JURASSIC WORLD (2015)
(Directed by Colin Trevorrow)
(Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow)
(Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Vincent D’Onofrio)
Plot: Jurassic World has finally opened after suffering the many set-backs of the previous films, but audiences have gotten tired of dinosaurs. So a new creature is created using the DNA of different dinosaurs and the project is a shining success, which they call the Indominus Rex…except it turns out that this beast is both cunning and deadly and…it has sort of escaped from its hold…Now the i-Rex is rampaging on an island full of stranded tourists and it’s up to the staff to stop it.
I’ve been waiting for “Jurassic Park 4” since 1995…even before “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” had become a reality. Much like “Jaws” and “Star Wars“, the original classic played a major part of my childhood. I collected the toys, had multiple VHS copies and tried in vain to defeat the SNES video games. I had the privilege of revisiting “Jurassic Park” when they re-released it on IMAX a few years ago and wasn’t even stunned when it held up so well- primarily because I practically watch it on a yearly basis, so already knew that. It’s a great thrill ride and I’m even quite fond of its often maligned sequel. “The Lost World” might have some infuriating character writing, but it gave me all the excitement and intensity that I enjoyed in the predecessor. In 2001, the year of “Jurassic Park 3“, I was a 15 year old brat with low(er) standards. But even then, I felt completely indifferent to that one. Even now, I have little interest in going back to that Park and I haven’t been there for at least 10 years. I was eager for a fourth entry, but my enthusiasm didn’t really blow out of proportion until the plot was revealed.
The park would be open– Sweet! In retrospect, a major part of the problem with “Jurassic Park 3” was that it was exploiting a stale formula, having an identical structure to its predecessors. This isn’t just a cool idea, but it was a ‘new’ idea that would give us something totally different.
A new predator– “Jurassic Park 3” wisely chose a new dinosaur to focus on, as the Rex and Raptors no longer had the same…bite…that they enjoyed before. But it also chose a monster that no one really cared about or was interested in watching. The idea of a hybrid dinosaur mutant with all the characteristics of the most successful predators of the Jurassic age is unique. Furthermore, the danger it presents is magnified because it’s intelligent and prone to killing for sport. Ladies and gentleman, meet…Indominus Rex.
Tamed Raptors– I remember when the plot was first leaked, there was mention of velociraptors acting as the park’s ultimate security. This was pretty f@cking retarded compared to the awesomeness of everything else. When the trailers were released, it became more apparent that they were only being used to hunt the i-Rex, but I still felt uneasy.I can’t say my excitement had dimmed though, because even if I’m questioning the intelligence of the idea, at least it is an idea.
Unfortunately, “Jurassic World” reminds us all that expectations are STD-riddled whores who lie about their gender and have also passed the demon from “It Follows” onto you, who will take the form of your parent and rape you to death. Rule #1 to getting anything out of this movie: Lower your expectations. “Jurassic World” isn’t bad and can be enjoyed as long as you aren’t expecting anything exceptional. I was expecting something exceptional… I find it a little weird that the film takes a few shots at “Jurassic Park 3“, but also seems to resemble that one a lot more than the first two entries within the franchise. The tone is a bit too campy, which often has a negative effect on the tension. The finale in particular contains a lot of awkward laughs, which only reminded me that these people probably were going to get out alive. When I watched “Jurassic Park” for the 12th time, I knew which characters would live because I had seen the film multiple times, but I still flinched, cringed and chewed my nails whenever they were in peril. That is because I was invested in what was going on and there would be no stupid sight gags, corny lines or animals displaying almost human behavior to take me out of the illusion we call cinema. “Jurassic World” has these weird moments which just serve to disorient you. Characters will suddenly be thrown into an unexpected and terrifying situation, but we can’t really experience that terror while we’re busy laughing at a raptor exploding. Or were we supposed to laugh? I knew I was laughing. The first two films had humor as well- with the 2nd occasionally losing me for similar reasons, but they usually had a better context for it. Even “Jurassic Park 3” was easier to swallow in some ways because the entire movie was intended to be silly (I think), while “Jurassic World” is prone to over-sentimentality and they just didn’t gel together.
