June 17, 2015 by Devin
Jurassic Park is one of the cornerstones of modern cinema, the movie that defined what dinosaurs are and why they are awesome to a whole generation. Spielberg created a film that was essentially a horror film but worked as a love letter to the creatures that were scaring the audience. It was a tense balance but one that worked beautifully.
For the modern-day sequel, the director, Colin Trevorrow, and the other people who made Jurassic World knew that they could not top Spielberg’s family-friendly scarefest, so they worked on making it a different genre altogether, more focused on action set-pieces rather than tense scares. Different genres come with different expectations, and they knew they could not live up to Jurassic Park.
Instead, we have an action movie that cannot even live up to Transformers.
I know that this is an incredibly hyped up film and that a lot of people are looking forward to it, so I will start by acknowledging what the film does well. The CEO character, played by Irrfan Khan, does have a joyous energy about him that works well with this genre-switch, and the most lively character moments come from him. Vincent D’Onofrio, popularly known as Kingpin from Daredevil, gets some fun scenery-chewing moments as the token bad guy, even though exactly why he is the bad guy is often unclear.
And yes, the big climactic action scene that people will be talking about after the credits roll is legitimately awesome. It takes that feeling of playing with toy dinosaurs to the most impressive end and is the best example of the Jurassic World pitch (real dinosaurs against genetically modified dinosaur) actually working.
But honestly, you are better off watching it on YouTube after the movie’s been out. You will probably even like the characters involved more that way.
Jurassic World‘s biggest accomplishment is that it made me hate Chris Pratt. Honestly, it is like the screenwriters figured Pratt would make Owen, this incredibly annoying and high-handed character, somehow likable, and he does not. It is an impossible task with this script. His whole personality is a character who looks cool and is right, and every other character’s worth is based on how much they agree with him.
Claire, the female lead played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is a remarkably regressive stereotype of a woman. The idea that women cannot have a career and a family and that they are better off picking the latter is a prevalent sexist trope, and I was honestly surprised at how much Jurassic World stuck to this trope. It feels deliberately sexist. Claire is a… well, it is not exactly clear if she is supposed to be a business person or scientist (she wears a lab coat), but whatever she is, she lets it take over her life and cannot connect with real humans. Her biggest fault in the film is that she does not really want a family.
That, and that she does not listen to Owen. Her whole arc is going from someone who does not listen to Owen to someone who does listen to Owen. He even says at one point, “I am the alpha,” and though he is talking about his relationship with the dinosaurs at this point, this personality trait filters over into every one of his conversations with every other character.
Their relationship is the backbone of the film, and it is one of the most frustrating things about the film. It is the reason I actually did want to walk out in the middle of the film. I wanted Owen to receive a bloody death and knew that would not happen, so I literally did not care what happened for the rest of the film. Every conversation they had seemed to be a repeat on how he is right and she is wrong.
The sexist themes are, of course, not all the movie has to say. As has been made obvious by the promotional materials, on-the-nose character dialogue, and director comments, Jurassic World is more about movies than dinosaurs. It is about how we as an audience want more and more spectacle, more and more explosions and new things, instead of honest-to-goodness awe and wonder.
Which the movie makes a compelling argument for considering that it is filled with subpar spectacle and new things that make us just want to watch the original Jurassic Park instead of keeping on with this one.
The action scenes (again besides the last one) are poorly structured and narratively and visually boring. At one point, the I-Rex, the bad guy dinosaur, attacks a group of commandos attempting to capture it, and there is no logistical sense to how the scene plays out. We just see background character after background character die without really knowing why or where any of them even are in relation to the dinosaur.
Furthermore, the few times Jurassic World attempts to evoke Jurassic Park are incredibly lackluster. There is an establishing shot of the island that is clearly attempting to invoke some of that awe that the film says is so wonderful, even going so far as to including some key notes from the original score, but everything from the angle of the camera to the central focus makes the tableau as boring as possible.
The same goes for the introduction of the I-Rex. There is no tension to the scene at all. Anyone with any basic sense of movie understanding knows exactly what will happen, and more damningly, they know exactly how it will happen too.
The only really surprising things about this film is how many things obviously don’t work. Character moments that seem to be trying to be emotional or touching fall completely flat. There are callbacks to things that never happened and arcs that are left abandoned. There has to be an alternate cut out there with a lot more attention to detail for these characters, but even then, it is hard to imagine that it is much of an improvement. At no point did I ever want to see more of anyone.
Jurassic World is the hipster who goes to Starbucks to blog about how corporations are destroying America. It wants to be a film that is filled with big set pieces and fancy visuals while also talking about why these things are nothing compared to real, authentic storytelling, but outside of one scene, cannot provide any satisfying elements of either. It thinks Chris Pratt and self-awareness are enough to make up for a lack of talented craft and effective storytelling.
And, oh yeah, it is also super incredibly sexist.
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