Should I start by listing off a cavalcade of praise for Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park? Is it really necessary? It should suffice to say that it is one of the few films that genuinely earned the moniker of “iconic”, a 5-star storytelling effort, which mixed the best parts of a monster movie with fascinating characters and emotive script.
And the resulting franchise wasn’t too bad either. The Lost World took things in a dark direction but proved a satisfying sequel, and even the maligned Jurassic Park III, in my opinion, was a nice jaunt through the territory of modern day dinosaurs. But with that film the pre-historic animals went silent again, and have for 14 years, while a fourth instalment struggled through development and pre-production hell, undergoing a large amount of re-tooling (I believe the original idea was for an adult Lex from Jurassic Park to face an breakout of dinosaurs on mainland America).
The end result is this, with Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow at the helm, with the writing team behind the recent Planet of the Apes reboot/prequel series. Trailers were easy targets for mockery and generated a sense of dread in me, but could Jurassic World prove itself a worthy addition to a franchise that, like the dinosaurs it contains, should perhaps have been left alone?
Decades after the disastrous end of John Hammond’s vision, “Jurassic World” is a functional theme park experience, giving thousands of people daily a look at genetically engineered dinosaurs, run by icy career women Claire (Dallas Bryce-Howard), who views the arrival of her nephews (Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson) as a distraction from pitching to investors about the park’s latest “asset”. After “Indominus Rex”, a gene-spliced creature with abnormal intelligence and abilities, gets loose and starts wrecking havoc, Claire turns to Owen (Chris Pratt), an animal handler working with the island’s velociraptor population, to get a handle on the situation, while militant Ingen rep Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) plots a more extreme solution.
I think I have stated before, in the case of reboots/sequels/remakes etc, that it is important not to go too overboard in comparing the newer film with its predecessor, since this often results in skewed perspectives and stacked decks. But, it is also fair to do some amount of comparing and contrasting, because that is the nature of franchises, where later films attempt to build on what came before.
There is a scene in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, where the Alan Grant and Ellie Satler characters first see the dinosaurs that John Hammond has created. It’s a powerful moment, where the CGI gets shown off for the first time, and John Williams’ majestic score adds something remarkably important. But, more than that, the scene resonates strongly for other, simpler reasons. Sam Neill’s Dr Grant is almost moved to tears by the sight of some herbivore behemoths, and how their unlikely existence allows him to answer questions that have focused the entirety of his academic life, summed up in those two beautifully delivered lines: “They’re moving in herds. They do move in herds.” The scene then works on a spectacle level, with the introduction of the dinosaurs, and on a very human, character-driven level: we see how much this means to someone like Grant, and so the existence of the dinosaurs has a much bigger impact on the audience than “Oh, cool!” Throw in the score, and you have something truly iconic. It is one of those few scenes that might actually be perfect.
Jurassic World, in its entire 130 minute running time, cannot even entertain the slightest possibility of creating a similar moment. And when it comes to comparisons, I suppose there is no greater blow I can deal to the film. We are looking at an addition to a franchise that is so empty, so hollow, when it comes to crafting such majestical moments of visual story-telling, that even I, loath to fall into such sentiments, could only feel briefly annoyed that Jurassic World was even made in the first place.
I mean, this is a film that, right from the off, is overly concerned with both satirising itself and in mocking the very audience who have given it such a gigantic box office opening. Early on, Bryce Dallas Howard’s character expands on the philosophy of both the titular park and the film itself, actually looking right into the camera at one point, as she talks about the necessity for bigger, scarier dinosaurs, more teeth, more claws, more “Wow factor” because people just aren’t interested in humdrum normal prehistoric beasts anymore, they want spectacle, they want explosions and CGI armies and women in their underwear and camera panning around characters and…
Whoops, went off track there. But that’s the impression Jurassic World gives, of both satirising and excusing itself, by throwing the blame for what is to follow back at the audience who is paying for the privilege of watching it. If only the visitors to Jurassic World would be happy with normal dinosaurs. If only the people in the theatre would be happy with normal dinosaurs. Those stupid tourists. Those stupid film watchers. This is the second film recently, after Brad Bird’s similarly distasteful audience haranguing in Tomorrowland, to take a few shots at the punters, and it’s as insulting this time around as it was then.
