Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jurassic World: A Review


It's Not Like We Haven't Seen Dinosaurs Before...

I find myself in the oddest position when talking about Jurassic World.  First, I never saw either The Lost World: Jurassic Park or Jurassic Park III.  Therefore, I know nothing of the 'franchise' beyond the original Jurassic Park (noting that I doubt a series of Jurassic Park films were planned save for the fact that the first was a monster pun intended).  Second, I haven't seen the original Jurassic Park since its release twenty-two years ago (making me feel very, very old).  If there were references or plot details in those other films that Jurassic World touched on, then they pretty much flew over my head with a couple of exceptions.

I figure that I should get this out of the way before going on.  I'm going to be the spoilsport and say that Jurassic World is, while not a bad film, by no means as great a film as its been cracked up to be.  It IS entertaining in a dumb way.  It IS what it set out to be: a monster movie.  That being said, I cannot bend to current fanboy craze and say how wonderful everything was, how cool or awesome it was to have a.) dinosaurs or b.) Chris Pratt, movie star du jour, on screen.  It might have to do with the fact that I didn't see the other Jurassic Park films and/or that I am a stickler for things like plot and logic (which also goes to explain why I now pretty much loath Doctor Who, but that's for another time).  Jurassic World is a film that I found funny when it shouldn't have been, odd when it shouldn't have been, and which never answers the one question I think should be answered...


Open it they did, despite the horrifying fiasco of the first attempt (and I figure the more horrifying fiascos of the other two).  Now billed as Jurassic World, this combination EPCOT/Animal Kingdom/Sea World/Universal Studios has thousands of people flocking to see the dinosaurs eat and live.  There's even a petting zoo where little children can ride triceratops and hug baby brontosauruses. 

A side note: having been to regular petting zoos myself, where I've seen geese gone wild and go after people, has the petting zoo ever had a triceratops bite the little tyke?  Are guests made to sign a waiver releasing the park from any liability should the dinosaurs, well, kill them?  Silly me for applying logic to this.

Anyway, into this Jurassic World enter two children: sulky teen Zach (Nick Robinson) and perky tween Gray (Ty Simpkins).  They are sent by their mother Karen (Judy Greer) to be watched over by their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is the executive in charge of the park.  It will serve as a distraction while Karen and her husband get divorced.  As expected Claire is simply too busy/uptight/uncaring to bother with these little people (she for example, has no idea how old they are) and pawns them off to her assistant while she develops the newest attraction.  It is Indominus rex, a new genetically engineered dinosaur that is sure to give guests that new thrill they so want (we being so fickle as to no longer being impressed by living dinosaurs...well, perhaps they're not too far off the mark there, but I digress).

In the park also is White Hunter...I mean, raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).  He is dead-set against his 'animals' being used as war machines by the evil military guy (Vincent D'Onofrio).  Claire, who had ONE date with Owen many Eggs ago (Doctor Who reference there), goes to Owen to have him inspect the holding facility for the Indominus rex...because apparently there are no structural engineers at the park or that can be hired.  Whatevs....I'm just going along for the thrill ride.

Little Gray cries because his parents are divorcing, but Zach isn't too interested, being occupied by staring at girls (despite having a clingy girlfriend back home).  Having ditched the assistant many Eggs ago too, they go around the park in a bit of a daze really. 

Well, we learn that the Indominus is capable of high thought, having tricked the puny humans into helping her escape.  It now goes on a hunting expedition, and it's up to Owen, with a little help from high-heel wearing Claire, to stop it and save...I'm not sure.  She takes an awful long time to remember her two nephews are out there, and the 'evacuation' of the park is a rather leisurely affair (despite having a rampaging beast on the loose, the guests are pretty much left on their version of Downtown Disney, waiting for something but having enough time to get beers at the Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville bar, but much more on that later).  The Indominus rex, created from part T. rex and part something 'mysterious', goes after the boys...the same boys their aunt can't remember are out there for what I figure must have been at least two hours as the crisis grows and grows.

Eventually, Owen is talked/coerced into using his raptors to hunt Indominus down, but we get a twist in that wild hunt.  The park devolves into chaos, people are killed (some rather brutally) and Claire learns to love.

Seriously...she learns to love her nephews and slips into the muscular arms of Andy Dwyer.

I have to get this off my chest before I go on.  Jurassic World is perhaps the laziest script I've seen in a while, at least this year.  There's no consistency and it almost enjoys contradicting itself.  Let's get a look at a few points of idiocy and illogic in the film, courtesy of Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, and director Colin Trevorrow.

As a side note, anytime you have more than three writers working on a script, I worry.

Aunt Claire got Zack and Gray VIP passes that can get them past all lines to get into rides and exhibits quickly (the ultimate Fast Pass).  Yet we see them waiting in long lines to get into the bubble-craft things. 

Owen can control the raptors with a clicker, but that idea comes and goes at will, because sometimes his just bonding with them is enough...apparently to have them come to his rescue at the most opportune moment (eye-rolling moment for both Fidel and me).

A big deal is made out of Claire's footwear, but we never see her take her heels off.  In fact, in what is suppose to be a climatic moment when she "releases the Kraken" (aka lets the big T. rex out), we DISTINCTLY hear the clicking of heels as she runs out to have it follow her.  I've never known a woman to outrun anything/anyone in high heels.

