Skip to main content


The Lost Wonderland

Rolling back extinction has its moments.

22 years ago, ‘Jurassic Park’ made landfall in Pakistan nearly a year after official release, back when multiplexes were a myth and 3D - a distant dream. Ground breaking tech, enlisted to salvage relics of the past was counted upon to cast a spell. A couple of decades later, the big screen extravaganza stopped by for an encore. The enchantment hadn’t worn off.

The arrival of ‘Jurassic World’, in not so glorious 3D, aims to reignite the passion, on the same day, and in superior cinemascope. It also ups the ante and the filmmakers slyly refer to the sky high expectations and shrinking attention spans as they, along with the corporate machine in charge of the imaginary realm fret about the complexities of cloning the shock & awe-factor.

This version comes with a brand new director at the helm and has been set in the same universe as the first installment. ‘Jurassic World’ has widened the playing field by developing the animal reserve and opening the grounds to visitors. The cast features Chris Pratt as the resident wildlife trainer with Bryce Dallas Howard as the stiff corporate exec / frosty aunt trying to juggle work, dinosaurs and her visiting nephews – all in one go. Irfan Khan is the man in charge who wants to up the stakes by cooking up more fearsome monsters in the lab to keep visitor interest from flagging. Chaos comes a calling when their short sighted approach misfires and the animals turn the tables on their creators as they are wont to do.

Wooing a pack of jaded audience members back to a prehistoric ecosystem can be tricky. Bigger, better, more bite is the revised motto leading to amped up mayhem and madness. The bold looking premise strives to keep its thriving amusement park relevant; the meta-commentary underscores the creative vision chosen to jumpstart the franchise.

The latest offering pays homage to the original and recycles the iconic score, John Hammond’s jeep and BD Wong as the mad scientist. Those who answer the summons for a chance to indulge in fossil sightings, stumble across charismatic leading men, and oodles of hubris strewn among the debris of gene splicing. It makes for a compelling arc and offers incentive to glide over memory lane for a panoramic view of Hammond’s failed enterprise. While the previous occupants of the ill-fated mission gave up the notion of taming nature – their modern day counterparts dusted off the beautiful illusion of control for a closer look. The CGI behemoth is expected to slake mankind’s insatiable thirst for spectacle. To that end, it unveils unholy alliances forged between man and beast, as a pair of uninteresting kids in peril vies for sympathy. It delivers on the action / adventure front, complete with the requisite carnage to bolster the cautionary tale aspect.

Unleashing centuries old primal instinct upon the world may be a trusty hook but it still needs to be wielded with caution. When Spielberg first opened the gateway of his one of a kind wildlife preserve, he dazzled his fictional team of expert witnesses and green viewers in one masterstroke and let them relish the wonders of the lost world before survival became the dominant theme. Both experienced the heady rush of excitement amid numbing waves of crippling fear and came away moved by the event. The element of surprise may be gone but the very idea of a fully functional park held great promise for moviegoers. Instead it was introduced through the eyes of a bored teen and consequently lost much of its impact.

Colin Trevorrow’s slick looking flight of fantasy grounds to a halt by failing to harvest the emotional core central to its success. That lack of investment robs the narrative of its soul. Also, the suspension of disbelief required is jaw-dropping. Ms. Howard’s unwieldy high heels are the foot-ware of choice in a park overrun by super-charged predators. Moody lab specimens are impervious to deadly firepower. And special effect wizardry takes precedence over character development. One stops to marvel at the NASA-esque mission control and then searches for the mislaid contingency plans to evacuate the hordes of tourists and save them from becoming appetizers should things go South. A few anxiety filled moments stand in for simmering tension and creeping dread. Tropes run amok. Damsels look distressed.

One is then tempted to write this off as an ungainly beast living off the glory of yesteryears. But some of the magic survived the journey. Raptors get a delightful makeover that allows them to scale the evolutionary ladder, adding to their mystique. Stocking the playground with fresh attractions that recast the pecking order never fails to amuse. And the idea of reality playing catch up with Sci-Fi adds a cozy new dimension to the experience.

Despite all its failings ‘Jurassic World’ is a box-office juggernaut and now reigns comfortably at the top as the 3rd highest grossing movie of all time. Nostalgia is its biggest ally; the monster themed catwalk remains its greatest asset. Now with a sequel in the works, it intends to extend its hold to 2018 and beyond.

Click for Image Link


Popular posts from this blog

FILM REVIEW: West Bank Story a live-action short film (2007)

Published in The POST May 17, 2007

Directed by:Ari Sandel
Written by: Kim Ray and Ari Sandel
Duration: 21 Minutes
(An official selection of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival)

The Middle East is better known for staging violent uprisings, certainly not for inspiring comedic masterpieces.

