If upon watching Hunger Games you thought that the only thing missing was dinosaurs, then Ryan Bellgardt’s THE JURASSIC GAMES is close - but not it. Some might think that suggests a bad review but hear me out - this was a frustratingly fun movie. THE JURASSIC GAMES has all the right components for a great B-rated sci-fi but falls short on fleshing them out creating more of a blueprint than a perfect final product. To be fair, that’s why it is a B-rated movie.
THE JURASSIC GAMES is do-or-die for ten death row inmates. In this dystopian future, death row convicts are forced to compete in a popular and barbarous game show for their last chance to live through a virtual simulation that pits them against dinosaurs and each other. Even though the dinosaurs are not real and the inmates are not really in an arena, anything that kills them in the simulation actually kills them in real life via a lethal injection. The last person standing receives freedom and a pardon of all their crimes.
We are given a typical trope of characters, some of which include: a heroic white guy (Anthony Tucker played by Adam Hampton) who was supposedly wrongly convicted; obtuse redneck brothers expected to create the most havoc; the token aggressive black guy; the weak and disposable old guy and an attempt at a dark and mysterious badass chick. Our host, played by Ryan Merriman, is just as animated and charismatic as the hosts are in Hunger Games and The Running Man but if anything conveys a less flashy and more eerie Purge sentiment.
What was so frustrating with this movie is the immense potential that fell to waste to one-note caricatures and plot. You could almost feel the hesitance to go more in depth with character development just to get to the point - dinosaurs and action! But what about those dinosaurs? Honestly, Bellgardt fell pretty short on delivering more suspenseful and fun dinosaur scenes. At the second stage of the game, the inmates come across a maze with unleashed velociraptors, but instead of creating a gripping pop-up and chase scene it just looked like them aimlessly running around while the raptors were distracted by a disappointingly cut short kung fu with chains show down. The CGI was subpar but it’s quality, regardless of the film’s budget, actually served a purpose: they are not supposed to be real dinosaurs, it is virtual reality after all.
To Bellgardt’s credit, he does try to create depth to some characters. During intermissions throughout the game, employees on the show pay a visit to our protagonist, Anthony Tucker’s, kids and interview them to pull on the audience’s heart strings while outlining his controversial story of being convicted for his wife’s murder. It all falls flat though and only serves to give Tucker his one note - innocence. During another interview, our antagonist, Joy (Katie Burgess), is painted as a blood thirsty psychotic killer but instead comes across as a pissed off teenager. What if instead of a movie this was a TV show? Maybe an Orange is the New Black recourse is just what this movie needs. Each episode can focus on an inmate and tell their entire back story thus allowing their characters to develop and provide more intrigue to their flighty and hallow relationships.
All that aside, THE JURASSIC GAMES is appealing for its shallow entertainment. You get everything from holographic maps, violence, saber tooth masks, dinosaurs, and did I mention kung fu with chains? Though predictable there are plenty of moments where the ending is up for contention, which if anything was the movie’s greatest strength. I think it’s safe to say that most people will know what they are getting themselves into and will enjoy themselves for what it’s worth.