Jurassic World (2015)

Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) in the wake of Indominus rex

The thing with Jurassic World is that you should only see it if you want to watch dinosaur fights. That’s what I came for and that’s what I got. They were awesome. It perpetuated my fantasy of one day actually attending Jurassic Park (without dying). Everything else was pretty underwhelming. However, I’m less interested in the plot of any Jurassic Park film and am more concerned with the whole concept of a dinosaur park existing.  So in that sense, my ideal version of Jurassic Park would be 99% dinosaurs and 1% humans (someone has to run the place). I’m not sure what else to add. Dinosaurs – good, humans – eh.

Jurassic World takes place 22 years after Jurassic Park. All you should need to know is that a genetically modified super-dinosaur, Indominus rex, has been let loose on the park. However, the film incorporates quite a few (in my opinion, unnecessary) storylines. We follow Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard who I have now realised is not Jessica Chastain), the operations manager of the park whose main concern is upping visitor numbers, and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a man who uses his love and respect of dinosaurs to train velociraptors. Then there is also Claire’s nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), who have been sent to the park while their parents get a secret divorce (why this was included, I don’t know, but I’ll get to that later). The film is basically about them surviving the wrath of Indominus rex, who wreaks rampage on the park, slowly but surely killing any human or dinosaur in its path.  Of course the film is peppered with unnecessary romance, a plot for dinosaurs to be used as military weapons and the unforgettable cautionary tale of what happens when science goes too far. But then there are also lots of dinosaurs. So I guess it evens out.

In terms of dinosaur content, the film gives audiences exactly what they want. We’re not oversaturated with dinosaurs, but we’re not starved either. Jurassic World does a great job of making sure that each scene with a dinosaur does blow audiences away. The wow factor remains throughout the entire film. We’re treated to a baby dinosaur petting zoo (who would have thought that baby Triceratops would be so adorable!), herds of docile Apatosaurus and a SeaWorld-like show involving the park’s resident Mosasaurus. And I can’t not talk about Owen’s four velociraptors. They are trained with clickers like dogs! (Like dogs!) Except they still are dinosaurs that could kill you on a whim, and apparently may be used as weapons of mass destruction. Adorable. Then there is the piece de resistance, the Indominus rex. Unfortunately, the more I saw of this T-rex hybrid the less impressed I was. Don’t get me wrong – a dinosaur is a dinosaur is a dinosaur. But the more the shots revealed, the scrawnier it looked. Maybe it was the cuttlefish genes in it. The animation is super realistic and the whole human interaction with the dinosaurs thankfully isn’t corny. This is why you should see Jurassic World. Do it for the dinosaurs.

I couldn’t find many shots of the dinosaurs living on the island, so here is Owen with his velociraptors.

I feel like criticising the plot of Jurassic World takes away the fun and is missing the point of the movie. But here we are. I’ll start from the top.

1. The situation at home:
Did the divorce add anything to the movie? No. In fact, Zach and Gray’s parents were only included in the story either before or after the action, so it’s not like they were used to increase our fear for the boys’ lives. Their mum (Judy Greer) calls Claire in tears during a meeting with divorce lawyers, but only because Zach has told her that Claire has been too busy to spend time with them. Not because she realised her kids might be eaten by a psychotic dinosaur. The prospective divorce didn’t really aid Zach or Gray’s character development either. It didn’t make me feel more sympathetic towards either of the boys. It didn’t highlight their brotherly bond, or even compel them confide in their aunt, who is almost a stranger to them. What do we know about the boys? Well, Zach is a teen with a girlfriend (but still looks at other girls) and he’s a pretty crap older brother. Gray is a cute kid with a voracious interest in all things science and dinosaurs. We don’t necessarily need a family drama to show that, yes, when face to face with a dinosaur, Zach will look after his little brother. And we already knew that Gray was cute because most of his lines are of him excitedly parrotting facts about DNA and dinosaurs. I don’t mind the idea of incorporating real-life family issues into the mix, it’s just that it felt like a throwaway. If it isn’t done properly and effectively, it just shouldn’t be used.

