Jurassic WorldThe most amazing thing about Jurassic World is that none of its manifest flaws are fatal. Somehow, the movie retains enough magic from the original to be entertaining in spite of the sub-standard dialogue, tired plot, uninspiring special effects, indifferent performances, and recurrent boneheaded decisions by pivotal characters. The success of this film will stand as either a testimony to the enduring strength of 1993’s Jurassic Park or as a contemporary milestone marking the low threshold in place for summer blockbusters.

More likely the latter.

There is not a single original idea of consequence in the entire production. On the contrary, it is striking how derivative this version is from the Spielberg movie that quite effectively adopted the gripping story Michael Crichton developed in his novel and married it seamlessly to state-of-the-art visual effects. Consciously or unconsciously, Jurassic World Park Manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) articulates perfectly the shortcomings of the current film – dinosaurs are now old news; hence, the need to up the “wow” factor. The problem is that Jurassic World is more “ow” than “wow.”

Twenty-two years after the original park tanked before opening day, Jurassic World faces the same problem as every other amusement facility: audience indifference. The technology (and plot device) that led to problems in the first trilogy of Jurassic movies proves to be the undoing here as well. New dinosaurs are being developed by mixing DNA strands. The latest creature is the Verizon Wireless Indominus Rex. The law of unintended consequences is invoked, and we are reminded that most cinematic brilliant scientists are invariably evil and short-sighted.

Jurassic World wrongly presupposes that viewers who have seen the 1993 film remember it with nostalgia rather than distant admiration. Jurassic Park was not one of the warm and fuzzy Spielberg films. Rather, the movie showed him as a master of technology in service of storytelling. He placed a stellar cast on a roller coaster ride that had virtually no wasted moments, but also invoked no strong emotion other than tension. The soundtrack for Jurassic World keeps going back to the John Williams score in hope of inducing an emotional connection, but the resultant reaction is acknowledgement rather than endearment.

Director Colin Trevorrow and his three accomplices in the story/screenplay badly want to invoke a sense of Spielberg. The opening scene is meant as a homage, but is so anachronistic that it is easily mistaken as a flashback. We are introduced to our two future children in peril, brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), who are being sent on a vacation to Dinosaur Island to visit their Aunt Claire (Howard). Auntie Claire is the Ice Princess Career Woman, who assigns one of her staff to take her nephews around the park, while she stares into a mirror and asks, “Who’s the fairest of them all?” Maybe not that bad, but the characterization early is more Disney Park character than Jurassic World administrator.

And that makes the transformation of Claire over the course of the movie from frigid bitch to über-sexpot one of the more offensive, old fashioned and ludicrous portrayals of a female lead in recent memory. Howard at the beginning is pale and shapeless with flat-ironed hair and virtually no makeup. By movie’s end, she is heaving cleavage, soft hairdo, and lip gloss, and she owes it all to the two kids who have shown her the biological imperative for all women as well as the hunky ranch hand who demonstrates the specific technique with a suggestive fist pump.

Chris Pratt plays the Dinosaur Whisperer, Owen, an ex-Navy vet who can stare down a velociraptor and, at the same time, charm the cast iron chastity belt off of his boss. Pratt basically does Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy with worse one liners and no good songs from the 70’s. He’s hunky and charming, and he really needs to find a role in the very near future that calls for him to be more than that. The alternative is endless parody.

Owen is the expert who points out that someone is going to be eaten by a dinosaur immediately prior to that individual being eaten by a dinosaur. Oh yeah, spoiler alert – dinosaur gets loose and runs amok. Unfortunately in terms of building suspense, crucial scenes toward the climax bring to mind the wonderful plastic dinosaur, Rex, from the Toy Story films with the brilliant voice work by Wallace Shawn. That is not to imply that Jurassic World does not have its share of intense moments that will overwhelm younger viewers. The pterodactyl swarm attack comes with a nightmare guarantee.

More generally, Jurassic World registers like a Godzilla movie. As such, it’s not a bad monster movie. It’s just not a great dinosaur movie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s