Film Corner: Jurassic Games

Jurassic Games

I need to get rid of all the emotions the Good Place finale gave me, so Kissmate says we can live-watch a really terrible movie on Amazon Prime tonight. Amazon Prime has served up "The Jurassic Games", which is... The Hunger Games and Jurassic Park. I believe it's the same genre of movies as Velocipastor. The trick will be seeing how far we get before we have to bail. "Every year, 10 of the world's most lethal death row criminals are chosen to compete for freedom in The Jurassic Games, a television show where contestants must survive against a variety of dinosaurs."

We open with a George Carlin quote that probably isn't really George Carlin but one never can be quite sure about these things without pausing, and the gist is that capital punishment should be more entertaining to the masses. We see a lot of future tech touch screens and I'm surprised to see that this is apparently trying to be a... real movie? Not an obvious silly parody, really?

A man on death row is invited to be part of the Jurassic Games, and we see a bunch of folks with VR headsets in a room. So the "games" are going to be in a virtual reality world, and it's presumably a Matrixy "the mind makes it real" situation? WHO KNOWS. NOT ME. There's a host in a sharp black suit and a black helmet that is BOTH a dinosaur AND a saber-tooth tiger somehow. Yes, he's explaining that the world is real for the contestants.

"This is a surprisingly well-shot piece of shit," Kissmate says, marveling at the visuals. The host explains that he needs the death row inmates to not kill each other right away and to let the dinos do the honors for at least some of them. Charming. Interestingly, it's really more SURVIVOR than HUNGER GAMES; there's safe zones and challenges. (Kissmate, earnestly misunderstanding me: "No, hon, SURVIVOR wasn't about killing the other contestants." I love this man so much.)

"Reach the safe zone in an hour or you die," the host tells them. Oh, the mind doesn't entirely make it real; they inject the players with a lethal injection when they sustain enough injury to kill them. ("I wonder if you win, can you become the new host?" Kissmate muses.) A T-Rex runs through the trees and kills a contestant right out of the gate. I've seen worse CGI. The host addresses the television crowd while medics cart away the first dead inmate.

I'm shocked that this is an actual movie and not a cheap mock parody. A viewing party eats cookies shaped like people while a scrawny white inmate called "The Cannibal" attacks and bites a Black inmate. I'm not used to symbolism in cheap Prime movies. People in the audience eating gingerbread-men cookies while a man call The Cannibal eats his fellow contestant, get it? And also it's like society is eating the inmates by "consuming" them via this reality show, eh? eh? Look, I didn't say it was subtle, but it's more than these cheap knock-offs usually give us. I'm impressed.

Kissmate, who is a beautiful dinosaur nerd, doesn't love that the dinos don't have scientifically-accurate fur or feathers, and their skin is shrinkwrapped in place, but they DO have colors and I'm informed that's nice. The host tells us there are four stages for the games. Stage 1 is being chased through the forest by dinos, stage 2 is a maze full of raptors (Kissmate is cooing!), stage 3 is a minefield and pterodactyls, and stage 4 is a mystery. This show *feels* like a show, like, they put together a decent reality television show for this movie. We posthumously get to know the eaten inmate with a blooper reel of his bombing murder that landed him on death row. OKAY THEN.

[Racism] Ah, okay, now we get to contestant-killing. The Black inmate who was bit earlier tries to kill a white Katniss wannabe while a not-quite-Gerard-Butler-from-GAMER saves her. It's...not good and there's an implied threat of, like, dangerous Black man going after the frail white girl? It is bad both in the sense of the racism of the situation and in the sense that Katniss is just standing there moving around like a wooden muppet. She makes the killing blow against her attacker, calls her savior a pussy, and tells him she's "here to kill everybody". Huh. Didn't expect that.

Extremely tiny dinos (Kissmate calls them "compsognathus") scamper cutely about in the brush and nip scavenger-style at the dead Black inmate that Hot Topic Katniss killed. We learn that Not Gerard Butler is named Tucker. His teenage kids defend him as innocent and beg him to survive the games so he can be pardoned as his prize. Outside, protesters chant "NO MORE GAMES."

Ooh, Raptors! They have pretty green-blue eyes. Hot Topic Katniss plays up the sociopathic angle and attacks Tucker. I'm unsure if we're supposed to read the now-deceased Black inmate attacking her as having correctly read her as the biggest threat here. She leaves Tucker tied up for the dinos and we get the reality television distillation of her entire deal: she calls herself Joy "because I'm such a happy person" and she's the youngest death row inmate ever, remorseless, dangerous, etc.

Tucker is saved by an East Asian man who says they need to work together as long as possible. Meanwhile, the journalist who interviewed Tucker's children is angry at being sent to torment them when they believe their father is innocent. (He was convicted of killing his wife / their mother.)