2. What’s the deal with guilt-tripping Claire?
Most of the scenes with Zach, Gray and Claire highlight Claire’s lack of involvement in their lives. Fair enough she hasn’t been the most attentive aunt, but the writing has a strange tone to it. If you didn’t know better, you would think that Claire is their estranged mother. It’s almost implied that she should ‘mother’ the boys. For pete’s sake. She runs a theme park. With dinosaurs! She wears heels for literally the entire movie! Give the woman a break!

3. The…romance
We find out early in the film that Claire and Owen once went on a date. Aside from that, their relationship isn’t touched on because they are concerned with escaping from a highly intelligent monster trying to kill literally everyone. The film doesn’t touch on their romance again until the final scene where (spoiler alert) they decide they should “stay together”.  Again, I’m not against this idea! I think it is realistic that such a crazy event would bring two people together. But as I have mentioned above, this plotline felt like obligation, not passion. I don’t know if this is even a criticism anymore because I’m happy that they didn’t flesh out this story, it just felt too weak to even bother including.

4. Owen’s conversation/argument with Claire?
One instance of terrible editing was a conversation between Owen and Claire. In one shot Owen is reassuring Claire that he will do his best to find the boys. He’s cool and calm, even for someone facing imminent dinosaur doom. In the very next shot Owen is berating Claire, telling her that he is in charge and that she has to follow his lead. Then, without a beat, Owen is in nice-guy mode again, without a trace of anger or frustration in his voice. This scene was very clearly spliced together with shots from various takes, but the editing sticks out like a sore thumb.

There are many other parts I could touch on but I’d be here all day. Instead I’m going to rave about Jake Johnson who plays a very small role in the film. Jake Johnson plays Lowery Cruthers, a worker in the control centre of the park.  He is the equivalent of the audience in this film. He wears an original Jurassic Park t-shirt and his desk is covered in dinosaur figurines. He is the comedic relief, along with Lauren Lapkus who plays his co-worker. He was well-timed and helped the movie keep its pace (when it was forced to focus on something other than the dinosaurs). He and Lapkus’ share a great moment together, which drew laughs in the midst of a dinosaur apocalypse. This is how you should use side characters that aren’t that important to the story. I felt I understood his character better than most others with an eighth of the screen time dedicated to it.

Warning: if you are a Jimmy Fallon fan, stop reading. I dislike Jimmy Fallon. I don’t find him funny, I don’t find him cute. I constantly marvel that someone like him is considered a comedian. I could write about my dislike of Jimmy Fallon for eons.  In any case, he makes a cameo in the film. To say I was disappointed when he popped up is an understatement. I could not believe that Fallon had managed to infiltrate Jurassic World – what I thought was a safespace. I was so wrong. He features in a park safety video installed on one of rides. At least resounding silence in my cinema in response to his cameo gave me a little satisfaction. But not only was it not funny, it felt disjointed. His slapstick routine seemed out of place and unnatural in the pacing of the film. It seems like the producers had to include it last minute in so that Fallon would mention the film every 5 minutes on The Tonight Show. Granted it was only a few minutes, but it was clearly pop-culture fan service. I’m glad that ride the video was played in was eventually destroyed.

Realistically, all whinging aside, yes – I think you should see Jurassic World. Unless you haven’t already. No one expects perfection from a blockbuster like Jurassic World. It’s fun! It’s meant to be. I didn’t come for a philosophical discussion about the merits of genetically modified organisms. I came for dinofights and more dinofights. That being said, I don’t think the movie should have bothered with half of its attempts to humanise the lead characters. Everyone knows that the audience cries for the dead dinosaurs but couldn’t care less about the humans. So, if you want to pretend that dinosaurs are alive and roaming an island off the coast of Costa Rica for your viewing pleasure, definitely catch the reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise. Jurassic World doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but it keeps the ball rolling. And besides, it’s not every day you watch the kings of the animal kingdom go head to head.

Jurassic World (2015): 5/10

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