With its philosophy and opinion of the audience laid bare, Jurassic World proceeds, lifting elements from Jurassic Park at every turn and acting as if they are different. The park is back, and no one is being careful enough. Disaster occurs. Dinosaurs run amok. Two adorable siblings are caught up in the middle of it. Drama in the “control room”. The T-Rex stand-in doing T-Rex things. People get chomped on. The velociraptors are smart. An Ingen employee sabotages things. The old park and its logos, jeeps and banners is stumbled upon, for added nostalgia goodness. Jurassic World gives things a fresh coat of paint and alters elements here and there, especially in its last act, but never gets away from the plain reality: it is less a sequel than a soft reboot, appropriating whatever it can from the Spielberg masterpiece and passing it off, unsuccessfully, as its own, be they plot points, characters or visual shots. It’s clear that Trevorrow loves Jurassic Park. The problem is that he loves it too much, and just wants to recreate it, and so the chance for a more worthy production, one that takes the franchise to new places, is lost. At least The Lost World and Jurassic Park III played around with different premises.
There are a lot of problems to Jurassic World beyond that though. A key one, something whose importance I have only recently come to understand, is that it lacks a clear main character (What shall we call this, “The Phantom Menace Problem”?). Owen, Claire and the kids all stake a claim to the top spot, but notwithstanding the promotional material that gave Chris Pratt most of the focus, the actual film can’t decide who its main character actually is, screen time and presence split between them all nearly evenly. That’s OK for a TV show, but not for a film, where narrative strength and audience engagement suffers greatly when you try and make sure everyone gets equal time, especially in an action adventure. The end result is that everyone just seems emptier. Pick one: the boss, the animal handler or the kids. Alan Grant was the main character of Jurassic Park, with everyone else and the plot revolving around him. Sure, Spielberg cut away at times to Hammond or Muldoon, but it always came back to “Grant encountering the dinosaurs”, “Grant saving the kids”, “Grant getting back to the visitor centre” Grant escaping the velociraptors”. Then Jeff Goldblum took up the mantle for The Lost World, and Grant returned for III. It can be done, and Trevorrow didn’t do it, and part of me must wonder whether this basic failure of story-telling might have a bit to do with his very short CV.
Let’s have a look at the character journeys as they exist, starting with the top billing. Chris Pratt’s Owen is a rather lifeless action hero, rugged looking and only occasionally charming, his personality failing to mesh at all with the Claire character, even as they bait each other over an aborted romantic entanglement sometime earlier in their lives. There was nothing about Owen that made him all that noteworthy: his back-story is drip fed to the audience and altogether basic, and he is defined almost entirely by his relationship with the velociraptor pack, who bizarrely become more interesting characters than him. His training moments with those animals were the only times I was interested in Owen, but it didn’t amount to that much in the end. Owen is in the film to occasionally look cool, pull off an action stunt and be the voice of reason when things get more militant, but there was nothing he did in plot terms that made him extraordinarily vital.
As a comparison, think of the introductions of Owen and Alan Grant. Owen barely stares down some velociraptors when they nearly kill a park employee, and that was fine. But Grant? He gets a moment where his authority as a subject on dinosaurs is made absolute, his presence over others, in that case an obnoxious kid, is made crystal clear and where he can outline why velociraptors are terrifying without them even being onscreen. Further, we learn that Grant dislikes children and technology, and it all happens naturally. In Jurassic World, Owen has to have an exposition filled conversations with the Hoskins character to make similar points.
I’ll limit the comparisons from now on. But you start to get the message.
