Whenever a genre or trend becomes oversaturated, it becomes an irritating thorn in the side of the film industry. When Sharknado broke onto the scene in 2013, casual moviegoers took notice of a novel ‘new’ concept; The B movie. I’m being cheeky of course, but while film buffs have been enjoying B movies for decades, it’s now the teacher, the parents, or even the preacher who knows about self-aware B movies...
...As a cinephile, it’s hard not to be an elitist with this stuff. During that initial period of Sharknado fever, I would regularly cringe when I heard a coworker or relative say, “It’s so bad it’s funny!” as if they were catching on to something new and clever. All cynicism aside, the trend was here to stay, whether I or any other film buff liked it or not. This now fashionable, more streamlined version of B movies usually contain a few key elements, such as a prehistoric creature and/or sea monster, attractive women and bad special effects. Really, really bad special effects, and because the cheap B movie aspect is part of the intended charm, the low budget production value actually helps the overall effect. It may sound like I’m overly critical of these types of films and I very well might be, but I have seen a few entertaining flicks in the post Roger Corman genre. Jurassic Thunder, the new film from our friends over at High Octane Pictures, is certainly a part of the Sharknado monster variety. Directors Milko Davis and Thomas Martwick are at the helm of this film and try their luck with the modern B movie genre. I go into every film genuinely wanting to like it, but I’m not sure my good intentions are enough to overpower this mostly boring film.
Surprisingly, Jurassic Thunder has a plot that is pretty complex. That is hardly a praiseworthy statement, though. It might be complex, but that doesn’t mean it makes any kind of sense or that its story is told well. The first ten minutes actually had me perk up a bit, as I thought this might actually be a bit clever and funny. We meet two snotty, spoiled twenty-somethings who barge into a comic book store because they need to use the restroom. They’re the kind of people that actually do exist out there, so I did chuckle along as the employee explained to them that the restroom was for staff only. The two girls take turns insulting the poor boy and finally, they speak to the manager about their bladder plight. He casually says they can use the restroom, but first he quizzes them on the comic book he is reading, called Jurassic Thunder. The nerd shaming girls admit they don’t know what that is, so our man-child manager takes it upon himself to read the comic to the girls aloud. From here on out, we transition into green screen hell, as we’re introduced to our barrage of military characters.
Basically, there is a base in the desert housing a military operation, but remember, this isn’t a war drama. This is a film in the same vein as Sharknado. Naturally, this means that military base contains a Tyrannosaurus Rex with a machine gun attached to it. Not only that, but this T-Rex has remote laser accuracy, controlled by American military! Oh yeah, and let’s not forget to have a Donald Trump inspired character, because that alone is funny, right? All joking aside, I’m actually going with the movie at this point and am still holding onto that film critic good will, hoping the film doesn’t completely crumble. Unfortunately, what could have been a fun and simple premise, turns into an incoherent mess. From what I could gather, they have weaponized the T-Rex (hence the machine gun attached to him) and plan to use him to prevent a new World War. This sounds simple enough, but there are about five unnecessary plot threads surrounding this premise that are neither interesting nor coherently told. Everything is just monumentally inconsistent. The two girls in the comic book shop at the beginning don’t reprise their roles at the end of the film. Instead, there is a post credit scene that wraps up their story in a very unfunny way. I don’t know who thought viewers were going to stay for the end credits, in hopes of getting a stinger. This happened by accident in my case and it made me dislike the film even more, because it’s so obvious that scene should have been included at the end of the film as a bookend.
In addition to the overcomplicated plot, Jurassic Thunder has way too many characters. In a film of the ilk, having three characters maximum would be ideal, in my opinion. Adding any more poses the risk of making it difficult to keep up with. It may have helped if these characters were easily distinguishable, but here, they all kind of blur together. With a low brow humor approach, I would understand and even appreciate vastly different characters with offensive stereotypes. Usually, I would be critical of that, but it would have at least been consistent and attempting to be funny. In this film, their idea of humor is to have a Trump look alike, wearing bad makeup, barging around and getting angry. These scenes come across like a really bad episode of Saturday Night Live. I’m not going to talk about any of the actors, because I find it unfair to criticize them. There probably are talented, hungry actors in this film, but they have nothing to work with. There might have been something to speak on if any of these characters were fun, but they are so poorly written, that they don’t stand out from one another.
As I’ve always stated, I go into every film wanting to be its cheerleader, even if it has little to offer in the end. There are a few fun moments that are worth noting such as the spoof on the George Lucas created sound company, THX. Instead of the iconic crescendo hum of the logo intro, there is a building moan of a zombie as it reveals, ZHX, meaning, “Zombie Sound,” as it’s titled below the logo. It’s hardly the cleverest gag I’ve seen, but it made me giggle because I happened to be watching this with a Dolby Atmos equipped setup. This actually made me hopeful for the film. The only positive point that really sticks out is the overall design of the T-Rex. It’s what sold me on the movie in the first place. Sure, we’ve seen any number of crazy combinations from shark infused tornado’s to octopus megalodons but seeing a T-Rex wielding a machine gun is a fun concept.
I’ve always maintained a level of appreciation for High Octane Films. While I haven’t liked every film they’ve put out, I do think they are a fun company and am glad they are around. The Sharknado genre is dated now, and it was never something I really liked, but I am glad that they make goofy, low budget B movies because many of them are great fun. Jurassic Thunder, however, is a bad film, and not even the kind of bad film you can laugh at and have fun with. If you’ve never experienced the Sharknado films, I would recommend going straight to the source and skipping this unfunny mess of a film.
Jurassic Thunder is now on DVD/Digital from High Octane Pictures.
By Jeffrey W. Hollingsworth