So last night I went to see Jurassic World. To give you some info on how I came into it.... I saw the original movie in the theater when I was about 12 years old. The sheer awe of that film still resonates now when I'm 35. I didn't see the sequels (The Lost World or ....whatever Jurassic Park 3 was.) But I was intrigued to see what they did with this one. So, as people do when they want to see a movie, I went to a theater last night and parked myself in the seat for some dinosaurs. *Here be spoilers!* Straight from the opening scenes, I had a bone to pick with the story. First we've got parents who are trying to hide their divorce from their kids, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins). Not only that, they're sending said kids away for a week (during which Mom and Dad are doing the dirty work of splitting, but shhhh, don't tell the kids) to a theme park where people have been eaten in the past. And at the start of things it looks like this excursion out of the country is going to be completely unsupervised. They're totally okay with this.
Soon, we discover that they'll be chaperoned by their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the queen of Jurassic World. But she's constantly busy with her job and can't even be bothered to remember their ages, so her assistant Zara (Katie McGrath) is designated babysitter.
Sure, this is meant to show the viewer just how blase the world is about not only the idea of "de-extinctification", dinosaurs in captivity, but also the park itself. It's no more of a thing than sending your kids to Disneyland for the weekend with their aunt, then said aunt giving them a wad of cash and a couple of fast passes to have free reign over the whole fucking park.
Which is yet another colossally bad idea. Jurassic World is the equivalent of the old Monty Python gag from the Holy Grail... "that castle sank into the swamp, so we built another. And that one sank into the swamp..." This park shouldn't even exist and we, as viewers, all know that. However, it's part of the storytelling that serves B-horror/slasher movies so well: we, as viewers, watch knowing that we'd survive. We come into the film feeling that we are better than the characters by sheer dint of the fact that we wouldn't have put ourselves in their position to begin with. And we watch with glee as not only they get their comeuppance, but with our lips already forming the words, "I told you so."
The whole plot is predicated on a series of shitty decisions on the part of almost every single character. Owen (Chris Pratt) and his partner Barry (Omar Sy) are the only people in the film who don't open with some ridiculously bad idea. No, in fact, they are the ones who are showing Fisk--I mean, Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio) how incredibly fucked up his ideas for militarizing dinosaurs are (look, another bad decision! Seriously, get an umbrella, they're just falling from the sky at this point.)
While I understand and appreciate the storytelling device (such as it is) of opening with a barrage of bad ideas, I don't like that we start the story showcasing such blatant stupidity. These are the people we're supposed to root for and, in the first 10 minutes, we're given nothing but dumbass moves from each of them creating the perfect storm for an epic facepalm.
And the next 20 minutes or so don't add anything to the "smart move" counter (again, with the exception of Owen and Barry.) We see Jurassic World's owner Masrani (Irrfan Khan) being a classic trope of rich developer blind to his own hubris; Dr. Wu (BD Wong) reprising his role as gleeful scientist "just doing his job"; and are introduced to a dinosaur hyrbid with a genetic makeup that we're not allowed to know.
Before the first 30 minutes are through, you're just sitting there shaking your head sadly, telling the characters, "Sorry, you're fucked."
Once shit gets real, however, and our hybrid is loose in the park, it's non-stop action and adrenaline.
Remember the first Jurassic Park film? Between the heart-stopping chase scenes and lawyers getting eaten, there were bits of rest. Light, whimsical moments where Spielberg could showcase his optimism. These were scenes like Grant and the kids waking up to Brachiosauruses eating from their tree, or Lex getting sneezed upon by same. There were down moments where a sad Hammond and Ellie share melting ice cream. These let the viewer catch their breath.
Nope. Not with Jurassic World. Sure, there are scenes that are a little LESS intense, but the whole film goes full tilt into the gaping maw of its star, Indominus Rex.
When I left the movie, I was in an odd mindset. As I drove home, I was looking in the rearview for raptors and pterasaurs. We had a minor family emergency that I was dealing with on the phone and I was one moment of sanity away from shrieking "RUN!" to my husband. But I was in a very "survival" headspace after the flick. Something I don't think I had when I was 12 watching my peers get smooshed into the mud by a T-Rex made real.
There were a few small brush strokes in this film that I absolutely loved:
- Gray, one of the main characters, is autistic. BOOM!
- The use of the original theme in all its pomp and glory. Brilliant. Thank you.
- The use of said theme on a quiet, slow piano when Zach and Gray find the original Visitor's Center. (wow. Chilling. Haunting and perfection.)
- A raptor named Blue. (But that's a personal joy of hearing Chris Pratt use my nickname.)
- A man, seeing that there are flying dinosaurs coming at him, rescuing his margarita before running himself to safety. I salute you, sir.
- The fact that that man was Jimmy Buffet.
- SPOILER: When the raptor pack meets Indominus for the first time, and the latter chuffs and calls to them. When they're clearly communicating. That moment made my stomach squelch on the floor next to someone's popcorn.
- SPOILER: The glorious moment when Clair tells Lowery (Jake Johnson) to "Open Paddock 9"... the doors open, she cracks a road flare and there she is, in all her glory, the biggest bad ass of the first film: T-Rex. Fucking beautifully shot. Delicious moment. Thank you.
For all that I liked the film (and trust me, I did enjoy the ride), there are some things that have left me feeling off. Some things are minor annoyances (Claire's stiletto heels, come on!) while others are more substantial. SPOILER: Zara, Claire's assistant who was supposed to be babysitting Zach and Gray? Her death is possibly the worst one depicted in the whole movie. The kids watch as she is plucked from the ground by a flying dino, dropped, caught again, tossed around while screaming, dropped into water, picked up, dunked again and then she and her assailant are both gobbled up by a sea-dwelling mososaur. It was definitely the most drawn out death of a human we see in the entire movie. Unnecessary and bordering on torture porn.
We can also say that this was a 2 hour trailer for the next film.
Overall, though, I appreciated the movie for what it was: unrepentant action predicated on people making shitty decisions, great CGI and, generally, fun. While it didn't have the warm-fuzzy moments Jurassic Park did, it wasn't meant to, honestly. This film wasn't made to fill you with awe, like the first one. This was made to show you that the awe is gone, and what we're left with is a lot of teeth.