Mister Cinecal

Mister Cinecal

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Jurassic World Is A Perfect Metaphor For Itself

*spoilers abound for Jurassic World, so go ahead and wait until you've seen it*

In the end of Jurassic World, Indominus Rex; the bigger and more badass corporately mandated dinosaur hybrid is all set to tear our heroes apart, when Chris Pratt's last remaining trained Velociraptor and the old T-Rex from Jurassic Park team up and fight it. Despite all the newer models' advantages (including DNA from the predecessors it's matched up against), it is defeated by the originals. Imagine the end of that Starsky and Hutch movie only instead of the old Starsky and Hutch winking at the audience and giving Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller a new car they beat the shit out of them instead and Wilson and Stiller then get eaten by a mosasaurus. If nothing else I can give props to Jurassic World for having the climax be the best part in all its ridiculous tag-team dinosaur glory. The film even ends with a shot of ol' T-Rex scored not with any new composition but a few notes from John Williams' iconic score. On a meta level, the story that Jurassic World told me was that Jurassic Park is a pretty sweet movie and maybe I should go watch that. It is a perfect metaphor for itself.

In a very forgiving world where the events of at least the first film happened but were seemingly shrugged off by the public and the IAAPA, the park is open as the trailers say and a pair of standard Spielbergian Kids With Unhappy Parents have been sent off to it for an unforgettable family experience together before divorce separates them. One is a moody teen who stares at girls. The other one really likes counting? These  deeply layered and complicated child characters are to spend their time with Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park's Operations Manager. Claire is a woman in a movie who focuses on her job at all, which inevitably means that she focuses way too much on her job and wears heels and needs to loosen up and get to getting down with Chris Pratt asap so she can pump out a few kids of her own The Way Things Are Supposed To Be Goddamit. We are supposed to condemn her for working too hard, because that's always been the biggest problem at Jurassic Park, employees running too tight of a ship?

Claire has far more important things to be worrying about than babysitting Huey and Dewey-keeping public interest in Jurassic World sufficiently high with all-new, genetically enhanced superdinosaurs, in particular the Indominus Rex, the kind of dinosaur you draw on the wallpaper when you're six. To ensure everything goes smoothly for the unveiling of Indominus Rex, she has been asked to bring in old Navy vet/old flame/current Velociraptor trainer Chris Pratt to inspect the new beastie. Despite the blanks your mind may have filled in when you heard "Chris Pratt, Dinosaur Wrangler", unfortunately he's playing a dour non-character who mostly just squints disapprovingly at things. Thanks to that old flame status, Pratt manages an outstandingly lame attempt to charm a woman, quite the achievement in a film series that includes attempted seduction via water droplets. No sooner does he show up to inspect the Indominus Rex then things go wrong in the exact same way as Jurassic Park except more so.

Oh also, Vincent D'Onofrio is after Pratt's raptors because he sincerely believes that trained dinosaurs are more useful to the military than drones because they can't get hacked or something.

Rewatching Jurassic Park after the death of Richard Attenborough really underlined just how important he was to that film and perhaps the near or total absence of the sincere-but-hubristic John Hammond in the sequels suggest something about their comparative lack of quality. Attenborough was so good that no matter how many times you see that film and see everything go wrong, when he starts talking about how great and safe and justifiable his enterprise is, you kind of believe it. The sincerity really complimented the film and set up the disaster to come. Despite everything, he fails to convince the scientists that an island of dinosaurs is a good idea. He makes a much better case for creating a park of cloned dinosaurs than anybody does in Jurassic World  does for the creation of Indominus Rex though. Despite repeating for the first 30 minutes that new, scarier dinosaurs are needed to keep people spending the money at the park, nothing we are actually shown bears that out. Everybody seems to be having a whale of a time in Jurassic World, which is completely packed. Even the moody teen came around eventually! Evil superdinosaur aside, things in Jurassic World seem to be running a-okay. The idea that "they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should" has been replaced with 'yeah, they should, it'll be cool and totally fine. Just don't take the piss like'.

Really despite its own efforts to remind you of Jurassic Park at every opportunity, it would be unfair to judge Jurassic World on the basis of failing to live up with one of the best summer blockbusters ever made. But even on its own merits, it doesn't offer up much. The characters are bland nothingness. Chris Pratt's talents are completely wasted on Generic Action Hero #238. The Velociraptor trainer is so lacking in personality that Australian Protein Mass Sam Worthington might honestly have been well suited to a role for the first time in his career if he get the nod instead. Bryce Dallas Howard gives it a good try but can't make her character not insulting. I think I was supposed to be sad that the owner of the park died but he negligently approved the spurious "this resort needs giant lizard Jason Voorhees to sell even more tickets" plan and mistakenly believed he could fly a helicopter, so I'm glad he's dead. Once again, Vincent D'Onofrio is after Pratt's raptors because he sincerely believes that trained dinosaurs are more useful to the military than drones because they can't get hacked or something. Maybe somebody swapped the reports he was getting with episodes of Extreme Dinosaurs.

Obviously the plot is stupid but that would be forgivable if the construction of it wasn't so lazy. At one point one character asks another if they "still have those matches", even though it was never established in the first place that there were matches to still have. Lauren Lupkus and Jake Johnson sit in the control room (even after the script says they're being kicked out!), totally separate from any threat for the whole film, they are transparently present to look sad and scared when sad and scary things happen, so that we know that things are sad. And scary. The plot beats can be detected so many minutes in advance its as if dinosaurs themselves are casting the large foreshadowing. There is a complete lack of tension as every character pretty much walks into their first scene with either 'GOING TO DIE' or 'NOT GOING TO DIE' stamped too their forehead and for large stretches of the film there is actually a lot of distance between people and dinosaurs that would do them harm. The threat the film establishes is that ol' Indominus Rex is heading towards the park-goers (it can sense their large heat signature) but by the time it gets to the main park, everybody except our main, bulletproof characters has been safely evacuated. We do get one dinosaur vs park-goer mayhem scene but for the most part its our heroes either easily avoiding dinosaurs or not even being on the same part of the island as the danger. It's a hall of smoke and mirrors when what you want is a fireworks factory.

On the surface level, Jurassic World probably has enough to keep audiences entertained while they're in the theater, but the lack of any substance, memorable characters or any real sincerity means that its unlikely to endure in the public imagination. Clock it in around the Star Trek Into Darkness level as a cheap and disposable blockbuster, a Big Mac for people who've gotten hungry for spectacle since the San Andreas they had for breakfast. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Jurassic World is that its a half measure. Stupid as Indominus Rex and Pratt's Raptor Squad are, they're smoothed out, watered down versions of the original, long-gone plan for Jurassic Park 4, which involved the raptor squad as full-fledged humanoid special ops and a bad guy living in a castle named Baron Von Drax. That insanity might have at least been entertaining, unfortunately only the very end of Jurassic World offers anything other than rote theme park false thrills, excessive nostalgia and a never ending parade of product placement. But hey, at least Jurassic Park is pretty good. God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates Jurassic Park. Man creates Jurassic Park again. Man creates Jurassic Park a third time. Man waits a while, then rather than offering anything new, man creates Jurassic Park again, only this time, Vincent D'Onofrio is after Pratt's raptors because he sincerely believes that trained dinosaurs are more useful to the military than drones because they can't get hacked or something.

I think at some point, women inherit the earth?

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