Zack and Gray get on their little bubble-craft just before the order comes in to close the park.  Yet there is no override device on the machines to get them back to the ride, so in theory could someone ride on those things for hours and hours until the park had to send someone to basically corral the guest?

Claire orders an evacuation of the park, but when we do get glimpses of the guests, the management or staff doesn't seem to really make much effort in getting anyone out.  I observed to my friend Fidel Gomez Jr. (whom I'm happy to report is very much alive and who watched the film with me, the first time we've seen something together in at least five years) that the Titanic was evacuated faster and more efficiently than Jurassic World.

This last point was a big one for me.  You have a growing crisis going on, but we never see ships coming in, or there being any real effort to get people out.  No ships, no helicopters, no battleships...nothing.  Instead, the guests are told there's been some kind of 'containment anomaly' and that's pretty much it.  I'm suppose to believe that the park is being shut down, but when the pterosaurs are rampaging, there are still little tykes riding the triceratops.  Wouldn't they have shut down the little petting zoo by now? 

I digress to point out that Disney's Animal Kingdom shuts down at five, and the Disney people are very efficient at getting people out.  Same for the Bronx Zoo...once the zoo closes, the animals essentially disappear.  I guess Jurassic World doesn't work the same way.

Even more bizarre (and hilarious to me) was that when the pterosaurs finally attacked a la The Birds, I saw one of the extras grab a couple of beers and run off.  SERIOUSLY?  No margarita is worth my life.  And did Claire and Owen really have to kiss after rescuing the annoying kids with flying dinosaurs still flying about them?

Apparently, in Jurassic World there are other things that don't exist.  Let's go along with the idea that they didn't tell the guests why the park was closing.  Apparently, Jurassic World has no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Skype, or YouTube, because apparently news of the insanity going on in the park never appeared to reach the outside world.  No one posting some "I can't believe their closing Jurassic World" on their news feed or "Still waiting to leave JW" tweet.  Yes, maybe I am overthinking that point, but I can't really buy the world they created (especially since I don't understand why we're told it was Sir Dickie's John Hammond's dying wish that they really wanted to open the park after his grandchildren were almost eaten alive.  I wish they had had an auto-animatronic or hologram figure of Sir Dickie saying "Welcome to Jurassic Park").

Look, I can suspend some disbelief, but not to where I'm basically asked, "Don't think at all, just focus on how cool the big dinosaurs are" in a park that I probably couldn't afford to go to...even on Coupon Day (Fidel reminded me of that).  Fidel also had a great line when Claire tears her shirt open to show he was a huntress.  "What does that mean?" Owen asks her.  "Means I'm ready", she replies.  He quipped, "Ready for a photo shoot".

As much at Jurassic World would like for me to care, I couldn't, especially about the subplot of the kids finding they love each other and their parents' divorce (poor Greer had nothing to do but literally cry IN EVERY SCENE SHE WAS IN, which was in three: beginning, middle, and end.  Cry, cry, cry she did).  It's not a good sign that when little Gray cries about finding out his parents have two sets of lawyers...DIVORCE lawyers, I started laughing.  It also doesn't help I actually wanted them to get eaten.

Watching Jurassic World does not convince me that Bryce Dallas Howard got this gig because she doesn't have some connections in the industry.  Granted, it's a one-note character, but she couldn't do anything with it apart from being a cliché.  Same goes for Pratt, who has decided to abandon the dimwitted goofball he was on Parks & Rec and which he used to great effect in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Instead, he's all square-jawed hunkiness, manly to a T. rex, which has the unfortunate effect of making him less endearing and more 'this is my bid to be a stoic action star'.  Fine, let him have a career, but this doesn't make for me a case that he's a.) a real action star and/or b.) a real actor.

Let's see him play Hamlet, and we'll talk.

There's also that military subplot and the 'mad scientist' machinations of Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong, the only actor to return from any Jurassic Park film, begging the question 'why didn't anyone else stop them from opening the damn park?').  Both drag the film down considerably, making it longer than it should be.

I'll say that there was at least one highlight: Jake Johnson was a delight as Lowery, the comic relief who rattled off quips while working in the control room (itself a subject of arbitrary logic...THERE they could see the Indominus was still in its holding cage, but at the cage itself, it registered as NOT being there.  How convenient).  I also like the Michael Crichton nod (you can see a book with his picture on it on Lowery's work area). 

I like dinosaurs.  Dinosaurs are cool.  However, for what it's worth, I can't get excited over those in Jurassic World.  I still prefer the original.  There was a real WOW factor there.  Oddly, I thought those in Jurassic World were more predictable than the ones in Jurassic Park, rather than the other way round.

Fidel and I were surprised that people applauded at the end of Jurassic World, since both of us thought it was not a particularly good film.  We're big on logic, even in a popcorn film (see, Galaxy, Guardians of).  I guess people are easily pleased nowadays, just like the guests at the Jurassic World, who need "Bigger, Faster, More Teeth" and aren't as thrilled with dinosaurs walking among them as they were twenty-two years ago.  Fidel made an interesting point.  He didn't buy the premise that people would become blasé about dinosaurs.  He figured people would still be excited to see dinosaurs, period, and wouldn't be demanding different, more brutal types.

I think the wild success and acclaim Jurassic World has had proves him wrong, and the impending sequel (seriously, how stupid can people be to go BACK into that damn looney bin) puts the coda on it all.  "These people, they never learn", a character says.  True dat, true dat.


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