makes review writing a little tricky.)

Well...

There was good, there was bad and then there was a generous dollop of just plain ugly.

As far as entertainment value, I found the action pretty riveting and for the most part, non-stop. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard--who I just learned this week is Ron Howard's daughter)--are back, as well as Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) who seems to keep popping back in to various movies as the voice of Chaos Theory.

And he certainly gets his fifteen minutes on the soapbox. Personally, I preferred the much less heavy-handed and non-politically-tainted message in the original film, which was handled with genuine finesse instead of boxing gloves.

But I digress...

I don't think I'm getting too spoilery to say the premise of this film is that three years have passed since the catastrophic failure of Jurassic World, and various bad guys...and bad guys pretending to be good guys...and good guys being misled by bad guys...are on a mission to save--in other words exploit--the dinosaurs and/or their valuable DNA from an island that's about to go all Mount Kilauea.

The opening scenes try to be scary-tense and frightening, but unfortunately that goes somewhat astray by TSTL characters who make idiotic assumptions such as (paraphrasing) "it's been three years since the meltdown of the park, so surely all the dinosaurs are dead."

Of course, everyone in the audience knows where that's going.

Cut to some very edgy scenes featuring cast--human and dinosaur--that you've come to know, followed by an orgy of smashing things, hurtling things, bloody carnage and multiple explosions. Act One was capped with a particularly painful segment that unfolds before the main characters' eyes. If it was meant to really get to you, it worked for this viewer. It was a definite case of show, don't tell, leaving the audience to draw their own emotional conclusion instead of verbally hammering them over the head with it via dialogue. (That came later.)

Here's the final trailer.



The Good

I loved Chris Pratt's reprisal of Owen and I thought the growth of Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire worked--from a strictly business and often heartless what's-the-bottom-line executive in Jurassic World to the leader of what's essentially a high-tech animal rescue organization.

Theatrical release poster, property
of the studio.
Each film in this franchise has sought to redefine the meaning of "dinosaur-overlord" and the latest is no exception. How do you follow the continuous one-upmanship from a T-Rex to multiple T-Rexes to a Spinosaurus to an Indominus Rex? You biologically engineer an intelligent, ferocious and decidedly nasty multi-ton beastie that's trained to attack on cue. Chilling.

The movie was chock full of "harken back" scenes that cleverly interwove all the feels of some of the earlier films in the franchise. The deja vu was obviously intended, and done quite well, IMHO. Your take on that may differ.

The flashback scenes of Owen with his raptors were the absolute highlight for me. They were fresh and added some poignant emotional layers to the man/raptor relationship. In fact, they probably explained Owen's bond to his raptors better than the actual scenes in JW did.

The Bad

The villains. Why is it that all villains in recent films are portrayed as if they were Snidely Whiplash twirling their moustaches while they tie Nell to the railroad tracks? (And one even comes with a voice that still makes my skin crawl decades after first hearing it in The Silence of the Lambs. "It puts the lotion in the basket." Shudder.)

The threats. There were far too many, and from too many different directions, that it actually muddied instead of sharpening the sense of jeopardy. Exploding volcanos, flowing lava, rampaging dinosaurs, malfunctioning equipment, and one-dimensional characters so drunken by absolute greed and mindless ambition that they were totally unconvincing.

The scenarios. Suspension of disbelief was beyond all possibility for much of the latter part of the story.

The Ugly

The twist that wasn't twisted. One of the characters has a big secret, but when it's finally revealed, instead of being an OMG moment, it's more of a huh? Connections should be drawn that aren't, and it seems there's room for some pretty heavy discussion about lines being crossed that clearly shouldn't have been, but it doesn't happen. I think a real opportunity was missed here, and the camera capturing the wide-eyed reactions just doesn't fill in those blanks.

The ending. Though I didn't find it "lame" as one commenter described it, I did find it extremely uncomfortable. Owen and Claire are faced with a Kobayashi Maru scenario where there is no right choice, and whatever they decide will be devastating but at opposite ends of the scale. So neither makes that choice. I can't say more without giving away too much, except that the resolution sets up a scenario that can continue ad nauseum into the future. Which I'm sure is the plan.

In fact, Jeff Goldblum's final line set that stage in no uncertain terms.

For overall entertainment value, I'd rate Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as four stars. It delivered what the previews promised, a scary, action-packed summer blockbuster, though the finale didn't have anywhere near the emotional punch of Jurassic Park I or Jurassic World I, it also wasn't in any way a waste of the ticket price. It just didn't live up to my admittedly high expectations.

In closing, I have to say that maybe the magic has just worn off for me, because I had to agree with my spouse on this one: "I think I'm Jurassic Parked out."

Of course, I might change my mind before Jurassic World III comes out.

Have a great week.

Friday, June 22, 2018

LAUNCH OVER, WHAT'S NEXT?

They don’t call the debut of a new book a “launch” for nothing. First there is the long lead-up of frantic activity—prepping the manuscript, lining up the promotion, doing the interviews and guest posts and what-not. Then there is the blast-off of Launch Day, bringing all of that promo to a head, trying to be everywhere at once, clinking a little celebratory glass with a small group of friends at the launch party (and signing a few books, too!) and watching your book rocket across the sales ranks in its (brief) shining hour. 


I have to admit the excitement of a new book doesn’t last long for me. I still have a few promotional things working their way to the end. And, of course, now begins the perpetual drumbeat of asking for reviews on the book folks have just bought so that others might be tempted to buy. My biggest sales event arrives with Shore Leave, the SF con coming up in early July. But those sales won’t affect my Amazon ranking, just my pocketbook.

Now that the fireworks are over, my focus is on the next book—and a good thing, too, since folks at the book signing were asking me what the next book was about. They even wanted to know if I’ve thought about a new series. Luckily, I’ve made a start with the next book—Interstellar Rescue Series Book 5, tentatively titled King of Pain. I have a premise, a hero, a heroine and a rough outline for that book, and I’ve even written a couple of chapters. I hope to have the first draft finished by, say, next January.

As for the next series, I have an idea for that, too. The smart thing would be to write something—maybe a short story or a couple of chapters of a new book—set in that universe while I’m working on King of Pain. We’ll see if I’m that smart!

Because the truth of the matter is conceiving, writing, formatting, promoting and selling a book is a lot of work. A little down time between projects is not such a bad thing—recharge the batteries, you know? At least for a week or two.


Cheers, Donna

About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.