Review: Jurassic World (2015)
Dinosaurs and Kids Still Trying to Mix
A Film Review of Jurassic World
Giant f’ing reptiles return in the Steven Spielberg executively produced follow up to the much maligned Jurassic Park III with Jurassic World, a seemingly back to basics with fresh faces continuation of a fictional reality where contemporary human beings continue to bring real life dinosaurs into this day and age. We already know what kind of a success it is (beating The Avengers for best domestic opening weekend with a $208.8 gross at the box office) and as a result we can presume a trending success for the next few weeks as well. As a film franchise, Jurassic Park is as close to a sure fire blockbuster as Hollywood can come up with these days without having to knock on any comic book publishers’ doors. Jurassic World shows off just about everything a casual member of the audience is looking for in an exciting, summer, cinematic adventure that is relatively “safe” family fun for everyone save for parents who are exceptionally sensitive to exposing their children to fictional violence and danger. Although Spielberg did not direct this film, his imprint regarding childlike fascination for the improbable (E.T.) and “massive scale” (Transformers) combine once again to produce an experience that fills one up with nostalgia and wonderment.
However, the one criticism I’ve always had regarding these dino-destruction films, shamelessly rears its ugly head once more in Jurassic World. How are the all owners, scientists and corporate sponsors involved with anything “Jurassic” so incredibly stupid to continue to taunt (not tempt) fate once again by putting dinosaurs and contemporary humans in the same space? From a basic plot perspective, Jurassic World is pretty dumb in acknowledging and admitting the tragic failures of its fictional past, yet still marches forward with the delusional concept that people could and somehow should “walk with the dinosaurs” in a zoo-like environment. Despite his zeal and ambition, Dr. Hammond was proven to be woefully wrong by the end of the first Jurassic Park and guess what? It is still unsafe and generally speaking, a bad idea.
The script of Jurassic World, written by the combined efforts of Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow, comes up way short in explaining how we got from the chaos and anarchy of the past to the Disney World stability of Jurassic World in the present. Plot holes run amok as people who are supposed to be in charge don’t seem to have a clue and security somehow seems more lax than in the first film. We get no sense of how long this establishment has been operating peacefully, nor are we privy to any new system, technology or process that allows this iteration of “Jurassic Park” to be successful where others failed. Those details are apparently irrelevant as the audience is immediately thrown into the thriving business of Jurassic World as it continues to push “size” and “teeth” to continue draw in massive tourist dollars. Of course, dinosaurs are massive, unpredictable, wild animals and man’s inability to control nature results in a lot of rinsed and repeated death and destruction that the audience has seen in every Jurassic Park film: people manipulating nature for profit, super-dinosaur is the big bad, children have 1000% increased luck in avoiding being eaten, stomped, smashed and otherwise bloodied by massive reptiles. It’s all there.
The only thing new and worthwhile regarding the story of Jurassic World is the underdeveloped and under-featured angle regarding Chris Pratt’s character, Owen, and his project with Raptors. These moments are easily the most interesting as it presents the concept of partnership with nature as opposed to domination. Not only are these sequences relatively hopeful, but they also set the audience up for a very satisfying and electric final conflict that wraps everything up.
Jurassic World may attempt to pawn itself off as an adventure with important things to say about family relationships or a thought provoker regarding science’s ability to go too far; but ultimately it is an action film, through and through. Jurassic World easily boasts the highest body count of any Jurassic film. People are mercilessly chewed, skewered and crushed as effectively as previous films, but the fact that there are so many more potential victims really raises the stakes. Camera angles and movement of the frame (not simply inside the frame) produce a fairly exhilarating observation of all the action in general. What helps the audience retain this visual information is cinematographer John Schwartzman’s excellent framing and staging, but also his reluctance to enhance or exasperate the frame rate to make everything we do see, feel more hectic than it is. Not once is there a moment where the constant running and chasing amidst all the danger seems less adrenaline-filled. Extreme close-ups are not abused with sharp flashes of movement across the screen to fake a sense of added tension. The action in Jurassic World represents some of the most effectively captured sequences of many recent Hollywood blockbusters.
The visual effects were a bit hit and miss for me. CG dinosaurs looked great for the big boys, but not so much for the petting-zoo sized ones. Aerial dinos looked less menacing than those featured in JP III, but that may have more to do with the fact that they were captured more as flocks rather than one on one. Explosions and general destruction are nothing to write home about here. Gunplay is rather dry as security forces in Jurassic World are essentially mall cops with automatic weapons and tasers (again, people aren’t threats to dinosaurs, even though they could be with larger and more appropriate weapons). Dinosaur combat and battles are very well done and desperately needed to be extended because that’s what we really want to see.
The overall cast’s performance in Jurassic World is so bad that I experienced veiled levels of glee when dinosaurs dispatched or harmed them in any way. I understand that this movie (much like any Transformer film) is not about the people or the characters they play per say. We all know what it’s really about. However, people cannot be deleted entirely from Jurassic films (unlike any Transformer film) because their presence is vital to the story and regardless of how any of you may feel about Sam Neil or Jeff Golblum as individual thespians, their performances in the past are academy award winning in comparison. Bryce Dallas Howard as corporate tool #1 demonstrates no ability as an effective administrator and comes off as rather bumbling in her fluency of Jurassic World as a theme park. Nick Robinson as annoying child #1 and Ty Simpkins as annoying child #2 are yawn inducing for their stereotypical portrayals as siblings more interested in girls vs. more interested in giant f’ing dinosaurs respectively. Vincent D’Onofrio as the token (pseudo) bad guy is very disappointing because he’s a much better actor than the effort he gives here. Irrfan Khan as the cocky billionaire owner effectively channels what I presume was the director’s desire to mimic Sir Richard Branson charging in to save everyone with the hubris of his helicopter flying skills. BD Wong is the only returning cast member from a previous Jurassic film reprising his role as Dr. Henry Wu and is as memorable as any actor can be in a single, 2 minute scene for an action film. And then there’s Jimmy Fallon …
Chris Pratt is a different story, and it has less to do with his exceptional performance from Guardians of the Galaxy and more to do with his natural charisma as an individual actor. No, he’s not redefining what it means to be a leading man in a Hollywood blockbuster because he isn’t the prettiest and he isn’t the buffest (both of which are still requisites). What he does have is an everyman’s appreciation for decency and pragmatism for whatever character he plays in ridiculous situations. This is what allows audiences to root for him and it’s all one really needs to make a connection with viewers. This is precisely the reason why he would make for a great Indiana Jones, but there is no reason whatsoever why Indy needs to be rebooted in any way and for any reason unless it were a continuation of his adventures in a younger man’s body.
Jurassic World has made and will continue to make a ton of cash around the globe. It is more than a worthwhile expense for your time and wallet to check this adventure out at your local cinemas. If you have the opportunity, try to check it out in IMAX 3D. However, I would not necessarily recommend spending more on a regular, REAL 3D ticket on a standard displays because dinosaurs need as much screen as possible to show how awesome they are. I didn’t like spending half the film chasing around with the stupid brats that get lost in the park, but Chris Pratt represents the other half and he takes the audience home with some great action and comedic timing.