Release: Friday, June 12, 2015
Written by: Colin Trevorrow; Rick Jaffa; Amanda Silver; Derek Connolly
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
This movie makes me nostalgic for the days of Jurassic Park III and The Lost World. Jurassic World has nothing new to offer, and is more comfortable hugging close to its parent than wandering off on its own and exploring the world it is a part of.
I recognize that I may be one of an endangered few who appreciated the sequels, but at this point I don’t really care. As the story expanded to other islands, sure, the law of diminishing returns certainly applied but I always had time for that weird Spinosaurus, dueling T-Rexes, and William H. Macy’s mustachioed, panic-stricken face as he watched members of his group being torn apart by hungry dinos. What I don’t have time for is a carbon copy of a vastly superior thriller, and Chris Pratt’s irritating ubiquitousness.
I was originally going to make a point about how surprising it is that nary a trace of Colin Trevorrow’s style can be found here, but then I had to remind myself this project is the antithesis of his 2012 feature film debut. Blockbusters rarely allow a director the time or space or whatever you want to call it to inject their personality. Or maybe Joss Whedon should’ve been called upon to helm this creature feature. Somehow he’s had to handle a baker’s dozen of key characters across two different superhero movies and still managed to breathe some of his comic relief into them. Then again, there are costs to making such decisions.
In the case of Jurassic World, Trevorrow is afraid to try. There’s a genetically modified dinosaur (because bringing a species back to life after 60+ million years of extinction isn’t spectacle enough) called the I-don’t-give-a-shit-asaurus because the story takes place at some point well after the titular amusement park has been established à la John Hammond’s vision. Park attendance has stagnated in recent years and corporate policy demands a new gimmick. Apparently raptors are now passé. To put my childish cynicism aside for a second, the Indominus rex is a pretty wicked creation, but it represents the only true distinguishable element this fourth prehistoric picture has on offer.
Park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the new John Hammond. Pratt’s Owen Grady is a more grizzled, affable Alan Grant minus the degree in paleontology. He may not be good at identifying fossils but he’s got a way with raptors. It’s unnerving and weird and puts raptors just that much lower on the food chain. Unlike what Jurassic Park exhorted, humans can in fact control everything they create in Jurassic World. Claire has two nephews coming to visit her. Zach (Nick Robinson) is the new Lex. He’s got less personality than Alan Grant has tolerance for children. The younger nephew is Gray (Ty Simpkins) and is very excited to be in the park. We are as well, but the script feels the need to beat the concept over our heads at the same time. Jurassic World mimics the same miserable parenting roles, with Claire unable to devote time to her nephews and choosing to name a useless nobody as their temporary guardian.
Similarities extend even to grander themes of corporate greed and excess. Trevorrow claims the Indominus rex personifies (dinosaurifies?) our demand for entertainment on bigger scales with more extravagant budgets. It’s not a point I can argue against. This dinosaur, the catalyst for chaos, lives, eats and breathes humanity’s “worst tendencies.” It’s a killing machine, a vastly more intelligent reptile than anything else in the park; hell, it can apparently evade thermal detection and fake its own escape. We’ve been here before, though. If corporate greed and excess is some new concept, what was the purpose of setting up (and later destroying in spectacular fashion) all that Hammond had dreamt up all those years ago on Isla Nublar? What did that test site represent, merely a wealthy senior citizen’s benevolent fascination with the Jurassic era? Hardly. Hammond said it himself: spare no expense.
Jurassic World plays out on its own terms every now and then. The park looks fantastic and the fact that it has actually been realized is a feat of CGI and great location scouting falling into perfect sync. I’d pay to go to this place and get the crap scared out of me by a feeding Mosasaurus, a lizard that makes a great white shark look like a minnow. And that’s another thing Trevorrow’s work has going for it — size. Everything is bigger but not necessarily more bombastic. In a particularly engaging showdown at the end — the only time where Jurassic World cuts loose, delivering on its promise of offering pure, unadulterated summer fun — we’re treated to a battle wherein a kind of sizing chart of some of the largest creatures to ever roam the earth is put on display. The climactic fight puts even the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex in perspective.
This long-anticipated sequel is difficult to endure for many reasons, but chief among them has to be just how closely it hews to the formula that made a power outage more than just an inconvenience. Jurassic World is of course allowed to revere what has come before; it should. But it does it so much it becomes the overexcited freshman at the mixer who feels it’s an obligation to drink the seniors under the table, only to end up consuming too much and causing a scene. Your older peers may admire your spirit but they also can’t ignore the fact you now smell of vomit. You’re trying too hard to impress. Just be yourself damn it.
Recommendation: As someone who decidedly hated this film, I don’t think I can give an accurate recommendation here. I suspect I’m in the overwhelming minority by saying this film is my least favorite of the series. It has no new ideas and no distinctive personality. I didn’t buy tickets for an award-winning piece of high brow cinema here but I expected Jurassic World to have some life. Fans of the series, no matter how devoted or casual, are seeing this no matter what I say. Good riddance to this one.
Running Time: 124 mins.
Quoted: “‘Monster’ is a relative term. To a canary, a cat is a monster. We’re just used to being the cat.”
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