Monday, June 22, 2015

Movie Review: Jurassic World

Title: Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Time: 124 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Release Date: 12 June 2015 (USA)

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitors' interest, which backfires horribly.

It's not often that I'm inspired to write a review for a movie. Honestly, I can say that in 10 years of blogging I've never written a movie review (unless you want to count this very short, very early post about Clue). But something about Jurassic World makes me think maybe I should. I've tried summing up my feelings on this movie, but haven't been able to adequately put them together. Maybe this format will allow me to.

First, let me be clear: There's nothing *bad* or *wrong* with Jurassic World. The acting is decent, the CGI is acceptable, the story is okay.

But there's definitely nothing exceptional about it either.

Chris Pratt is fairly wooden in a role that doesn't do a whole lot of anything. There's absolutely no chemistry between himself and Bryce Dallas Howard. And I felt no connection to any of the other characters - despite the obvious effort made to make me feel something for someone. The only other character that even remotely stands out to me is Vincent D'Onofrio, in a role so unbelievable that I gave up trying to reconcile the characters or care what they were doing.

The CGI - I don't know how it can't be any better than a movie that came out nearly a quarter-century ago. Yeah, yeah, the computer and holographics shown in the resort centers was awesome. But the dinosaurs - and let's face it, that's what we're all here to see - the dinosaurs didn't look *any* better to me. You have the T-Rex, which looked almost exactly the same as it did in Jurassic Park, and the "scary" new dinosaur which wasn't even exceptionally scary. She looked like a white T-Rex, to be honest. Is that the best we can come up with?

I don't even know what to say about the story. It felt like they were trying to do too much with the story. Things that could have been expanded on were left hanging. Things that had no relevance were given prominence. First, lets start with the most obvious part: this story takes place as if Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Jurassic Park III never happened. In the chronology, it takes place 20ish years after Jurassic Park, and John Hammond's vision for the island is being carried out. There's a state of the art facility that teaches about dinosaurs, petting zoos where you can feed baby brachiosauruses, ride baby triceratops, and see a rip-off from Shamu at Sea-World where a mosasaur splashes the audience after eating a dangling shark. There are gyroscope rides, trains around the island, kayak trips down the river. All sorts of amazing attractions. And the island gets over 21,000 visitors a day! Hammond's vision is realized.

InGen realizes that in order to keep themselves relevant - in a very realistic twist considering the short attention spans of most people (Americans at least) - they need to consistently create bigger and better attractions. In order to keep one-upping themselves they've decided to splice genes and create brand-new dinosaurs. As Chris Pratt's character says: "Probably not a good idea."

There's a random side-story where someone is trying to create military super-soldiers from these vicious animals, which was cheesy, unrealistic, and honestly it's been done a million times by now. Ugh. Not everything is a good idea for the military. If that were the case people would be trying to train tigers and bears and everything else to go into battle for us. But they're not. So don't try to sell me that the military wants trained velociraptors for their armies. Or, maybe - just maybe - I could buy it, but when things start to go really wrong, don't try to sell me on the idea that they're going to keep moving forward with this insane plan.

Speaking of the 'raptors: these super intelligent creatures from the first (and second and third) movie(s), these creatures that could communicate, plan attacks and set traps have been reduced to ... scent-hounds. Really? I totally believe that they could be trained. I totally believe that they'd still be vicious. But this plot point is SO underutilized that it's laughable.

Now we come to the "big-bad." I won't spoil what this creature is created from, but I will say that with how they set her up, they - again - didn't utilize the possibilities. She used her special abilities once (each) and then they were promptly forgotten. Probably because the movie didn't have enough time to really delve into the possibilities.

Then there's the end. Oh my gosh, the ending was the most disappointing part. This super-dinosaur, defeated in the way she was. *sigh* I can't express how sad I was to see it end that way.

This all isn't to say that there isn't a few good moments, or that the movie isn't at all enjoyable. It is. But it's not all I hoped it would be, either. When I (re-)watch Jurassic Park there's still this sense of danger and tension that I can't shake. The threat feels real. The motivations of the characters feel plausible, everyone acts as their character would - and you can understand why they act/re-act the way they do. In Jurassic World I just got a bunch of random scenes tied together, which little cohesiveness, little character development, and little thrill.

Recently my family did a re-watch of the first three movies in this series. In each of them there were moments where my kids were curled up next to us because the tension was so strong. They love the movies precisely because they make them feel something. When we left the theater from seeing Jurassic World, all three of my kids (six, eight, ten) said they liked it. They talked about the dinosaurs eating people and each other. The "battle" sequences. The "funny" moments. But not once were they even concerned, worried, or startled in the movie.

In talking to another of my friends I think I made it sound like I wanted Jurassic World to be "as good" as Jurassic Park. Not entirely true. Yes, I wanted it to rock. Yes, I wanted it to blow me away with it's awesomeness. But I never went into it with the idea of comparing them. It's hard not to when leaving though. Jurassic Park had a better story, just-as-good CGI, and better characters.

In the end, it was okay. Just nothing special.

Grade: C-

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