Film Review: Jurassic World - Brian Overland

Film Review: Jurassic World

15 June 2015, Comments: 3

XXX JURASSIC WORLD MOV JY 0473 .JPG A ENT“Your boyfriend is bad-ass,” says one of the kids in the latest Jurassic Park installment, Jurassic World. The kid is referring to Chris Pratt as a kind of Dinosaur Whisperer. He is bad-ass, too, fitting like a glove into a role that asks little in terms of dramatic range but a great deal in terms of suspension of disbelief. Can he convince a pack of giant lizards with mouths full of razor-sharp teeth that he… a puny, fleshy primate with a few pitiful molars… that he’s the Alpha? Somehow he does, and it should do wonders for Pratt’s career, already riding high thanks to last year's Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie.

Jurassic World is little like Plan 9 From Outer Space: To quote Jerry Seinfeld’s funny quip, This is the one that finally worked! Only it doesn’t, of course. Things inevitably have to go bad… very bad. You can make sneering remarks about sequels, but the producers of the film will be laughing all the way to their mansions in Hawaii.

Jurassic Park (1993) was the classic: it was about a living-dinosaur theme park getting ready to open. But bumbling computer hacker Wayne Knight (“Hello… Newman!”) caused the security system to go down, enabling the Tyrannosaurus Rex to get out of its pen and eat everyone in sight.

jurassic 2From there on it was downhill, because no one was going to open the park right after the first disaster. Jurassic Park II: The Lost World was about the importance of leaving dinosaurs alone on their own island, and Jurassic Park III was about rescuing a lone teenager on a parasail who’d accidentally landed on this same island. The dream of re-opening the park to crowds of paying visitors was by then long gone.

But—more than two decades after the first film—the renamed Jurassic World finally opens for business! Much of the first half of the film is an amusing parody of theme parks. A petting zoo with baby dinosaurs! Realistic holograms! An “aviary” filled with pterodactyls who’d make Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds seem like a picnic if they ever got out (which of course in time they will). And everywhere you look, merchandise, merchandise, merchandise, which makes Jurassic World the perfect movie for product placements. Seven-dollar soda? Sure! Just make sure our cast members are seen having a Coke and a smile before they set out to reign in the dinos.

If there’s a flaw here, it’s how long it takes to actually see any dinosaurs. When John William’s familiar theme music swells for the first time, we see not an overgrown lizard but the grounds of the park. But hey, it’s shot on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and this setting is really beautiful. I mean, it really is. The deft hand of Stephen Spielberg, who directed the first two films, is sorely missed here, but even with relative newcomer Colin Trevorrow directing, the CGI looks better than ever.

jurassic 3It seems all the old problems with the park have been fixed, until the scientists (notably B.D. Wong, returning from the first film) decide they need to engineer a super-dinosaur who’s never existed before, to keep attendance up. You don’t need to be a psychic to predict how well that's going to work out.

Despite how great the film looks, it’s bogged down by a number of movie clichés, with which we all should be familiar with by now:

1) At every turn, in every way, everyone in the movie does the stupidest thing possible under the circumstances. Hey, what would a horror movie be without kids going into the very place they’re suppose to stay out of? That certainly extends to the two kids in this film (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson), who aren’t even likable. You almost cheer for the dinos to chow down on them. But the stupidity doesn't end there. Everyone, when in trouble, goes out into an open field and runs in a straight line.

2) Every time someone says “I think we’re safe now,” you know a dinosaur attack is seconds away. This gets to be so predictable you can set a watch by it. But hey, why spoil a good cliché?

jurassic 43) A woman in high heels can outrun a super-fast, genetically engineered dinosaur… as long as she’s carrying a flare. This brings us to Bryce Dallas Howard, who is pleasant enough as a high-ranking park director who wears fashionable clothing even when in danger.  At first she’s a strong woman, in charge of the park, but ultimately she becomes another woman-in-danger in need of rescue. Fortunately, at her side is Chris Pratt, who as her nephews say, is bad-ass.

4) If anyone from the military is remotely involved, you know something very bad is going down. I’m not sure this always wrong, although don’t get mad at me, because I can always say "I support the troops" just like everyone else.

