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I told myself not to get my hopes up before going into the theater to see Jurassic World, which took in $208.8 million over the weekend, making it the biggest opening ever. I knew it was unlikely to be as fulfilling as Jurassic Park, the film I'd often fake sick to stay home from school to watch.
Alas, my heart still held hope, making a great deal of Jurassic World excruciating for me to sit through.
Jurassic World is an okay action flick, but Jurassic Park, it is not.
To be fair, the Jurassic World creators probably weren't attempting to make another Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park is a judicious thriller, slowly teasing out action and horror in a calculating manner. Jurassic World is a bombastic action flick, sensory overload in every possible way. These differences weren't an accident.
It's not this shift in genre that bugs me though. It's the awful characters, dialog and plot.
We see the spectacle that is Jurassic World through the eyes of Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nic Robinson), a kid and his teen brother. Gray, the younger brother, is overly excited about dinosaurs. Zach, 16, just wants to make kissy eyes at every girl within his vicinity. It's unclear whether the writers of Jurassic World have ever met any kids or teens, since they appear to rely on television and movie tropes to flesh out these two brothers, creating indistinct characters the viewer doesn't care about, even when you hear that their parents are having marital problems. (Remember kids, if anything will bring mommy and daddy back together, it's the kind of destruction that can only be caused by deadly dinosaurs!)
Jurassic World Global Trailer
Their aunt is Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is basically in charge of Jurassic World. The filmmakers decided to make this fact -- Claire being in charge of the most amazing place on Earth -- a negative, which is downright perplexing. Claire appears to exist to be made fun of by Chris Pratt's character... or to one day be impregnated by Chris Pratt's character. In fact, her two "Yeah!" moments are overshadowed by Pratt and her high heels. "Regressive" seems like an understatement with Claire.
Then there's Owen (Chris Pratt), our main man, who's been working hard to prove the intelligence of velociraptors by training them to be his, uh, pets. I will literally watch Chris Pratt do absolutely anything. With that said, he's essentially a loudspeaker that explains the plot to the audience with intermittent zingers that are sorta funny.
Basically, all the characters exist to scream plot at the viewer. This includes Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), who wants to use dinosaurs as military weapons to Owen's dismay. This guy spits drivel throughout the movie, embodying the evil motives of the military. How do you know Hoskins is wrong when he opens his mouth? Because Pratt's character disagrees with him.
Hoskins' interactions with Owen emphasize something about the film as a whole: Through dialog and action, the characters are only ever allowed to communicate one thing. A character trait? Fine. A plot point? Sure. An overall theme? Okay. The movie is never ambitious enough to attempt to communicate all three in a single scene, treating the audience as if they're too stupid to understand the slightest subtly or ambiguity.
I don't know about you, but I don't like to be treated like I'm stupid.
Take for example the scene in Jurassic Park where God among us Jeff Goldblum demonstrates chaos theory (while revealing his lothario ways) by sensually dropping water droplets on Laura Dern's hand. The scene doesn't only foreshadow that everything will eventually go to hell, nor does it just emphasize the theme of the movie, but it also develops some of the characters in the process. In Jurassic Park, the creators weren't afraid to juggle more than one message. In doing so, they created scenes that don't feel hollow or vapid.
Jeff Goldblum explains chaos theory to Laura Dern.
Sadly, most of Jurassic World does feels hollow and vapid.
It doesn't matter what genre you're telling a story with, be it thriller or straight-up action flick, seamlessly and simultaneously juggling plot and character development should be something the writers and directors strive for.
Ironically, two of the things the creators do try to juggle -- building suspense and exaggerated action -- end up clashing. The film tries to slowly build to the destruction of indominus rex, the big bad dinosaur of the film. There's no discipline here, not in a film that is non-stop CGI eye candy, and their attempts to build their way up to the mayhem indominus will eventually cause just makes the pacing feel consistently off.
Even some of the most basic plot points of the film fail to make their way past the audience's suspension of disbelief. Hoskins explains the militaristic virtues of weaponized dinosaurs throughout the movie, yet the idea seems consistently too stupid for any human beings to support, even villains. Evil scientists jump out of nowhere, with motivations that make zero sense. Claire explains that dinosaurs aren't really entertaining to people anymore, so they need to up the "wow factor" every single year... How the hell could dinosaurs become that boring that fast?
But ultimately, does the plot really matter? We paid to see a movie about dinosaurs destroying everything, and by the third act, the movie delivers.
Yes, though I spent much of the movie wishing my eyes would melt out of my skull and my ears would mercifully cease to work, I did eventually start to enjoy it. As the movie came to a close, it skyrocketed past the stupid territory it'd been lounging in, finally becoming so ridiculous it was good.
Essentially, the movie devolves into epic dinosaur vs dinosaur showdowns. It's a really nice reprieve from the dumb plot points and dialog that ran rampant in the first 2/3rds of the film.
Is Jurassic World as good as Jurassic Park? It doesn't come close, but hey, even Spielberg couldn't recreate the magic when he made 1997's The Lost World. Is Jurassic World a good movie in its own right? Definitely not. So what is Jurassic World? It's a watchable blockbuster -- sorta bad, sorta entertaining, and probably worth seeing at least once.
But hey, at least Jake Johnson was in it.
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