Text By: Patrick Williams
Original Publication Date: June 30th, 2015
I could pretty easily write an article bemoaning that state of Hollywood with it's remakes and sequels and reboots these days, but that argument is so old hat. I'm tired of that argument. But in certain cases, you just have to look around and think that maybe that is exactly what describes the current situation at the box-office.
Jurassic World is the 4th film in the Jurassic Park franchise and in case you've been hiding under a rock, it just had the biggest opening weekend gross of all-time. Everyone (and I genuinely do not see any evidence to the contrary) loves Chris Pratt (with good reason) and I know very few people who would raise a convincing case that dinosaurs aren't cool. So the popularity of the marriage of those two things does not surprise me. However, while Chris Pratt and dinosaurs are two great things that one would certainly think go great together, the film that surrounds them, sadly, is a sham. A lot of people have been duped into thinking they saw a good film (I know it had me on the ropes a few times) but the truth is, what they really seem to be responding to is Colin Trevorrow's clever slight of hand involving our collective memories of the original Jurassic Park.
First, Trevorrow has littered his film with callbacks to the original and apparently, in a very Family Guy sort of way, the callbacks themselves are the joke. It's like a broadway revue and they're bringing all the old acts back. The visitor's center! The red Jeeps! The old T-Rex herself! All the acts you loved in the original thrown together for absolutely no reason other than, we know that you will cheer and throw your money at us when you see them. They even bring back the raptors, who are ostensibly the villains of Jurassic Park and they are literally trained to do tricks for us. It's actually kind of clever that the film takes place in a theme park, because the whole movie is basically a theme park for our brains. It does exactly what a theme park does. Pulls elements from a narrative that were exciting and shoves them in front of you with the flimsiest of context so that you will buy more expensive drinks and souvenirs. This movie is literally doing that with the events of the original Jurassic Park.
Second, the film is wildly unsure of it's own morality. The film simultaneously seems to be wanting me to cheer for the raptors and has them murdering lots of humans at the same time. I guess they technically only murder “bad” people, but the distinction between who is “good” and who is “bad” in this film seems to come down to throw away moments like when one of them shoots a dino outside of their helicopter as they fly into the island. It seems to be saying “oh he shot a dino with no remorse, he's 100% bad and you shouldn't feel bad that a raptor is murdering him now. Similarly, when Vincent D'Onofrio is murdered by a raptor a few scenes later, Chris Pratt doesn't even try to work his zookeeper magic on the raptor, he just straight up lets his get munched right in front of the kids. Then moments later he uses his magic to save himself and people he ostensibly cares about. What is the audience to make of this? If we hold him to the same standard as the other “bad” people, I'd say willfully letting someone get torn to pieces right in front of you without batting an eye, is way worse than picking off a creature who was murdering tourists earlier in the film. And of course, by the time this crazy moral transitive property has been worked out while watching, the viewer is totally out of the film.
Third, the characters in the film are all just the worst. Chris Pratt is usually lovable, but his character, Owen, just comes off as a sexist jerk. Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is the uptight female who needs to learn to loosen up so that she can finally get with Owen (their romantic history is so stupid I don't even want to get into it). Then there are Claire's nephews Zach and Gray. Zach is a creepy teenager who absolutely will not stop staring at girls, and Gray is an annoying know-it-all with really no other defining characteristics (which is a shame because I thought that Ty Simpkins, who plays him, did a good job in Iron Man 3). It's not that the actors are necessarily annoying to me, it's just that they are all written so poorly and just serve as props for us to follow into the world of dino nostalgia.
Fourth, and for me the most annoying part, is the relish the film seems to take in watching people get munched on by dinos. It's like Trevorrow saw the scene in Jurassic Park where the lawyer gets eaten off the toilet and thought that every kill should be pretty much like that. When the fat park worker gets eaten by the Indominous Rex right after it escapes, you can almost hear “womp womp waaa” playing over the look he gives Chris Pratt before he disappears into the Rex's jaws. The team of park security do the classic “something just dripped on me from above HOLY CRAP IT'S BLOOD” gag before getting demolished by the Rex. The CEO of the park almost has a Wile E. Coyote moment when his helicopter gets buzzed by angry Pterodactyls right before plummeting earthward. I was expecting him to hold up a sign that said “Here We Go Again”. The most egregious death is of a character we never even really get a chance to know, but the way her death is protracted, one would think she had been the biggest asshole of all time before she finally got her comeuppance. But no, this film just relishes in murdering people by the dozens and laughing about it. Jimmy Buffet even makes a cameo as a guy double fisting fucking margaritas while people are being murdered by flying dinos. That's how seriously it takes people getting mauled to death.
I wish that instead of just stealing iconography from the original Jurassic Park, this film had stolen some of it's thematic core or its sense of tension and release in action set pieces, or heaven forbid even some of it's clever plotting. This just feels like bad setup after bad setup for dino mayhem. It's like the Jurassic Park ride at Universal, shuttling you through those fake dinos that spray you with water before you get to the part where the fake T-Rex pops out and you fall down a giant water slide. Now get off the ride, go into our store, and buy some overpriced souvenirs you bunch of suckers.
-Patrick Williams, 2015