Jurassic World and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Two hundred MILLION dollars in the opening weekend!? Oh I’m, sorry that FIVE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS when you include the international box office. What exactly about this movie (other than it being a new entry in a franchise that has nostalgic appeal to multiple generations of people) could bring in that kind of cash!? Jurassic Park was never really that important of a franchise for me (only got through the first one and half of the second one) which means this movie was barely on my radar. The only thing that caught my attention was Star Lord driving a motorcycle with his personal posse of velociraptors (and of course this amazing gif). Needless to say, the movie caught my attention after everyone starting to go nuts over it, so I went ahead and saw the damn thing to find out what the fuss is about. Now big box office numbers are never a reliable indicator of quality (just look at the Transformers films) but there was still a bit of optimism what with the decent trailers and the undeniable coolness of dinosaurs WITHOUT feathers. Also, Chris Pratt.
Now it has also been a REALLY long time since I saw the original, so all I remember is a mosquito, a toilet scene, the little boy being zapped by an electric fence, Wayne Knight, and Jeff Goldblum standing next to a giant pile of shit. Because of that, I was pretty much coming to this one fresh to the series and while I may not have appreciate this in ways that a true fan of this franchise will, I may have also missed some flaws that would drive some fans insane (I have no idea if the BD Wong character was butchered in this version compared to how he was portrayed in the original). With all that said, what are my thoughts on the movie? Very mixed is about as best as I can put it really. I loved almost everything in regards to running this park. The technology they use to house and train the dinosaurs, the command center which keeps an eye on everything in the park, and even the details of the park itself. The gift shops, the sponsored buildings, Jimmy Fallon’s great cameo, and so much more that made the theme park come to life. It felt so much like a real theme park in so many ways (the genuine intent to entertain and educate mixed with the sleazy gouging of overpriced food and souvenirs) which made the behind the scenes stuff that much more interesting. Theme parks on their own are fascinating considering how much control there has to be on that kind of environment and throwing dinosaurs into the mix made it that much more engaging. The movie tells you that this place has been running for about twenty years without incident, and all I could think while watching the first half of the movie was how much I would LOVE a TV show about this place during those years.
I WANTED this park to succeed. I WANTED them to be able to contain what eventually happens considering how much joy this place has brought to the people that went there without incident. I understand that a movie can’t just be two hours of things NOT going wrong, but the setup was so good that making a TV show from it would be a no brainer. You’d get to focus on more of the staff instead of only about six or seven members and a show won’t necessarily demand that EVERYTHING GOES BOOM by the end of each episode. Since this IS a movie however, something indeed does go wrong. Our two main characters are Owen (Chris Pratt) who trains the velociraptors and is an ex-marine or navy seal or something, and Clair (Bryce Dallas Howard) who’s a very uptight… executive I think? She seems to be running the whole park on her own even though she isn’t the actual owner (that would be Simon Masrani played by Irrfan Khan) and her current priority is to make sure that the new dinosaur they’ve genetically engineered is going to be ready to show to the public soon. Compounding the problems though is the fact that her nephews (Gray and Zach played by Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson respectively) have basically been dumped on her by her sister and she has to send them away with her assistant so she can do her damn job. As you’d expect, the new breed of dinosaur (Indominus Rex) does indeed turn out to be more than the park can handle and everything starts to fall to pieces once it escapes its habitat. This is the half of the movie where you get exactly what you expect. That’s not to say it’s bad (it’s quite excellent really) but it’s the same thing we’ve seen before. Even though I can barely recall the first film, I know the beats this movie is taking from the original and while it’s by FAR the best example of this kind of movie, it wasn’t as interesting to me as what the movie was at the beginning.
One thing I noticed that I’m not sure IS a flaw or an intentional aspect to this is the fact that they are doing the same story about tampering with things we can’t possibly control, but what they’re tampering with now is completely different. See, in the first one it was basically the idea that we shouldn’t recreate dinosaurs and think that we can control them when we do. In Jurassic World though, things have been going FINE for the past twenty years and the science they shouldn’t be tampering with NOW is creating NEW dinosaur species. In fact, what with the velociraptor troops and some other moments in the film, the dinosaurs that were created from existing species are sort of the good guys with the Indominus Rex being the primary one to actively terrorizing the humans.
It’s interesting how in twenty years what was considering the line that human’s shouldn’t cross has moved drastically and it makes me wonder if in twenty years we get a movie where the genetically modified dinosaurs are actually the good guys fighting against… alien dinosaurs or something? I don’t know. Aside from a brand new species of dinosaur, there are some other things that are new in this half of the film, but they tend to be overwhelmingly stupid. Vincent D’Onofrio plays an evil army guy (because of course he’s playing an evil army guy) who has this completely insane idea to use the dinosaurs that are created here as weapons that the military can train and utilize. I guess the movie never expects us to take him serious because he’s the incredibly obvious bad guy, but the final act of this movie ends up focusing completely on this idea, what with Chris Pratt basically being forced to lead his raptors into combat and the subplot where D’Onofrio was secretly working with the park’s genetic research department to secretly experiment with combat breeds.