Speaking of which, the human characters are so boring. I tend to get irate when anyone criticizes the character writing in “Jurassic Park”, because I don’t think they need the depth that is required for something like “Schindler’s List“. But we remember those characters because they were larger than life, had cool dialogue, great chemistry and usually played pivotal and memorable roles within the story. Plus, they sported iconic wardrobes! “Jurassic World” makes the mistake of having too large of a cast and designating each of them a single- and often irrelevant- trait. One kid is a genius, although this never has any impact on the story. The other kid is a potential future rapist based on those creepy stares and finds his brother annoying, but that’s the extent of his characterization. Why did we need to know that their parents were divorcing? I suspect either Spielberg is responsible for this subplot as all of his movies have troubled parents, or maybe it was done as a homage, but it never added anything. Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) is the human antagonist and that is the extent of his character. He’s such a cartoon that he even laughs when the tourists are being terrorized! D’Onofrio could’ve potentially made him entertaining, but the script doesn’t give him a whole lot of room to cut loose. What about the main protagonists? Owen (Chris Pratt) is…erm, Chris Pratt. He’s comprised of traits taken from previous characters, but mostly he’s just Chris Pratt. I like Pratt, but felt he was miscast in this role. He tries too hard in making various lines of dialogue sound bad-ass, but it’s too forced. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is all work and no play, so naturally she will have a romance with Chris Pratt, who is more ‘wild’. Many have complained that there are some sexist implications and I can see why, even though I think it was unintentional. The funny thing is that Claire isn’t as cold as you would expect and Chris Pratt isn’t as funny as you would expect, which only serves to make them feel even more bland. Mostly they just move from one scene to the next and suddenly a romance comes out of nowhere. For the record, I don’t think the acting is bad or anything. It’s just that no one is given substantial material to work with.
Note: I remember hearing that Josh Brolin was being considered for the leading role, which makes more sense. Outside of one or two comedic moments, Chris Pratt is just playing a rugged badass, which would’ve felt more natural with Brolin the role. I personally suspect that those ‘one or two comedic moments’ were written in after Pratt was cast in order to cash in on his much more entertaining performance in “Guardians of the Galaxy”. On the other hand, this makes me wonder what the original characterization would’ve been like, as those ‘one or two comedic moments’ are the only times Owen showcases any hints of a personality.
Ugh, the characters are so thin and uninteresting that even the WRITERS even seem to acknowledge this. When a human character dies, no one will seem to care. You might see a quick cut of someones horrified reaction, but the deaths are treated like statistics. I understand to a point, as there is no time to mourn. But if a dinosaur is killed, they will spend like five minutes grieving as a single tear rolls down a cheek. We’re supposed to growl when a mercenary guns down an ‘innocent?’ Pteranodon and feel satisfaction when he is inevitably killed…even though we had just witnessed Pteranodons terrorizing tourists and causing at least one death. They were dangerous. They needed to be killed. I’m not going to hate on the dude for doing that, but I think I was supposed too…”The Lost World” was also brought down by this strange hatred of anyone who dares harm the animals that have harmed people. Does Spielberg believe that wildlife is more important than humanity? Either way, the filmmakers should’ve focused more on making me care for the characters, not animals who are basically extras or have human blood on their hands. Yet somehow the raptors are the closest to being interesting characters and it’s not even like the writers tried experimenting with fleshing them out as individuals. As for Indominus Rex, I did really like the ferocious looking design. She is established as a cunning sadist with special abilities, but over time, she loses most traces of characterization. At first, I bought her as a character and that is VERY IMPRESSIVE for a CGI effect, but during the second half she’s just another dinosaur. No more strategies, no more mindless violence- she’s mostly fighting for survival- and the camouflage concept vanishes. Even though this is a bit random, there is one death in this movie that was ridiculously mean spirited. I think we were supposed to hate the character and feel gratification when he or she died, but the character writing is so weak that “Jurassic World” did a shitty job at making me hate him/her.