In a canyon, three players--"The Mason Brothers and The Wasp"--are allowed a reprieve from pursuing raptors after forming an interesting alliance that intrigues the audience. This scene goes on a lot longer than I'd ideally like, yes. After all that establishing of the Mason Brothers' motivation to save their ailing mother, the Host tells us she tragically died yesterday. Kissmate is extremely upset that this is not as shitty as it ought to be.

Tucker and Ren make it to the safe zone. Elsewhere, a blond girl ponders berries and whether or not to eat them. The Cannibal menaces her but a safe zone door materializes for them. Joy is safe too. So we're down to 8 of 10. Meanwhile, I'm informed the youngest death row inmate was nine; I should clarify that Joy is the youngest ever to go on the fake dino show. She looks 16 or maybe 18. It's actually kinda nice to have Hot Topic Katniss be the designated villain, and that really drives home how much this isn't the usual by-the-numbers "Scary Movie" style of parody.

Children on television sell action figures. "I'm Tucker and I'm innocent!" / "I'm Albert and I'm gonna eat you!" It's a nice way of reminding us everyone's names. We learn the blond is named Stephanie but I'm going to continue to call her Blondie. No idea what she did to get in here so I don't see her lasting much longer. The host VRs back into the game with his Batman supervillain mask.

The prisoners are now chained to a wall covered in computer screens. Host tells them that the first to escape their chains gets a gun. They each have to draw a path on a maze shown on an individual computer screen above their heads. Not quite exactly thrilling! (I thought they were going to have to navigate the maze while their chains moved along the maze walls with them.)

[Racism] Albert the Cannibal frees himself first and menaces the others. Ren, the East Asian man, tells him he has "no honor" if he kills them. SIGH. White protagonist Tucker has a more direct approach: he punches Albert and takes the gun.

Raptors spawn in and the inmates run through an open door into the maze. Ren's chain-puzzle is broken so Tucker shoots the chain out so they can run together. Kissmate says the raptor faces are WRONG, so I have to inform you all of that. The raptors kinda look too much like modern lizards which makes me think of the Jurassic Park movie, but that was DNA shenanigans and this is VR so they don't *need* to make the raptors look lizardy.

Kissmate adds that the setting is at least correctly doused in smoke or possibly dry ice, so that the effect of the dinos is relatively realistic and not just STAR WARS PREQUELS CGI NIGHTMARE PLASTIC. I really want a whole movie with just the dinos doing dino things, they're so much more interesting than the convicts. Two raptors startled each other and had to chillax!

Ooh, Ren has used his chain to make a chain-fist! Ren's actor is a real life martial artist, we looked it up, and he is now going to chain-fist fight three raptors at once. He even does the "come to me" Morpheus hand gesture. This is the most amazing piece of art in all of human history. ...I am *gutted* to inform you that Ren died from a raptor to the small of his back, but his fight was valiant and beautiful.

Kissmate says the CGI is "not bad" but he is extremely upset that the raptors are "tappers, not clappers", and I have to pause to learn what that means. Apparently their wrists have been assembled all wrong. AN INACCURACY HAS BEEN FOUND. The group runs around the maze together while Tucker brings up the rear with his Laser Shotgun. There's no apparent exit, but Blondie realizes that the exit is through a vent near the floor.

Blondie is rewarded on the outside of the maze for her vent-insight with a map-compass to a crate full of useful supplies. The map is immediately taken from her by the rest of the group while Tucker tries to ineptly protect her. We learn she sexily killed 16 men and uploaded vids of her crimes to YouTube. Ah, a Black Widow type. Now that she has a backstory, she can presumably be killed off. We'll wait and see.

"BRONTOSAURUSES!" I am happy to report. Kissmate reminds me they are "Apatosaurus" now. I'm sad now.

[Racism] The last non-white character is now eaten by a... prehistoric venus fly trap thing. His final words are needlessly cruel except to, I guess, establish that he's a moral monster. SIGH. We're down to 6 of 10.

They've reached the minefield, and are told on the other side there's a knife and more laser-gun ammo. (Again, very SURVIVOR.) A triceratops spawns in menacingly. Kissmate is happy we have a deadly herbivore because "the carnivores have been getting a bad rap" in this obviously extremely well-researched unofficial Jurassic Park spinoff. WAIT, I AM INFORMED THAT WE HAVE BRONTOSAURUS AGAIN!! (Link: The Brontosaurus Is Back. Decades after scientists decided that the famed dinosaur never actually existed, new research says the opposite.)

Oh my god, this is like finding out that Pluto is a planet again because of, like, a Bond parody or something. (Kissmate, sagely, "This is why it's best to just call them Beefybois.") The triceratops menaces them very effectively until a MINE blows it up and we cry out in collective outrage. One of the Mason brothers rage-quits the game and is scragged by the TV producers for his rebellion. 5 of 10. The second Mason brother is *instantly* lifted into the ground by a pterodactyl, who then drops him--apparently deliberately!!--on a hidden ground mine. 4 of 10.