The Claire character is a bit more interesting, but had the potential to be more. OK, she’s a bit of a stereotype, this career woman with the icy demeanour who has no time for family when there is business to be done, etc. But Jurassic World at least propelled her on a character arc where she changed, unlike Owen. Now, the change was largely hackneyed or convenient, but at least it occurred. On the face of it, Claire is a strong female character, a competent executive and later a capable woman who aids in the fight back against the rampaging dinosaurs, albeit without the same level of pro-active participation as Owen.
But man, there is something deeply unsettling about other elements of the Claire character and her arc. Trevorrow and his film are at pains to present Claire in a negative light when it comes to her prioritising her career. She ignores her nephews and her sister, and later, shock horror, expresses resistance to the idea of having children herself. Later, ignoring the actual people dying, her maternal instinct seems to be jolted by the sight of dead diplodocuses, and the fact that her nephews are in peril. That, and disaster-fuelled romance with Owen helps this whole thing along.
I don’t think you have to be a rabid feminist to roll your eyes at this kind of thing, it’s far too simple and basic. But the subtext is actually worse than that. Not counting the dinosaurs themselves, Jurassic World has two other additional female characters. Claire’s sister is another business woman, late for meetings and stressing out, while prepping for an imminent divorce. Uh huh. And there is another, an employee of Claire’s, another woman with a job who seems disdainful of children (and who bitches on the phone about her fiancée). Sorry to spoil, but she meets a rather terrible fate.
Colin Trevorrow, what the hell? Of all the sexist messages to imbed in the narrative, “Woman shouldn’t have careers” is the one that sticks, repeated three times over, too many times for it to just be coincidence. Seriously, what the hell? How was that allowed to happen? The warped gender politics on display here, where women having careers and not being capable of “having it all” is portrayed unquestionably as a negative, and that gets punished, dominates the Claire arc and the larger film, and its abhorrent.
Owen and Claire share a very worthless romance plot, which seems to exist, in the finest Hollywood tradition, because it just sort of has to. Only, you know, it doesn’t. Jurassic Park didn’t have a love plot, it had Ian Malcom flirting openly with Ellie Satler and her playing along without anything developing, you know, like believable characters. The Lost World had a more overt one, but it didn’t dominate proceedings in any way. III ditched it. And guess what? None of those three films desperately required a love plot. But Trevorrow and his scriptwriters tossed one in, and it’s so formulaic, from the catty bitchiness and recalled meet cute, to the ending you can all already envision in your minds, that it’s very existence drags Jurassic World down yet another notch.
So, Jurassic World won’t be winning any awards for its female characters, and that goes double for Claire. Much has been said, usually mockingly, of the way she goes through the entire film, jungle and all, in high heels, which is stupid enough. But I’m surprised people have been willing to ignore the moment when, as Owen questions her attire for a trek through said jungle, she proceeds to take off her nice jacket and wrap it around he waist. The decision changes nothing really, save that it, and the camera position at that moment, make Bryce Dallas Howard’s breasts more prominent, causing me to scoff so loudly in the theatre I’m surprised no one shushed me. It’s not Star Trek Into Darkness bad, but it is in the same area.
But it is genuinely not all bad, with the third major thread, that of the two kids, being a bit more enjoyable, even if it is largely a rip-off of Jurassic Park. Gray and Zach have a nice changing dynamic as the film progresses, Zach being the distracted teen more concerned with chatting up girls and Gray being the precocious, awkward kid, who is perhaps the only character genuinely wowed by the dinosaurs.
That’s all boilerplate, but the good thing is how things change. Zach becomes enraptured by the dinosaurs too. Gray expresses fear over his parents divorce, in what might have been the film’s best character driven scene. Zach changes his attitude and tries to cheer his brother up (you know, like a three dimensional character would). They become closer through the resulting crisis. There isn’t anything revolutionary in any of this, but it’s in comparison o the other characters of Jurassic World and their lackadaisical journeys that it actually happens to shine. Weirdly, unexpectedly, I feel like Jurassic World would have been a much better film if the two kids had been made the main characters, lost in the park gone awry, and trying to survive until rescued. They were the characters who I actually became engaged with, and the two actors helped immensely, having a much better fraternal chemistry than Pratt and Howard had romantic.
