Movie Review: JURASSIC WORLD
Without giving too much away …
Was it perfect ? No. Was it imperfect ? No.
Jurassic World is about as good a movie, as a movie designed to do what this one is designed to do, can get. Not much more can be done with something like this to add depth, in any area. Be it story, character, or deeper meaning. And you don’t really fully realize that, until the very moment the dinosaur shenanigans kick off. That’s when you know what you really wanted all along. And that is what settles the movie cozily between perfect and imperfect. The filmmakers didn’t shoot low. But they didn’t shoot as high as they could have either. They merely aimed at the meat and potatoes. And they hit what they aimed at, with the precision of an expert marksman. But they never even aimed at the broccoli. And come to think of it, Spielberg himself hasn’t aimed at the broccoli since he made Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Consider: a billion dollar corporation (much like the corporation that actually owns and operates the Park featured in this film,) has assigned ‘you’ the job of driving profits through the roof via the engineering of bigger and greater thrills. Greedy corporate types who just keep snapping their fingers and saying, we gotta keep up with the demand. We need more innovation. We just want ‘you’ to deliver the goods, they say. Just give people their cheap popcorn thrills, they say. No depth. No meaning. No underlying message. Just shut up and show us people getting assaulted, impaled, filleted, masticated, and murdered by extinct animals, genetically engineered to better resemble what the mainstream public have accepted as the generic look of dinosaurs. Don’t get showy and pretentious. Don’t have the ambition to illustrate for the public what dinosaurs ‘actually’ looked like. Don’t get philosophical. No, instead, tamper with the very DNA of the substance — just enough that the public recognize what they know to be an extinct animal. Ya know, give them the fantasy they want. But keep it real. We need profits. Build us a better monster to thrill the kiddies.
In fact, between the plot of the movie and the movie as a product, I can’t decide where the line is.
In part a remake, Jurassic World begins with two kids being sent to the park off the coast of Central America, for Christmas break. Their parents are getting a divorce. Shades of Jurassic Park. For the first 40 minutes, the park is established. It’s perimeter, it’s internal day-to-day routines, it’s principal characters, some other boring business … and then a new attraction the public haven’t seen yet. An intelligent monstrosity that soon gets loose.
What works in the movie, would be essentially predictable — if the filmmakers hadn’t been so clever at hiding it all, and doling it out in intervals of every four minutes, or so. There’s, of course, the aforementioned new attraction, ‘Indominous Rex.’ NOTE: Rumors go back, to around 2006, I believe — and all over the internet — that the fourth Jurassic film would feature dinos wielding assault rifles and being trained for combat. Well, luckily, that idea (reportedly featured in a John Sayles script) was scaled way, way down to the idea of training velociraptors to follow commands. Much like a lion tamer would command the big kitties.
However, turning raptors into a military weapon is precisely what Vincent D’Onofrio’s character wants. His character, is an all too realistic portrayal, of that simply annoying ambitious con-man that always shows up in your office, at some point, and rests a hand on your shoulder, as if he’s already your friend. You know the guy I mean. The guy who pushes his way into people’s lives. The guy who’s decided, on his own accord, that he’s an ‘Alpha.’ The guy you’ve always wanted to turn around and deck. Just lay his ass out flat, man. I – could – not – wait for him to die. Every word that comes out of his mouth was painful to my ears. At one point Chris Pratt’s character just looks at him and says, ‘Do you ever listen to yourself ?’
And while there is the constant presence of dinosaurs, here (Something which was sadly missing from Steven Spielberg’s sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park,) the movie nonetheless takes pleasure in pointing out that a teenager would rather talk on his cell phone or check his Facebook page, than see a dinosaur. An obvious angle on the material, I guess the filmmakers couldn’t resist. Because after all, by now dinosaurs are common place in this Jurassic universe. And probably on live camera feeds on the internet, as well. Thus, they’re all over the place in this movie. That’s the mentality working here. And it often works against the movie. Adding insult to injury, the dinos look the same as they have in every other movie. Not just the Jurassic films, but they greatly resemble any dinosaur in any recent movie. Nothing spectacular or new here. No chances taken; no ‘wow’ moments. Nothing jaw dropping. But you also get the impression very fast that that’s the idea. This is a serial. Nothing more. Their goal is deliver the goods and get out while they can, without overstaying their welcome. It’s like the filmmakers, the financiers, and the corporate big wigs are all on the same page here. This isn’t 1993. Therefore, let’s simplify everything. The movie, the mentality, everything. And they have.