I won’t deny that there are a few intense moments, such as when the i-Rex firsts escapes its pen. But the majority of these kills don’t hold much weight to them. Most of the victims are extras who exist only to be killed. In the defense of “Jurassic World”, this was becoming a problem since “The Lost World“. “Jurassic Park” only had relevant characters, so their deaths tended to mean something. “The Lost World” mostly only killed off the fodder, but there were a few in that cast who we thought might die, which helped generate some suspense. “Jurassic World” and “Jurassic Park 3” only killed off the victim fodder, but there is a pivotal difference. “Jurassic Park 3” at least put everyone in peril, even if we knew they would survive. There are a few characters in this flick who could be potential dino food, except they are usually in a safe zone. We can’t fear for them, even though they are expendable, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT IN ANY DANGER. Ugh, these are the basic f@cking rules of suspense. Colin Trevorrow, to his credit, does do a better better job at frightening his audience than Joe Johnston did for “Jurassic Park 3“. He’s no Spielberg, but at least he delivers ‘moments’ that defied my criticisms and engaged me. This is cool because I knew the kids would be alright and yet for a while, everything does seem hopeless for them. I was sporadically on the edge of my seat, caring even when the movie had done little to earn that. I actually find myself wanting to blame CGI more than Trevorrow, because there aren’t as many practical effects. The trilogy utilized more animatronics and puppetry, with CGI being used sparingly. But these days, everything has to be digital. The CGI was good, but I rarely felt like characters were interacting with dinosaurs as much as I felt like actors were interacting with a green screen. Because the mechanical shark in “Jaws” wouldn’t always work, Spielberg was forced to keep it off-screen, which meant more suspense. Because there were some limitations in what the dinosaurs could do in the first few “Jurassic Park” movies, Spielberg would have to keep them off-screen and build up to their appearances- which means more suspense. As of 2015 though, technology has advanced to where you can show anything, so there is no need to keep your monster off-screen, which means less suspense. Even i-Rex is in full view within the first 20 minutes, when it would’ve been scarier if it was mostly kept in the shadows. The plus side is that “Jurassic World” doesn’t take long to get going and once it starts, it rarely stops. Dinosaurs are constantly shown in all their glory, ready to provide the next action sequence. For all the shit I’ve given the movie, I still somewhat enjoyed myself, if only for the fast pacing. I’d say this is superior to “Jurassic Park 3” because “Jurassic World” proudly shows off its ambitions, being epic in scale, whereas “Jurassic Park 3” feels small and insignificant when you compare and contrast the two. The new park has a pretty sleek aquarium styled design and there are some awe inspiring moments. There aren’t enough, but there are some. Strangely, the score very rarely stood out. I heard the John Williams theme, but the only time it left an impact on me was when the kids were investigating the Restricted Area.
For all the new ideas that made “Jurassic World” sound so exciting during the planning stage, the narrative plays out in a very familiar way. In retrospect, I’m not really sure what I was expecting. Maybe more carnage and chaos as the tourists are besieged by dinosaurs of various shapes and sizes? Perhaps it is because of those new ideas that I thought that creativity would extend throughout the rest of the story. Oddly, I’m not condemning the narrative for dusting off the old formula, but I expect a better execution of it. The script is mostly bland, but I will understand if viewers believe that this is a step up from the previous two sequels. While I prefer “The Lost World“, even I have to admit that its flaws are much more infuriating. “Jurassic World” often made me roll my eyes, but it never made me face palm in rage. “Jurassic Park 3” had more annoying characters and it just felt kind of uninspired, like no one really wanted to make the movie, but really wanted to make the money from making the movie. I think the filmmakers were more passionate about “Jurassic World“, even if they bit off more than they could chew. The finale was pretty ludicrous because the animals stop behaving like animals and are now apparently like…people?! That’s dumb, but at least not in a lazy kind of way. I think everyone tried their hardest to make a good Summer Blockbuster, even if they didn’t really succeed. Nevertheless, here were some examples of bad writing.
– The kids stumble upon the original park. I understand that it’s supposed to be fanservice, but besides reminded us that the original was cooler, why would the new Park owners just leave all of that stuff there?
– I love how the villain always has his security nearby, except when he needs it.
– InGen Mercenaries are even more useless than ever before, even though they should be trained to handle dinosaurs by now.
– Why is she wearing heels? Er, did she just outrun a T-Rex in those!? WHY ARE YOU SHOWING A CLOSE-UP ON THOSE HEELS?!
– Canoeing with dinosaurs? Yeah, that’s totally not an accident waiting to happen. In fact, many of the attractions seem incredibly dangerous.
– Cell phones or radios never seem to work whenever the plot demands of it.
– I can accept the idea of InGen wanting to militarize dinosaurs, but it’s handled so stupidly that the entire subplot became difficult to swallow. I can’t discuss this without revealing spoilers, but apparently there isn’t a single person involved who understands anything about the creatures they are working with.
But really, nothing is quite as stupid as a small girl going all gymkata on a raptor’s ass or expecting the audience to like an Eco-terrorist who is responsible for every death on the island. “Jurassic World” just seems interested in throwing lots of special effects at you in such quick succession that there is no time for building suspense or giving characters actual personalities. The original “Jurassic Park” not only made us care about the characters, but I think it was a lot scarier because more attention was put on their reactions to the dinosaurs. Their fear and awe was very contagious, but “Jurassic World” doesn’t have enough time for that. It has to hurry to the next action sequence. In the end, it was an easy watch, but it was also one that failed to leave an impression on me. I’m not going to remember the characters, the kills or any of the action set pieces, but I will remember the disappointment. Whether that’s my fault for expecting too much of the movies fault for letting me down, the experience was more bitter than sweet.
Violence: PG-13. The kills are a bit too clean.
Nudity: One sexual reference.
Overall: “Jurassic World” isn’t bad. There is some entertainment value to be found, but it has already begun evaporating within my memory. I’m torn between a 2/4 star rating and a 2.5/4 star rating, but I’ll go with the former for now.