But once you get beyond these three central arcs, it’s back to the stupidity. Jurassic World, in its second half especially, pivots around Hoskins and his rather mental series of decisions and mistakes. Trying to wrap my head around his plans and expectations didn’t just suck me out of the film, it landed me in the car park outside the cinema. Hoskins dream is to replace US military drones with velociraptors, which are clearly superior. Why? Well, they can’t get hacked, and are scary looking. Unfortunately, no one points out that raptors also need to be fed, can’t fly, and can’t fire missiles. Oh, and that Hoskins, from the moment he opens his mouth, is a clownish moron, with no genuine sense of menace or peril created.
His antagonist role and the stupidity surrounding it – “Weapons! Progress! I set my pet wolf on my bitch of a wife once! Bibble!” – is only the most obvious problem with the minor characters and supporting cast, who pop up as required and disappear just as quickly. The park is owned by a billionaire made to be described as “eccentric” because he flies a helicopter and thinks normal dinosaurs are cool. Henry Wu, the only returning character from Jurassic Park, is transformed into a shadowy antagonist, and the two share some bizarre dialogue at the mid-point. The control room is staffed by guy and girl geeks that you’d expect. Owen has a black sidekick. And on and on we go. None of them add much, unless it’s to confuse the audience more (namely, when Wu tells the CEO of the company that elements of his dinosaur creations are “classified”).
I suppose it is the dinosaur characters that somewhat save things. The raptors are interesting enough, though the characterisation for them reaches absurd proportions by the time the credits roll. But the main attraction is surely Indominus Rex, this T-Rex/Frog/Cuttlefish/??? hybrid, that forms the main crux of the entire plot. In the end, the Indominus isn’t actually all that impressive, it’s just a slightly bigger T-Rex that shows off some snazzy abilities whenever they are called for, and only once for each one. It does all the T-Rex things, and Owen’s lame attempts to gift it some personality though a diatribe on animal isolation falls well short of what is required, more a message to real-life zoos in the air of Blackfish than a well executed effort at gifting the Indominus some life.
Jurassic World proceeds much as Jurassic Park did, with a cascade of disasters bringing more and more problems, the human characters trying to keep up with the dinosaur ones. Amid the violence, there are occasionally diatribes on the nature of control and respect for nature, with career woman Claire admonished for considering the animals “assets” first and living creatures second, and any attempt to get a handle on the situation and reassert control ending in disaster, like Jurassic Park on steroids. As an action film, the tempo is good enough, the film being patient in its beginning and then escalating things gradually, all the way to an extremely over-the-top finale. But its everything surrounding that which is the problem.
Because the stupid just builds up and up and up. I can’t go into it too much without spoiling the entire movie, which even for a film I disliked I am loath to do. But I want to be clear: the crazy dialogue, gaping plot holes and ridiculous elements that infest Jurassic World, especially in its last hour, are so numerous and distracting that the film actually manages to pierce the threshold of “good bad”: becoming enjoyable insofar that it is unintentionally comedic. Claire talks about creating spectacle in the opening scenes, and that’s what Jurassic World is: a ridiculous, loud, occasionally oblivious spectacle.
Jurassic World reaches its finale at breakneck pace, and it is only here that I could say that I was in any way “wowed”, and only briefly, as Trevorrow sets up a titanic clash to go out on. But even that is full of problems, and the finale is only satisfying insofar as it makes you laugh, witnessing such a potent franchise desecration, one so obvious at times it seems like it is the director’s intention.
Chris Pratt is strangely underwhelming in this, though I am confident enough that it is largely due to issues beyond his control. Owen’s words are dreadful on plenty of occasions, and the same man who charmed audiences in Guardians Of The Galaxy and probably will again just doesn’t have the right material to work with here, with precious little verve or humour to be found in his portions of the script. So Pratt is left to look cool and action-hero-ish, to bounce off Dallas Howard like a Muppet, and do basically nothing else.
