aNewDomain — Over $105 million went to Universal/Comcast coffers this weekend — “Jurassic World” is on track to be the third movie of 2015 to make a billion dollars worldwide. But the blockbuster is little more than a 3-D rom-com spiked with insanely violent imagery, an aversion to the love of science that made previous Jurassic flicks so endearing, gluttonous CGI work, and a script that reads like a first draft.
Four people get writer’s blame for this story. If people can buy tickets to “50 Shades of Grey” and openly skewer the sub-par fan-fiction skill level of the author, then we can talk frankly about the lack of quality in “Jurassic World.”
A Wanting Plot (Spoilers)
Universal has marketed this movie to families and dino-freaks alike, but neither is panning out. I sat next to a young girl, probably around 8 years old. She was not happy. Nor was I. If you saw the trailer you might think you could take small children to “Jurassic World,” just like we all went to the very first in the series. But there’s no good-hearted center, represented by Sam Neill and Laura Dern, this time around.
Instead we have uber sexy Chris Pratt dressed up as Han Solo in all but one scene and a luscious-looking Bryce Dallas Howard, whose character was contrived to run in high heels once the dinosaur-dung hit the fan (for no good reason). B.D. Wong from “Law & Order” plays a low-key sinister geneticist who performs secret handshakes with a Halliburton-esque branch of the U.S. government (talk about vague) represented by the awesome Vincent D’Onofrio.
I was so happy to watch D’Onofrio work that his demise in this flick pissed me off. Not because he died but because you don’t dispatch your Big Baddie in a fleeting moment. You also don’t spend 30 minutes introducing the CEO of the mega-corp that’s curating “Jurassic World” — Mr. Masrani played by Irrfan Khan — then artlessly allude that he’s likely to die trying to fly a helicopter, and then walk that dog into death via, you guessed it, flying a helicopter.
The two boys who represent damsels in distress in “Jurassic World,” and are meant to give kids in the audience identifiable souls to follow, are forgettable. It did appear that the younger of the two boys was literally imitating Ariana Richards (the huffing and crying damsel in distress from the original “Jurassic Park”).
The CGI dinosaur residents of “Jurassic World” are far more likable than the alphabet soup cast of characters who are all so fiercely two-dimensional they would benefit from being animated instead of filmed live by talented actors.
But our immediate connection to the dinos is the precise reason the constant, out-of-control, fairly graphic violence is so disturbing. PETA needs to create a new department to handle the rampaging abuse of computerized reimagined prehistoric animal life.
Most classic Disney cartoons start with a tragic humanized animal death. Bambi’s mommy, Dumbo’s family, Nemo’s mommy. It sets high stakes for the main character and breaks your heart, leaving lots of room to be filled with joy and triumph (which those films deliver in spades). “Jurassic World” by contrast has all the soul of a hastily produced Xbox game — one blood-and-guts explosion in 3D after another.
Who Wrote This Thing?
The dialogue in “Jurassic World” sounded like your classic role-playing game, as if any of several lines would work because someone different is playing the game every time. And the expositional points were delivered like a pizza with equally lame interchange. My eyes rolled right out of my 3D glasses.
Actually, I’d like to know if the film was so devoid of visual atmosphere because of the 3D element? All of the previous Jurassic flicks crackled with texture, color, sunlight, implied temperatures, filth, bugs, rainforest mystery and mud. This movie was eyeball anemia, despite being set (again) in Costa Rica.
The legacy of Steven Spielberg’s initial effort always seemed to carry into the sequels — with direction that treated the film’s storyboards like a beautiful graphic novel, exploiting every one of the five senses with tension, fear and exhilaration. But “Jurassic World” is like watching a good movie in fast forward, just to get to the scenes you saw in the trailer.
Back to the Violence-Obsessed (Engineered?) Dinos
Continuing the detached video-game approach to story, people are thoughtlessly crushed, bitten in half, stomped on, impaled, torn to pieces, and dropped from the sky. Worst of all, the female assistant-turned-nanny who was separated from our damsel kids was viciously attacked and picked up by an escaped pterodactyl, dropped into the ocean, then scooped up and repeatedly dunked in an effort to drown her. All while her carefully CGI-created doppelganger is screaming and gasping — she’s essentially being tortured to death by a prehistoric bird.
She’s not even a main character and her death was the focus for a vastly unpleasant 30-60 seconds. It took so long to kill her that they used the mosasaurus (a massive pre-Orca type of sea mammal) to end her suffering. Even the pterodactyl screamed in pain when the end came. As much as the filmmakers cheated us on a good revenge death for the Big Bad Guy (D’Onofrio), it would be sickening to watch him die this way.