5) If you build it, they will come. Let’s face it. No matter how many tourists get eaten by the exhibits in this film, the millions made at the box office are going to force at least one more sequel. And on some level it makes sense. Given enough time, people will rebuild the Titanic and reconstruct the World Trade Center. In the case of the Titanic, it wasn’t a matter of building another ship but of tightening safety regulations. But given some time, people start to feel safe again, and cruise-ship captains start to do crazy things like run their ships aground. Then everyone forgets how bad the last crash was, and all the finanical regulations get repealed. Silly humans… will they ever learn? Let's hope someday we do learn from our mistakes… unless, like the dinosaurs, we're ready to face our own extinction.

Grade: B


3 responses on “Film Review: Jurassic World

  1. A nice review — here’s another one I’m going to have to see in theaters.

    I remember seeing the original publication of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in bookstores when it first came out in the very early 1990s, and then going to see it in theaters a few years later when it finally came out. The book scared the piss out of me, while the movie was more camp, but still enjoyable.

    One thing the movie versions of Michael Crichton’s various novels have never gotten right, is the feel of Michael Crichton’s writing style, which makes his titles so appealing. Crichton’s sense of life is very clinical and Kubrickian, and considerably more northern European in feel — that is to say, not given primarily to histrionics. There is always a very appealing sort of schizoid quality to them that the movie versions of his books have never been able to capture, if they were even noticed or cared about by their directors. And just once, I’d love to see a Crichton movie capture that.

    I’d love to produce a screen adaptation of Crichton’s autobiography TRAVELS, which is personally my favorite of his works. I would love to really capture the Crichton sense of life for once.

  2. David Jack says:

    Okay, so I finally saw Jurassic World tonight and, although it was of course masterfully done, as I’ve said in my Twitter post tonight, it’s fairly obvious that Chris Pratt’s character is fully aware that the actor playing him is a big star now. And whether that’s the fault of the director for encouraging Pratt to do much of his acting as a series of photo-ops, or whether Pratt himself has now fallen into that psychological trap, I don’t know. But the leading man action hero pose-itude is a bit much and I’m not only not entirely convinced it’s necessary for the role itself, I’m not entirely convinced it doesn’t detract from the role’s effectiveness. Actually, I’m sure it does.

    Bryce Dallas Howard is not quite so bad about this in her role, but there is a certain stagey stiffness to her character in the very beginning that I’m not sure is the character, or Howard trying to be impressive on screen. That comment is not pure snark — I really can’t tell. But let’s just be generous and say it’s the character, because the executive stereotype does compulsively live to impress and generally has a hard time turning it off.

    Much of the rest of the cast was extremely watchable, with my personal favorites being the supporting characters played by Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Colby Boothman-Shepard, and Matty Cardarople. These actors probably have the fortune of being less well-known, but it’s also apparent that they drew their primary satisfaction from really, really nailing the character and the circumstance, and whatever fame might come their way from doing all that will mostly be a happenstance shadow cast by them really nailing the whole situation and resolving to themselves “to hell with the audience”.

    Overall, this is my favorite of the Jurassic Park films. This one feels the most Crichtonic to me, having less theatricality and more of the dry and matter-of-fact Scandinavian stoicism that always comes across in his books. Truth be told, aside from the fact that the first Jurassic Park film was finally the film version of Jurassic Park, it didn’t feel much at all to me like Crichton’s first book, so I didn’t care for it much at all. This one, however, I really do, and I think Colin Trevorrow did a great job really nailing that Crichton tone.

  3. Ronnie Chris Overland says:

    Excellent review Brian! There are those that stipulate that in order to totally involve yourself in any movie not totally based on reality, one must utilize or involve oneself in a suspension of disbelief. In other words, believe in the impossible in order to saturate yourself in the unbelievable by believing all things are possible that actually don’t make sense or much sense, thereby getting the most out of an unbelievable film. It’s the only way I know to enjoy a good supernatural film. Having seen so many over the years, it now requires a combination of sheer build up of suspense and horrible terrifying images that jump out and say “boo” to do it for me anymore but it still happens once in awhile. My first big scare was the wicked witch of the west in the Wizard of Oz “which” had me afraid to go outside for awhile or trick or treating until I graduated from College a few months later. The Exorcist also was the most frightened I ever became and to this day, I am frightened of 13 year old girls offering me free split pea soup especially if their heads spin around and they float in mid-air. But I regress. Enjoyed Jurassic World despite all the unbelievable flaws. Still entertaining and worth the price of a matinee priced ticket at least once but not more.- Ron Overland

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