Dallas Howard isn’t much better. Her character in the first half seems so put upon that it’s distracting, and she fails to sell the transformation into a more emotive person later. Her chemistry with Pratt is DOA, and at no point would I see that she imbues Claire with the sort of compelling emotional power to make the audience really engage with her.
Nick Robinson, so like James Franco I had to look up whether they were related, and Ty Simpkins are the stand-outs in the cast, brining a warmth and a believability to the brotherly relationship between Zach and Gray. Simpkins is probably the more notable, managing to avoid the very real possibility of being an annoying dinosaur expert kid, and you can actually feel his inner terror as he starts blubbering about his parents divorce, contrasted nicely with the immediate deflection and detachment of the teenaged Zach. But the two change, and exhibit a great sibling relationship as the film progresses. While they might be playing the same roles that Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello, they at least make them their own. And I have a feeling that Simpkins, who was also decent in Iron Man 3, could be huge if his career is managed right.
Oof, but the rest. Vincent D’Onofrio, fresh off his much more intimidating and interesting role as the Kingpin on Netflix’s Daredevil, just hams it up as Hoskins here. It’s a terrible character, but D’Onofrio deserves some credit for not even trying to play it straight, diving into the cartoonish villainy so that Hoskins is at least memorable in some fashion. Irrfan Khan pops up as the park’s new owner, little more than a younger John Hammond. Omar Sy, B.D Wong, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkis round out the supporting cast, with none of them really given the time or the quality of material to imbue their characters with anything special.
OK, so how about them visuals? Jurassic Park is often lauded as a film whose effects “hold up”, as well as being simply spectacular for the time it was made, and that’s all true (to an extent. I saw Jurassic Park in a theatre a couple of years ago, and its important to note that flaws are evident). How does Jurassic World compare?
Just fine really. There is the expected over-emphasis on CGI, especially for up-close shots, that Spielberg made sure to shoot with physical models whenever possible. 20+ years later, such restraint has vanished in the tide of advancing technology, and the end result is hit and miss. Sure, the dinosaurs all look good, from the big Indominus, to the pterodactyls, to the raptors to the Mosasaurus in the lake.
But that difficult quality to capture – that some describe as “feeling real” – is not accomplished. In Jurassic Park, thanks largely to the use of physical models and puppetry, the dinosaurs felt real. You thought you could reach out and touch those leathery monsters. They moved right, they fit the image in your brain. Lacking the same ratio of physical to computer generated, content to focus on entirely CGI based monster making for large sequences, Trevorrow’s offerings don’t feel real. They look good, but they don’t have that same effect. Competent CGI work is to be noted, but in an era when every other blockbuster features component CGI, Jurassic World isn’t creating any “Wow factor” to the required degree. The Indominus goes invisible, the raptors streak by the bike (not as bad in context as it was in the actual film), the lake monster eats the Great White (I see what you did there Trevorrow) and only on a handful of occasions will the viewer feel like any of that really matters.
From a shooting stand-point, Jurassic World and its cinematographer John Scwartzman aren’t up to all that much. Sequences and shots are recycled from Jurassic Park frequently, not least the T-Rex attack on the jeeps for a moment with the Indominus finds the two brothers in a hamster ball (yeah…). Other films get the same treatment, with a hunting parties attempt to bring down the Indominus taken straight from Aliens, and much of the action direction having a certain Michael Bay-feel to it – perhaps not surprising, given Scwartzman’s work as the right hand of “Bayhem” on films like The Rock, Armageddon and Pearl Harbour. Swooping pans and dramatic “Get the leads in the centre of the frame looking seriously at something off camera” shots are the order of the day.