We're down to Tucker the Innocent, Katniss-Joy, Black Widow Blondie, and Albert the Cannibal. Blondie gets the knife and the tiny little case of laser ammo. Joy separates from the group, which means it's time to split the party. Tucker finds her and tells her she reminds him of his daughter, and gives her the backstory of his wife's murder-by-mysterious-intruder. Joy promises to kill him last.

Meanwhile, Albert attacks Blondie and gets both laser gun and ammo clip. It's annoying because Blondie had previously been characterized as competent but now she's apparently *surprised* that the leering cannibal who keeps trying to kill them, now tried to kill her. Albert is swarmed by a bunch of trilobites and he dies in exactly the same way as those scarabs in THE MUMMY movies. It's rather disappointing after all that buildup, I must say; if I were a member of the audience I'd feel very unhappy.

The Host interviews one of the people in the "witness box" who says Albert killed her husband and (*sobs*) she has closure now thanks to the trilobite swarm. In a great twist, she's just an actress they brought in for ratings and not an actual victim. I will say that the host--actor Ryan Merriman--is doing a great job and would actually be a great Batman villain.

While Tucker deals with a stomach wound, Joy-Katniss is menaced by a real saber-tooth tiger. "KITTY!" I squeal. Kissmate, meanwhile, is screaming unintelligibly about timelines and eras. I have been asked to pause while we check which era the sabertooths-- smilodons, sorry, were in. Pleistocene, not Jurassic. Though they have admitted in-universe that they went with what "tested well" with audiences and not, uh, accuracy.

"They're not even tigers!" I have been informed.
"So I shouldn't call it a kitty?"
"You can if you want, but-" and now there is a chart about something called Felidae and pumas and cougars and I am impressed and very overwhelmed.

Kissmate has announced that the smilodon rendering "isn't bad" so it has that going for it! Tucker moans around with his stomach wound and yells to his kids back home that he loves them. Joy shoves Blondie into a hole where the smilodon eats her. RIP Blondie. We're down to a sociopathic teenager and Team Dad Tucker who the entire world now believes is innocent because, idk, he's the protagonist and he's a white man. I can't say I find him as compelling as the rest of the world seems to.

We come to mystery Stage 4, which is apparently a vast yellow desert. The players are knocked out for a little bathroom break. The journalist who had reservations about the show is now revealed to be a radical extremist who wants to shoot the host on live television in order to prove the games are...bad? Not quite following the logic train on that one, hon.

Tucker and Joy wake up to find their legs have been chained to a center point in the ground, preventing them from running away from each other. A laser circle is drawn and the host tells them to unlock their chains and cross the laser finish line. Whoever crosses the line first lives and the other dies. Tucker starts digging in the sand for a key. Joy menacingly approaches him, kicks him in the face, and explains that SHE was the one who killed his wife and framed him just to shock and upset the people of "this disgusting world" who love him. Uh?

The Host calls for a T-Rex to be brought out and it's a nice beefy boi with tiny arms. Joy finds her key in the sand, unlocks her chains, and runs. Three T-Rex swarm her because the game-makers don't want to make it easy for her. But! In a twist, the T-Rexes start attacking each other because "we programmed them to act as they would in nature and they're very territorial! We've never spawned this many at once."

"You know, I don't believe the dinosaurs are there, but I believe they're *supposed* to be there. It's cool!" Kissmate says. Tucker falls and gets stabbed in the arm by his own key. This man cannot catch a break. Tucker and Joy race for the finish line while the Last Rex Standing (who broke another Rex's jaw and did a nice little roll-stand! we're proud of him!) chases them. Tucker takes the lead just barely and Joy's head explodes. Sorry, I guess that deserves more explanation: the contestants have been fitted with exploding neck-bands that kill them when they fail to cross the finish line, or find a safe zone, or refuse to obey the game.

The rogue journalist takes over the control room and orders that Tucker be taken out. Then she puts the Host in one of the player seats. The Rex eats the Host, who flips him off as he dies. Press F to pay respects, I guess. Journalist announces that there will be NO MORE JURASSIC GAMES, and I'm not really sure how killing the reality television host accomplishes that--we even know they use a different one each year, so it's not like there's no show without him!

Guards swarm in, killing everyone, and Tucker is shot in the process. But I guess he didn't keep anything important in that corner of his chest, because now he's at breakfast with his kids. The television teases the next season's Jurassic Games, which you'd think would be triggering for Tucker and his family to watch! We see that the next season has head-lasers for the raptors and a back gattling gun for the rex.

Kissmate, mournful: "They'd rather give them head-lasers than feathers." But he pronounces that was a fun movie. Much better than Velocipastor.


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