In “Jurassic World” the living plot point drvies the chaos. The Indominous Rex (a GMO killing machine dinosaur) goes on a killing spree. She (because females don’t normally kill things?) lays waste to entire herds of herbivores, “for sport.” A sweet brachiosaurus took a while to die, and Han Solo and his Princess (Howard even wore a white dress like Leia!) comforted the agonized mortally wounded dino, explaining in human English that it’s “okay, you can let go …”
This is a good family movie why?
Unlike the previous Jurassic movies, where you hear the audience laugh, ooh, ahh, roar, jump and scream in unison, “Jurassic World” did little to unite anyone in my Loews theater.
I actually cursed aloud a few times — stunned by the level of in-your-face gore — forgetting I was surrounded by kids. One or two adults laughed at the inappropriate 1980s jokey flirtation scenes between the two leads even though none of it was truly humorous. Nobody yelled at the screen in a participatory way; nobody cheered and nobody clapped.
There was nothing purposeful in watching a cute piglet chased as bait, get snared, and then eaten. Even the goat tied to a post (complete with a red flare so tourists could watch the T. Rex do its dirty work) felt unnecessary. I saw a lot of people covering their eyes during the graphic fake animal deaths.
My ears were also plugged in those situations, which included the final showdown. The last battle was staged and played out almost identically to the original film, except the T. Rex is our ally now. Somehow. But I didn’t really see it because the director and writers drove me to cover my eyes and ears during the movie’s big payoff. It had to be worse to absorb this flick unfiltered.
A Genetically Engineered World of Contradictions (More Spoilers)
Aside from all those serious issues, “Jurassic World” was simply not fun to watch because it constantly broke the rules of its own universe. The massive orca-thing that killed the kid’s babysitter and Indominous Rex in the end was able to do so by leaping high out of the water and reeling in prey from the observation deck.
So why wasn’t it grabbing mouthfuls of theme park tourists on a daily basis? Better yet, why wouldn’t the fierce predator migrate away from Costa Rica and start eating Japanese dolphin killers?
- What was the point of the pterodactyl aviary? Why have them at all if they can’t fly and be free — why breed them?
- How does a raptor choose moral sides when “communicating” with the hero (Pratt)?
- Why the hell was it so important to have Bryce Dallas Howard running full bore in super high heels when she had time to change her shoes at several points?
- Why is Chris Pratt literally dressed like Han Solo and seems to wear that outfit every day even though it’s not a uniform?
- Who cares that the parents of the two kids are headed for divorce? None of that family’s backstory had any bearing on a single note of the day’s events.
- Why were children allowed to operate the gyroscope bubble cars and how exactly were you supposed to navigate it back to the docking area when done?
That answer is easy: Doesn’t matter, it just looks cool. And during that gyroscope ride, the onboard instructional video featuring Jimmy Fallon had zero place in the story despite setting up camp for a full minute and dropping a foreshadowing line about a corrosive type of dinosaur body fluid. I waited the whole movie for someone to figure out how to use that corrosive fluid or get killed by it, but there was never a payoff.
The subplot, in which the Big Baddie worked to develop the raptors as modern military tools, was ridiculous. It’s like asking who would win in a fight: the zombie legions or alien invaders? Who is going to contain and transport this 5- foot intelligent hybrid killing dinosaur to … well, they never say where. You think ISIS can’t take out this thing with a few missiles, IEDs, and a plane? They’d just BBQ it.
“Jurassic World” was just a cascading waterfall of groans. The security staff at the park were toting little more than big taser guns and rifles with tiny bullets that were smaller than the dinos’ toenails. The control room for the park was like every cliché of the pentagon’s doomsday control room, staffed by goofballs who served as tiny ripples of comic relief and broke whatever flow the story does manage to eke out.
You can also read plenty about how the filmmakers got every bit of the science dead wrong. Making raptors double the size they would really be, ignoring recent discoveries about dinosaurs (like most are now known to have been feathered), and the fact the pterodactyls likely could never have picked up a human and taken flight — all are grievous errors.
When you step back and watch “Jurassic World” from across the room on a small screen it appears to hit all the “beats” and marks and moments of a good film. But that’s writing by committee.
It’s the Chinese food delivery of filmmaking.
You feel hungry for something good afterwards and hate yourself for devouring it. It’s empty calories. It’s fatty and sugary, but not in a good way. With a billion-dollar payout we can safely assume that we’ll be eating a lot of take-out in the years to come. Courtesy of House of Jurassic.