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Jurassic World

Poor Steven Spielberg.

In the featurette for Jurassic World, essentially a remake of Jurassic Park, Spielberg, who was an Executive Producer on this film, says two things that must have been hard for him to say. The first is that World goes down “an original road, which none of the other movies dared to travel.” The second was: “There’s a lot of surprises in Jurassic World, and my confidence was so high in what our director, Colin, was going to achieve.” While neither of these statements are lies because they are based in Spielberg’s opinions, I find it hard, having seen the finished product, to understand how he could have made them with a straight face.

What “original road” did World travel? Yes, it deals with genetic engineering, but this is hardly an original idea, even in the Jurassic movies. Even the difference between the cloned dinosaurs of the first movie and the engineered larger, faster, smarter dinosaurs of this movie does not feel new in any way. The plot is basically same, as are the themes: Humans mess with nature, thinking they can control it. Nature does not do what is expected and surprises humans, creating a difficult, terrifying situation. Smart, kind humans are humble before nature and live. Stupid, mean humans are proud before nature and die. And a few other random people get eaten along the way.

The characters are not as good as the earlier movie. (I will leave out the sequels between these two movies, though one of them I found really enjoyable, The Lost World, which also contains a plot device, hidden dinosaurs, used again in this movie.) Chris Pratt and Dallas Bryce Howard are simply not as good at their profession as Sam Neill and Laura Dern, their rough equivalents from Jurassic Park, but they are also not given as much to work with. Their dialogue is clichéd and the timing in some of their scenes is atrocious. At one point, Howard and Pratt are standing there discussing her high-heeled shoes in the middle of being chased by a 50-foot high dinosaur, who has disappeared and threatens at anytime to eat them whole. Silly, bad comedy is annoying anytime, but when inserted in an inexplicable place in the story, it grates with an aggravation that is unnerving. This happens more than once in the movie. Add to Pratt and Howard (and Vincent D’Onofrio who plays one of the bad guys I mentioned above) a supporting cast, which seems only to be put in the movie for really awful “comedy” or thoroughly stereo-typed fillers, and the people don’t come off well in World. By the end you’re hoping they all get eaten, even the younger (bland) kid and his older (irritating) brother.

The set design and CG effects are stunning. There is nothing wrong with any of the dinosaurs, whether in close-up or long shot, and, if you like a movie in which the monsters are the attraction and suspension of disbelief has to be extended to the details of the plot and the likeability of the characters, then you’ll like Jurassic World just fine. The huge dinosaur that takes center stage is certainly frightening, though I was pleasantly surprised by one choice the filmmakers seem to have made, and that was to low-ball the amount of blood one sees. Yes, there are bloody hands on car windows, and there are characters we actually know to some degree, who are eaten whole by the creatures, but nothing so gripping as Robert Shaw’s inch-by-inch descent into the mouth of Jaws, still one of the most gruesome and terrifying deaths in movie history. Perhaps the reality of the actual violence in our society and its connectedness to our entertainment has finally impressed at least some movie producers to censor effects they could have used in PG-13 movies.

There are many things to say about the effect of movie violence on the psyche of the individual and of the society, but the odd, net effect of lessening its blood content was to make the movie not as frightening as it might have been. The movie’s plethora of obligatory, “close call” scenes where the humans must remain still and let the animals search for them from inches away (think Sigourney Weaver in Alien or the children in the kitchen in Jurassic Park) are more frightening than blood and guts anyway. And of course there are the surprises of animals jumping out of the bushes or water and one surprise plot point, and these are perhaps enough.

Overly predictable, poorly acted, written and directed, one would think that I would not recommend this movie in any way. But I must confess: I did still sit there in awe, asking, “How did they create a world like this or a creature like that?” and saying often enough, “Now that was really cool.”

Drew Trotter

June 17, 2015

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