To illustrate the change between 1993 and 2015, let me bring your attention to something. There is a lovely piece of John William’s music echoed here by composer/conductor Michael (Star Trek) Giacchino. And it’s not used to underscore a magical moment involving a dinosaur. It’s used to underscore the first reveal of the expanse of the damn park itself. The scope of the park. That’s how much as changed in the public’s mind’s eye regarding dinosaurs. Both in the film, and in real life. They are mirrored, in subtlety. My how the mighty have fallen.
Having Chris Pratt on hand, riding high on his success in Guardians of the Galaxy, is a nice touch. He’s a likeable actor. And his character has a well defined, commanding presence that you can bet will be showing up in any potential sequel. And it was nice to see Dr. Henry Wu, from the original film, back in the lab. Sadly, while Hammond and Ian Malcolm have serviceable mentions early in the film, no other characters are featured. Not even in supporting roles. But the movie moves at such a pace, that in hindsight, the film would have to have primed you for the return of former characters in a potential sequel, or your disappointment would have been immense at just seeing them for a moment or two. Which is kind of what happened when audiences saw Laura Dern’s character ‘Elle Sattler’ for only a few brief moments at the beginning and end of Jurassic Park III, in 2001. But don’t focus on that movie; I’m sorry I brought that movie up, that movie sucked.
What doesn’t work in this movie … well, apart from a woman running through an action movie in high heels (LOL!) let’s just say that we’ve all heard enough quiet little reassuring comments to children in peril, to last a lifetime, and we didn’t really need more of that shit in this movie. In fact, an irreverent take on how kids deal with being in peril would have been very appropriate, given some of the dark humor in the the later half of the film. Trust me, I assume you’ve all seen that teaser poster and those trailers, featuring Pratt on a motorcycle, flanked by raptors … yea, the audience I saw it with got a kick out of the irony of how that situation turned out. That was more entertaining, and more serviceable to the story, than almost anything else in the movie. Mainly because in light of the publicity surrounding that element of the plot, it was an unexpected left turn. Jurassic World could have used more of that. The movie follows too many rules. And it’s clearly begging to be a full-on black comedy. And I really mean that. Once the action starts, it’s a lot of fun. But in general, the movie is wanting in smart humor. And while I won’t give away the surprise ending, the final ‘confrontation’ was genuinely the funniest, and most crowd pleasing thing in the movie. Just seeing Bryce Dallas Howard light that flare, knowing what she was about to do, generated a slow, drawn out laugh that rolled through the audience like tossing a lit Zippo into a box of fire crackers.
All in all, it was a solid summer movie. And in my opinion, more fun than anything else so far this summer. It’s no where near the magical experience of the first film, but Jurassic World improves over other sequels in the franchise, significantly.
To wrap this up, we all know that anyone who habitually watches movies of this kind has opined and even in some way, proselytized the coming future of movies. And due to much of the big budget, dumbed-down crap that we’ve all endured, it hasn’t been at all positive. Quite the opposite. Specifically, I refer to a genre that has often been referred to as ‘tent-pole’ movies, or ‘comic-book-craptastic extravaganzas,’ or ‘sequels,’ ‘reboots,’ et all. But to my generation, often as simply, ‘fantastic films.’ It will be terrible ! We’ve said. They will take away all meaning and stick us with the cheap thrills ! And it won’t MEAN ANYTHING ! Where’s the Vision !? Where’s the showmanship !? Well, the future of movies has arrived. And although it’s nothing special, apparently no one is complaining. So in the case of Jurassic World, a fun serial-like distraction, I just threw up my hands about 40 minutes in, and simply allowed myself to enjoy the greatest made-for-cable film in history. In 3D.
Jurassic World is not quite a monster movie, and as an action picture, it was definitely no Raiders of the Lost Ark. But it was still fun. And guess who gets the last roar.
I give this near perfect B-movie, an …