The action is at least entertaining, even as it goes increasingly over the top. There is more overt violence in Jurassic World than in previous additions to the franchise, more blood-letting and open sights of people getting devoured, which I will admit rankles just a little, as a case when “less is more” should have been followed. Remember Nedry’s fate in Jurassic Park, or Muldoon’s final moments? Remember how the camera cut away, leaving it to the imagination? That’s classic Spielberg, and if Trevorrow was so intent on lifting whatever he could from the master, why couldn’t he have lifted that? Jurassic Park worked really well on a horror level, but Jurassic World doesn’t even try to be so subtle.
Product placement abounds, to an extent that gets truly garish. It starts off as almost an in-joke, with Claire talking about how the “assets” need corporate sponsorship to be created, as tourists mill around the Samsung visitor centre. But then it just keeps coming and coming, from the drinks, to the cars, to the electronics, logos front and centre. I’ll reiterate my opinion that product placement is a necessary evil, but when it goes overboard it’s a terrible detriment to a film.
But man, that script. I’m given to understand there is some sort of dispute over who exactly wrote this film, and I’m surprised that the dispute isn’t about people disassociating themselves from it. This is the team that brought a great deal of life and verve to the soft reboot of Planet Of The Apes, so on paper they were the perfect pair to bring it to Jurassic World too. So what happened? With the exception of the siblings, everyone in Jurassic World speaks like a caricature of the character they are playing. Claire’s speech to potential investors about bigger badder dinosaurs reads like it was written by a first year college liberal. Diatribes on control come out as the most pretentious bleeding heart nonsense possible.
Claire and Owen go from sharing cringey romantic dialogue (“Who brings an itinerary on a date!” complains Owen) to sharing dull clichés (“We’re talking about an animal here!” says Claire in a monotone without genuine worry or resolve). Characters repeat things constantly, perhaps extending that disdain for the audience to expectation of their attention levels. “You created a monster!” was a line so inevitable, my girlfriend whispered it to me a half hour before it happened. Hoskins won’t shut up about raptors as weapons, pondering “Imagine if we had some of these at Tora Bora!”, like a character from one of Michael Crichton’s worse novels, as opposed to his masterpiece.
No “They’re moving in herds” or “Spared no expense” simplicity here, no iconic sound bytes like “Life finds a way” or “Clever girl…”. Just noise. With the exception of the brothers, aimless, dull noise. This script is actually amateurish, “good bad” in the truest sense of the term, as if the people writing it took leave of their senses for large sections.
Michael Giacchino’s musical score is fine. He is, by and large, just taking John Williams’ previously impeccable work and adding a few flourishes here and there, a simple piano rendition of the main theme being probably the best twist on the original formula. But it’s still just the same music, the main difference being in the way that it is frequently misused in this instance (see below).
Some brief spoiler talk follows.
-The “bigger dinosaurs” angle, Wu’s explanation for why the dinosaurs don’t have feathers, the nerd guys “Jurassic Park” shirt: it felt like Jurassic World spent too much time trying to be cute about its flaws and explaining away minor holes than it really needed to. It had much bigger holes it should have been focusing on.
-And with the Jake Johnson character, a slob nerd in Jurassic Park t-shirt, playing with dinosaur toys, and complaining about product placement and genetically altered dinosaurs, we had the film’s “satire” of some of the people that its creators knew would criticise it. And look, he gets turned down by a girl at the end. Subtle stuff Trevorrow. It’s a shame you aren’t as good at making movies as you are at mocking your audience.
-I think they were going for some kind of Han/Leia thing with Owen and Claire, but it just doesn’t come off, in that first scene anyway, as uncomfortable and inappropriate.
-Holy God, what was with that security guard at the Indominus pen? He was a plot beat away from slipping on the jam from his burst doughnut. “Aw jeez…”
-Who names a dinosaur “Untameable King”? That’s just asking for trouble in my opinion.
-Simpkins’ breakdown as he starts talking about his parents’ divorce really was the best character scene, because it felt really real, just how a kid that young and isolated would react to such a scenario. He isn’t just sad about it, he’s terrified.