They’re clearly set up some sequel bait what with some MYSTERIOUS embryos being taken away and BD Wong (who is head of the genetic research facility in the park) escaping the park in a helicopter (Jurassic War anybody?) so unfortunately this seems to be the direction the movies are going in. Granted, the action is going to be great (DINOSAURS WITH ROCKET LAUNCHERS!!) but it feels like the complete antithesis of what Jurassic park was in the first place. In the original (and this one as well) it’s about not going too far with science, but also about the wonder of a world that no longer exists. I’m sure we’ll get the same “LEAVE NATURE ALONE!!” spiel in the next one, but the wonder is probably gonna be gone and replaced with badass dude-bro machismo. It won’t be about kids learning about the world they live on but about “DUDE! THAT RAPTOR IS TOTALLY HEADSHOTING THOSE TERRORISTS WITH A SNIPER RIFLE!” We’ll have to wait for the sequel to come to find out if those concerns are warranted, but the movie left me on an uneasy note with it deciding to use THAT as its hook for the next film. There are some other flaws in regards to the story, what with NO ONE having any idea what the hell this creature actually is until today and the fact that everything collapses into a total perfect storm, but the only other flaw to bother me as much as the dumb military things is the way they treat women in this.
This seems to be a running theme in my movie reviews so far, what with Mad Max doing a fantastic job with its female characters and some people getting pissed about it, and San Andreas being about an Earthquake forcing a woman to get back together with her husband. In this movie, Claire is belittled and mistreated throughout while her assistant gets by FAR the worst death in the movie for seemingly no reason. Claire is a great character in this. Definitely flawed but we can also see that she’s very competent at a job that would destroy a lesser person. She has to be the hard ass sometimes and can’t always drop everything at a moment’s notice. Without her though, there’s no way this park would be standing, yet everyone in this treats her like she’s an idiot or worse. There comes a point in the movie where Claire has to ask Owen to take a look at the new dinosaur to get his opinion on whether it’s ready to be put in the park. This is the scene that got Joss Whedon in hot water for criticizing and it’s just as uncomfortable as he said it was. She’s his boss, yet he can’t give even a modicum of respect and more or less sexually harasses her the entire time. Owen’s opinion of her basically boils down to “You have NO idea what the hell you’re doing, but can we still bang?” What’s telling about this scene is how much Claire lets this roll off of her which shows that she knows how to handle machismo douche bags who don’t want to take orders from a lady. I’m sure to get to the position she’s in right now she had to fend off a lot of skeptical penis-havers and managed to outwit and out qualify them all.
She even has a great hero moment where she saves Chris Pratt’s ass from a pterodactyl, and they STILL manage to fuck this up in two separate ways. First, after getting HIS OWN ass saved, he gets up and steals a kiss which she was definitely not expecting. So she gets to be the hero in one scene, but they still make it about him getting with her instead of maybe him APPRECIATING the save or showing some humility? Nope! GIVE ME SOME SUGAR BABY! Not only that, but moments after this, her nephews throw her ass under the bus by claiming that they NEVER want to leave Chris Pratt’s side for protection, even though SHE just saved HIS as right in front of them! Despite all the ways the movie mistreats her and uses her as the butt of the joke, she at least has her moments of being brave and showing that she can handle herself in this catastrophe. She’s not a dead weight for Chris Pratt to have to carry around and she manages to hold her own in certain key scenes, so her character at least gets to have some redeeming moments. The character that does NOT get a chance to do that however is her assistant who BARELY has anything to do in this movie, yet for no reason gets the WORST death in the entire movie. Seriously, the way they stretch out her death is the way you would for a villain, but instead it’s for this one character who’s only fault as far as I can see is being a bad babysitter (which is bullshit because she’s still trying to do her job WHILE taking on this extra responsibility). It’s completely baffling because a death THIS drawn out tends to be used for a character with some significance to the story (either a heroic death or a villain’s end) but you save it for the only female death we see onscreen? It just feels like a weird choice that may not have been intended to come off the way it did. Still, the decision was made and this is how I reacted to it, so it’s definitely a big flaw in this movie in my opinion.
I’ve mostly been complaining about this movie, but it’s still an enjoyable film overall. Even in the half of the movie I didn’t care for as much, it still had some great scenes of dinosaur carnage and there are even some moments here and there that tug at your heartstrings. As a summer blockbuster, it’s probably one of the better ones this year (not quite at Avengers 2 level, but definitely in that category) but in the wake of Mad Max, this just feels woefully dated in many ways. Definitely worth seeing, but not as good as it could have been considering how much I adored the first half.
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