1. Here’s the only real question you need to ask yourself about Jurassic World: Does it bother you that such a theme park could never actually exist? I mean, obviously it could never exist: It has dinosaurs, for one thing. But more to the point, can you accept the fact that no rational human being would either build such a park or go visit it? That the mere presence of such a park would inevitably, obviously end in big dinosaurs eating everybody they see? Can you make your peace with that? I recognize that it’s difficult. It doesn’t make any sense! But even in our wonky, all-things-can-be-resolved-through-science-and-logic age, willful suspension of disbelief at the movies is not a bad thing. Maybe it’s okay to accept that in this franchise’s universe, everyone can delude themselves into believing that it won’t all end in, as Jeff Goldblum put it during a previous sequel, running and ... screaming. Are you capable of that?
2. Every single person in Jurassic World is an idiot. I mean, a profound idiot. There’s the park director who believes that creating genetically modified dinosaurs—dinosaurs made up of the scariest parts of all the other dinosaurs—is a totally reasonable way to increase a theme park’s profit margin. (That there are no liability lawyers in this universe requires more suspension of disbelief than the actual dinosaurs do.) There’s the head of the evil security firm, who believes that the next great advancement in battlefield warfare involves unleashing velociraptors. (“Imagine if we’d have had these at Tora Bora,” he says at one point. Yes! Imagine!) And then there’s, you know, everyone who goes to the park, people who know what happened at the original Jurassic Park—the events of the first film are explicitly referred to, though no one seems to remember that a T-Rex attacked San Diego in the second one—but have nonetheless decided that their idea of a fun family vacation is to head to an island in the middle of nowhere from which there is no possible escape from countless carnivorous dinosaurs. One couple even sends their two children there by themselves.
These characters, in addition to being morons, are thinly drawn and poorly conceived, from the clichéd, borderline-offensive Serious Career Woman Who Just Needs to Get Laid and Have Kids Already (Bryce Dallas Howard, who seems to have played this role several times in her career) to the Screaming Children to the War Monger Who Needs a Bigger Shirt (Vincent D’Onforio) to Our Hero, Who Is the Only One Who Truly Understands These Animals (an entirely miscast Chris Pratt; if you have Chris Pratt in your movie and don’t let him so much as smile once, you don’t deserve to have Chris Pratt in your movie). Every time a person does or says anything in Jurassic World, it will make small amounts of cranial fluid leak out of your ears.
3. And yet, you know, I still almost liked it. There isn’t much new here, but director Colin Trevorrow—whose previous film, the 2012 time-travel romance Safety Not Guaranteed, struck me as far too thin to earn him this gig—has a contagious affection for the original 1993 film, and Steven Spielberg in particular. If Super 8 was J.J. Abrams’ homage to ‘70s and early-‘80s Spielberg, consider this a love letter to ‘90s Spielberg, the pure entertainer churning out billion-dollar-grossers while still keeping that sense of winsome wonder that usually works and sometimes grates. (Like many of Spielberg’s lesser efforts, the message of the first movie came down to, “Come on, let’s try to be more like kids! Aren’t kids great?”) There are moments in Jurassic World’s first half-hour that evoke that sense of wonder, not to mention all those times Spielberg slowed everything down and just let the whole Holy shit, that’s a dinosaur thing sink in. The original film is a classic, a fact that’s clearer now than it was in ‘93. Spielberg’s control of tone and total mastery of the genre—the way he balances that wonder with the brutality of these animals—allow him to be his truest self, a director with the raw filmmaking power to make you feel however he wants, whenever he wants. Just watch this again:
Spielberg is in such total command here that he even pauses to toss in that terrific mirror joke while making your heart jump out of your chest. Trevvorow doesn’t have near that level of mastery, but he’s able to occasionally impersonate it long enough to make you remember it fondly. That’s something, anyway.
4. The plot here is such cockamamie bullshit that you’ll find yourself impatiently tapping your foot, waiting for the dinosaur attacks to start. There’s the Super Dinosaur, of course, but the real howler is the way Pratt’s character turns into some sort of dinosaur whisperer. He is able, like some sort of lion tamer, to get the raptors to do his bidding, something that comes in handy when you have a Super Dinosaur to take down. In theory, this works fine: The idea of taking the most terrifying entities from the earlier films and making them our saviors instead is a good one, and a basic tenet of sequelology. (Arnold’s the good Terminator in the second film, Darth Vader softens in the third film, and so on.) In practice, though, it leads to several unfortunate scenes of Pratt casting meaningful glances at a piece of CGI, and the CGI blinking dumbly back at him. It’s a good thing the guy’s got so much goodwill built up, or he’d be in serious danger of a “Chris Pratt Looks Intimately at Dinosaurs” parody here. There’s a cathartic kick in watching him ride a motorcycle like a badass as raptors sprint alongside him, but it only lasts a second, and the scene hasn’t been thought out at a level much deeper than, “It’ll look good on the commemorative cups.” And it does.
5. As with Spielberg’s original, Jurassic World’s critiques of rampant consumerism and heartless capitalism ring more than a little hollow from a tentpole summer brand, and it’s particularly strange here given what seems to be the film’s whole message: Don’t try so hard to sell things or people will get eaten. (The Super Dinosaur is created to mollify the theme park’s shareholders.) The action scenes don’t have the wit or inventiveness of Spielberg’s, but, you know, how could they? The movie grooves along at a steady pace; the dinosaurs look impressive; and the ending, while contrived, still has an undeniable kick. But all the humans onscreen are pointless dolts, the cobbled-together romance between Pratt and Howard is difficult to sit through, and the whole thing falls apart if you think about it for longer than it took you to read this sentence. So where do you stand? Ultimately, I don’t think the grandeur and the excitement level are quite high enough to overcome all the junk that surrounds it. But hey, what do I know? People do keep coming back to that dipshit park, after all.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.
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