So it’s finally here! The big monster itself; the scaliest, toothiest summer blockbuster we’ve all been waiting a good twenty years for has arrived in the multiplexes and boy is it taking it’s opportunity to traumatise/thrill a new generation of movie goers . At current estimates it may well take in the biggest box office amount of any move ever made.
But cash-tills aside, does it live up to the hype?
And could anything really, given the parade of teasers, trailers, interviews that the production team have let trickle out into the public arena for the last twelve months?
In fact, the resulting movie is a mishmash of good and bad; entertaining without a shadow of a doubt, but falling into cheesiness where Jurassic Park was just plain endearing and also guilty of relying on CGI to replicate the old world charm of animatronics. (Clue: it very rarely can.)
On the plus side, the park itself is a fabulous creation and a lot of thought has clearly gone into its design, imagining exactly what visitors would want from such a place and offering them up in spades. Special props in that regard to the Mosasaurus arena by the way guys, complete with rigged up seating and fully prepared patrons already wearing their them park ponchos. It’s a thing of absolute beauty.
Big thumbs up too, for the blink and you’ll miss it appearances by old favourites Mr DNA and the spit-happy Dilophosaur (who actually helps the poor little human finger-foods this time.)- both of those were a nice touch by the filmmakers especially for the older fans watching. In fact the film’s obvious admiration for the original movie is really quite sweet, although…to be quite honest it does have a tendency to shoehorn references in a much less organic way aswell. Lowery’s t-shirt is cool AF but the kids stumbling across and fixing up Hammond’s jeep purely by accident in a park of that size? Pretty implausible (and yes that’s given the internal logic of a movie based on real dinosaur them parks.) Keeping the original T-Rex (complete with scars from first film) as a character who has an important role in the climax of the film is awesome. But changing up its evolutionary/hardwired response to its old adversaries the raptors only serves to cement any disbelief that’s starting to break through in the audience.
The echoes of those original relationships loom large over this movie too.
…Adult character whose focus on their career has left them floundering when it comes to relationships and family dynamics? Check. And as engaging as Bryce Dallas Howard is (and she actually is!), Claire’s transition from company automaton into protective Mama bear feels both trite and forced at times; the scene with the dying dinosaur where she ‘finally lets herself feel’ proving incredibly hackneyed.
How about an overweight villain whose greedy, corporate dreams manage to turn a disaster into a crisis? Check.
Parentless siblings relying on a combination of pluck and adult aid to get through the unfolding nightmare around them?
You can see where I’m going with this. Now don’t get me wrong- replicating themes and narrative/character arcs in movie sequels is pretty much standard filmmaking these days. As it should be. But the over-reliance on these things can make a sequel feel derivative if you force the audience to constantly compare the two in their head. And while Jurassic World doesn’t go that far, it does veer fairly close once or twice throughout its long running time. The use of heavy handed metaphors (like Masrani’s many attempts at trying to direct his helicopter stating ‘The key to a happy life is to accept you are never actually in control) also don’t help.
Of course, that’s not to say that the movie isn’t a blast to watch, peeps. It is. There are many moments to make you smile. Claire’s way of letting Owen know she’s ready for anything. Any scene with B D Wong. The greatly awaited Raptor-Motorbike hunt in the darkness of the forest. The kids reactions to Owen’s undeniable level of coolness. Truth be told, there is nothing even remotely boring in the film and that’s the most important feature in a summer blockbuster, right?
The problem is…the sense of threat (so important in the original movie) just isn’t as palpable as it was in a film made over two decades ago. A CGI Indominus Rex biting a weird-ass gyroscope doesn’t get the blood going like a lifesize reach-out-and-touch-it T-Rex attacking a jeep because those things were palpable. Authentic. More believable when you could see metal bending and hear it squealing. (NB Note for viewers- one of Stephen Spielberg’s greatest legacies to film-making will be his ear for sound when making his movies. Seriously, check it out in JP if you don’t believe us. It’s a damn character in itself) While the plot of Jurassic World is one exciting set-piece after another crammed with attention-drawing moments that never waver, it doesn’t feel like there’s any one key scene that’s designed to burn its way into the mind. No car in a tree. No raptor’s in the kitchen. It’s a visual buffet but none of the dishes stand out above the others.
And you can throw in all the ‘tongue-in-cheek’ product placement you want Mr Trevorrow; it won’t disguise the lack of a stand out shot.
Also, even if Owen covered himself in gasoline or brake fluid from the car he was hiding under, wouldn’t the I-Rex have been able to see him with its thermal imaging?
Anyways, that’s not important (seriously, let us know if you have the answer though…)
What we’re saying is that Jurassic World is a hotchpotch movie- a patchwork film containing both great and disappointing things narratively and visually speaking. It’s a hybrid beast. Which is ok. And kind of appropriate actually. Hell, it still outshines Jurassic Park 2 and 3 even without Ian Malcolm’s presence in there (other than his book eagle-eyed audience members). It’s just not the jaw-dropping, genre-defining masterpiece that the 1993 prequel was.
And that’s all right. You can’t win ‘em all I guess.
Points for effort though. Points for effort.