-It really is amazing how Claire can act so cold and emotionless as the park staff and visitors are chomped on, but a dying diplodocus can make her feel all maternal. Obviously they were trying to lift that brilliant triceratops scene from Jurassic Park. It didn’t work.
-Claire’s PA, Zara, the film’s third career woman, has to suffer through the most awful death scene, tortured by pterodactyls for a while before being devoured whole by the mosasaurus. Yikes. Guess she should have been nicer to the kids, eh Colin? It’s a very weird scene, maybe because Trevorrow actually follows her, away from the central action, to watch her get killed, which is odd for this franchise. This article does a good job at picking apart the flaws of that whole sequence. Long story short: the scene itself is way too much, and doesn’t fit into the rest of the film well.
-Hoskins death at the hands of a raptor was an inevitable as the tides, from the moment he opened his mouth about them in his first scene. I did find it very odd that Owen makes no attempt to try and save him though.
-To my genuine surprise, Omar Sy’s black sidekick survives the film. So I guess I can’t accuse Jurassic World of racism at the very least.
– Didn’t take a genius to figure out that Indominus was part raptor, the trailers all but said it was a T-Rex with the brain of a raptor in it. But the scene where Indominus “turns” Owen’s raptor pack was hilarious, because the cut aways between the Indominus and raptors made it look like they were having an actual conversation in a different language, and the subtitles had just been left out. That effect, comical to the extreme, occurred several times over in the finale.
-Part of the tension in Jurassic Park was how undefended the people actually were, only one character had an actual gun and he got outsmarted by the raptors before firing a shot. Big contrast then with Jurassic World, where machine guns, miniguns, pistols, RPG’s and all manner of explosives get brought out, for some all-out dinosaur warfare. That’s not a bad thing – it was different at least – but rapidly reached a point where it became cringe-worthy and ridiculous, with dinosaurs blowing up left and right.
-Howe can anyone not laugh when they see Owen try and turn the raptors back to his side and succeeding? “Come on Blue, I know you’re still in there!” Definitely needed subtitles for the following. Indominus: “Fool! How dare you disobey me!”
-When that hologram of the diliophasaurus shows up, I wanted to throw something at the screen. Enough Trevorrow.
-The only genuine “Wow” moment for me was the unveiling of the T-Rex, which comes marching out of its dark pen, eyes almost glowing, with an anticipatory slowness. That was a decent tribute/call back to nostalgia. But even that is quickly soured, as high heeled Claire is able to outrun the beast.
-The finale then is this weird combat, almost like a WWE PPV with dinosaurs, as the T-Rex and Blue tag team the Indominus, showing a level of cooperation and understanding that simply up’d the ridicule, as Jurassic World crossed into the realm of cartoon. Obviously Trevorrow loved the finale of Jurassic Park, and wondered “Man, what if, instead of fighting, the raptors and the T-Rex joined forces!?” Because that is something apex predators do.
-Note that this franchise already did the “Massive carnivores fighting each other” thing in III, with the T-Rex and Spinosaurus. That film erred with it being so sudden and quickly finished, but it’s nothing new.
-The T-Rex and Blue actually nod at each other after Indominus is taken care of, before going their separate ways. What nonsense is this?
-The love plot of Jurassic World had me thinking of an exchange in Speed, a far superior action film. At least there, the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock characters had the grace to openly acknowledge their attraction was based solely on living through a traumatic incident together, so they should probably base it on sex. Jurassic World plays it far more straight, and it’s just hapless by its conclusion. Claire didn’t even like him!
-Not the first film to do it, even in this blockbuster season, but Jurassic World also slams down hard on the “Divorce halted by traumatic incident” trope at its conclusion, something that is as played out as it is emotionally manipulative.
-The T-Rex roars over Isla Nublar as the film comes to a close, another lift from Jurassic Park. I couldn’t get into it though, too busy thinking that she’d probably die from the wounds sustained fighting the Indominus soon.