Since 1967, the West bank has spawned a surge in Arab hostility, frequent visits to the Middle East by Condoleezza Rice and lately, a small little inspirational musical comedy about competing falafel stands, directed, co-written and produced by Ari Sandel (part Israeli, part American Californian native). Since there is no easy way to represent both sides fairly, the very notion of West Bank Story is greeted with a justifiable mix of scepticism, wariness and resentment at first. No doubt, it is a precarious balancing act that mandates such a film to be witty without being offensive, show compassion without discrimination and entertain without losing substance. So does West Bank Story deliver?

West Bank Story

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

OP-ED: Stargazing at the Awards

Published in Daily Times / 11 Apr 2014

So which one of them is Pakistani?
Some of us were having a hard time putting a name to the music.
All of them,’ said the person sitting next to us, a little reproachfully.
The musical performances? oh that, none of them, he said cheerfully.
He did not seem shocked.

We had gathered that day to witness the 2nd Servis HUM Awards, celebrate the showbiz industry with its requisite fashion parades and indulge in some star gazing at the EXPO Centre, Karachi.

The show had been designed to honour the best of Pakistani music, fashion, film, and of course television. Guests glided across the hall in awe of the décor (flawless) and set pieces (stunning) while keeping an eagle eye on the red carpet for a Fawad Khan or Hamza Ali Abbasi sighting (rare).

Timely adverts running on OSN ensured that a regional audience awaited the telecast with bated breath along-side the rest of HUM fans. The ceremony was not LIVE but Twitter would be abuzz with activity e…

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Sunset — The Rise & Fall of the Lahore Durbar Author: Amarinder Singh

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times under the heading: Lahore Durbar in free fall

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

After the Mughals exited, but before the British arrived, the Lahore Durbar was presided over by Maharaja Ranjit Singh Bahadur, affectionately known as the ‘Lion of Lahore’, who makes a brief appearance in Amarinder Singh’s narrative, but leaves a lasting impression on his history.

Ranjit Singh, who has been described in the book as a great man and an outstanding military commander, was a mass of contradictions. For instance, he was against the death penalty but not averse to robbing widows, believed treaties were meant to be broken but treated the vanquished with kindness, and thought nothing of inviting guests only to divest them of their most prized possession — like the Kohinoor diamond. He may have spent the better part of the day leading military campaigns, yet he did not always harbour territorial designs and is said to have waged a war on hi…

BOOK REVIEW: How It Happened

Published in Daily Times / Sat 9 Feb 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Author: Shazaf Fatima Haider

Thanks to Liberty Books for the (temp) review copy

Gwendolen: I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . .”
The Importance of being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)

Characters chasing ‘happily ever after’s’ are often pulled aside by enterprising elders who try to flag all but the most traditional road to the altar. A fiendishly funny narrative pounces on the retreating figure of Cupid and explores his cultural relevance in the sport they call match-making.

The saga of the Bandian clan comes with a perpetually scandalized, formidable old lady fiercely protective…

STYLE: A ‘Haute’ Ticket Item

Published in Daily Times Pakistan (Entertainment Section) / 26 Oct 2013

Your talent will get you far, but your passion will get you further” – Tabassaum

Bath island - turns out, not really an island; it is a place where one can find, among other things Tabassum Mughal’s outlet and her shiny new salon. Her signature piece was featured in Bridal Couture 2013 (BCW) earlier this year. Her collection was later seen on London’s runway. And a bewitched crowd now circles her new line for Eid, drawn by a certainty that behind the closed doors lay the proverbial ‘one’.

They are not wrong. As she unveils a new vision of silk & satin to the world, there will be a constant embedded in that impeccable fashion statement. She has achieved a wonderful hybrid harvested from the rich heritage and decadent flavors that define our poorly misunderstood region.

The person in-charge of these creative coups can be seen flitting in and out of the situation room – otherwise known as the exhibit…

BOOK REVIEW: Escape from Oblivion / Author: Ikram Sehgal

Thanks to the lovely Nefer & Haya for the launch Invite

Published in Daily Times / Jul 21, 2012
Under the title: So You Think You Can Escape?
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

'In this game there are no second chances. You either win or you die.’

The man who penned these words 41 years ago was busy planning his escape from an Indian POW camp that was not really supposed to exist. Today, as a defence analyst who owns a successful business empire, he sits amiably on a stage flanked by officers from his old command, some well-known personalities from the media, and at least one fiery cricketer-turned-politician who aspires for the premiership. (See Pix Here)

The extraordinary tale of a Pakistani army captain adrift in enemy territory who went knocking at the US Consulate gate and the American Marine Sergeant on duty who saved the day (part of it anyway) appeared in print a few years ago. That, however, was not the end of the captain’s ordeal. What happened in the interval before Sgt Frank A…