‘Everything can be improved with the addition of CGI dinosaurs’ is unfortunately not the title of this article. It is, however, a very true fact.
Choose a truly dismal aspect of your life; something completely miserable. In my case, it’s my own tedious morning commute to Glasgow. It isn’t a long journey however it is categorically unpleasant. That being said, add to this journey copious amounts of (somehow simultaneously) overpriced and poorly-funded CGI monsters roaming across the bleak landscape of my train window and I can guarantee that would improve my travel experience tenfold!
If you’re thinking that a film full of these creatures would be of any discernible quality then you are, much to my own disappointment, mistaken. Jurassic Games, released 2018, is quite frankly terrible. The writing is odd, the premise is unashamedly plagiarised and even the acting boils down to a series of confused looks and heavy sighs, almost as if someone behind the camera was simply holding up a diagram of the plot and recording the baffled reactions of the actors.
Yet in spite of this, Jurassic Games is one of my favourite films. I’m willing to concede that technically it is atrocious. It’s still single-handedly the most entertaining film I’ve seen in a long time.
Let me take you on a gentle, spoiler-free stroll through the plot. A group of prisoners on death row have elected to take part in the ‘Jurassic Games’, a reality TV show which puts inmates in a virtual-reality environment. They’re forced to fight their way through several challenges knowing if they die in the VR, they die in real life. If they survive long enough to be the last contestant standing, they can go free! We watch as the prisoners find their way through the physical trials while in the real-world protestors battle it out with the organisers of the games over the ethics of this sick event.
As ridiculous as it sounds on paper, this film is great for so many reasons. For starters, similar to The Room or Sharknado, it’s a relatively small production so doesn’t have to meet the same expectations as bigger-budget movies. It is free to explore daft ideas, to be creative and original.
I am aware that calling a movie which advertises itself as “The Hunger Games, if it had dinosaurs” original is probably dangerous for what little credibility I have as a critic, but bear with me. This film gets to steer away from commercial and industry pressure. Yes, the major themes are handled clumsily, but they also explore a pragmatic and comical view of the world, with characters’ behaviour portrayed as both ridiculously overzealous and comically abrupt. It forces us to remember that a man with incredible martial arts knowledge isn’t always a match for a pack of CGI raptors (yes, this is an actual scene. I cannot stress how good this film is!) Even well-written films can fail to capture the strange and frightening abruptness and messiness of everyday life in the way ‘Jurassic Games’ does.
Director and writer Ryan Bellgardt tells me that he thinks the key to the film’s greatness lies in the fact that it was a labour of love for everyone involved in making it. “We all believed in the movie from day one and hopefully that comes across on the screen.”
I think I agree. What makes Jurassic Games and films of its ilk so special is that to make them, serious effort was required. It’s easy to dismiss art of any kind as ‘not good’ if it doesn’t fit our usual standards but people poured their time and energy into this and even though it’s not technically brilliant, this film is set up to simply be entertaining. There’s no pressure when watching to think critically or challenge ourselves mentally; in an era where entertainment increasingly demands that you pay attention, understand sequels, prequels and spinoffs, it’s nice to remember that occasionally it’s okay to sit back, switch off, and watch people pit their wits against some badly animated, CGI dinosaurs.
By Callum Manning