-Let me put on my Red Letter Media “Black Goo” hat for a sec. Khan’s character is fulfilling John Hammond’s “dying wish” to look after his park, even though Hammond didn’t even endorse his own park by the end of Jurassic Park? How is InGen still functioning after the events of the first two films? People in the hamster balls can just ride anywhere they want? Couldn’t they cause a stampede or something? There’s no override? How does covering yourself in motor oil hide you from the thermal sensing Indominus? How does no one involved in its creation know the abilities of the Indominus? Haven’t they been studying it since birth? How do the old Jurassic Park jeeps still function? The fuel didn’t degrade? Why is Dr Wu now basically evil? How can he justify having “classified” secrets being kept from his actual boss? How does said boss not have a handle on this seemingly gigantic military division of his company? Could no one else have flown that helicopter? How come no one sends for help from the mainland, they have phones this time? How come no one questions the basic flaws of “weaponising” velociraptors, instead focusing purely on the moral dimension? Why did Owen suddenly agree to let the raptors hunt the Indominus? How does the isolated Indominus know how to communicate with the raptors it has never seen before? How did Owen not get affected at all by that raptor being blown up right next to him? Why is the T-Rex paddock a short jog from the main thoroughfare of the park? Why would the T-Rex even fight the Indominus? Because it was just there? How the hell do the T-Rex and the raptor coordinate a battle plan so effectively?
-The point of all that being, well, my “Inception Test”: a film can survive confusing elements and plot holes if it’s other elements, like acting, direction and script, are good enough. Jurassic World fails spectacularly.
-What’s next for this franchise then? I mean, Jurassic World made enough money to have an impact on the global economy, so there will inevitably be a fifth film, but where do they go? Not back to another island presumably. I would imagine we’ll be looking at a “Dinosaurs on the mainland” thing, like the end of The Lost World with a Planet Of The Apes feel. That, or human/dinosaur hybrids, because of course they’re going to end up doing that. I’m not sure I’ll be in line though.
And so, to conclusions. At the top I talked about a scene in Jurassic Park where the music adds something very important, Williams’’ score soaring high to add the right type of emotion. It’s used during our first glimpse of these great and terrible creatures, and the effect is pronounced.
In Jurassic World, the same musical moment is used early, in our first glimpse of the park itself, its buildings, its corporate sponsorship, its thoroughfare. And it’s a very nice looking park, but it’s not a dinosaur. It didn’t deserve that fanfare.
In many ways, the flaws of Jurassic World can be summed up by that moment, because much of the film feels like it is child dressing up in its grandfather’s stylish jacket. OK, the child can put its arms in the jacket and give a semblance of wearing it around, but it still fits horribly and the whole thing looks sort of stupid.
And that’s Jurassic World. It’s addicted to nostalgia so much that it isn’t its own thing, Trevorrow completely unwilling it seems to craft his own vision and make something unique. And with all of that lifting, with all of the poorly developed characters, the terrible script and recycled musical notes, the final product that comes out at the end of the conveyer belt is just soulless. That word is over-used in film criticism I think, especially when it comes to blockbuster sequels and reboots. But it really does fit here. Beyond its blatant sexism, beyond its crazy elements, beyond its numerous and unavoidable plot holes, Jurassic World is just empty. 22 years on, we’re still talking about Jurassic Park, and we’re still going to be talking about it 50 years from now. Jurassic World will struggle to make even a small fraction of the same impact on the popular consciousness.
I know what’s going on here. The timing is apt for a soft reboot, with the people who were so entranced by Jurassic Park having reached that age where they have their own kids, who they want to have a similar experience. Call it “The Transformers Equation”. Its nostalgia repackaged for profit, and sometimes that does work. How can you not go and see Jurassic World?
Well, I went to see it, and while the film was so braindead that it actually got enjoyable at moments – “good bad” can save the day occasionally – a large part of me still regretted seeing it. If you want your kids to have that experience, show then Jurassic Park. Don’t show them this. Don’t reward the mediocrity, anymore than it already has been rewarded. Not recommended.
(All images are copyright of Universal Pictures).