By James Hancock June 11th, 2015
I just got out of seeing ‘Jurassic World’ and after listening to a few excited fans exclaim with glee about how much they enjoyed the experience I quickly realized that this is one of those roller coaster movies that is relatively critic-proof. Some people just want to see a series of predicaments where occasionally people get eaten by dinosaurs and on that front the movie delivers. I’m glad these folks had a good time, but for my part I found the movie to be a complete mediocrity. In its attempt to recapture the magic of the original ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993) the movie only succeeds at underlining just how far this movie falls short of pulling it off. The movie feels like a bunch of hacks got together with an instruction manual on how to write a lifeless, predictable sequel and then proceeded to write a generic, by-the-numbers movie that hits just enough beats to make the experience feel like a Jurassic Park movie without ever adding one idea, concept or character that might inject new life into the franchise. Chris Pratt brings his A-game and does his best with the lackluster material he is given while Bryce Dallas Howard is so beautiful it makes me dizzy, but overall I spent the entire movie squirming in my seat wondering how the team behind it succeeded at telling a story that is so resoundingly average from any and all perspectives.
Yesterday I indulged in a little marathon where I watched all three original Jurassic Park movies in reverse order. I was not at all surprised to rediscover that ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’ (1997) and ‘Jurassic Park III’ (2001) are completely unwatchable, but what caught me off guard was how much I was enthralled by Steven Spielberg’s first entry in the franchise. I was 17 at the time of the original film’s release and like most cocky teenagers tried to pretend I was too cool to get invested in what I viewed to be a movie for kids. I still maintain that the first movie is family-friendly entertainment, but now I’ll revise that assessment by adding that the movie is a bonafide science fiction classic that makes most mainstream movies seem like total misfires by comparison. The movie feels just as fresh and original today as when it was released and I now rank it alongside my favorite Spielberg movie ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977). What people seem to forget, in particular the filmmakers behind all three sequels, is that the first Jurassic Park was not empty spectacle where the only attraction is seeing people being chased by monsters. Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, ‘Jurassic Park’ had exciting and original ideas at work. One of the best scenes in the movie consists of nothing more than Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough debating the ethical and moral implications of bringing dinosaurs back from extinction. But when it came to excitement, the movie knew how to blow our minds. The first appearance of the T-Rex remains one of the best slow-builds of dread and tension I’ve seen in a movie while the later kitchen sequence with the two velociraptors is the type of action scene that makes today’s ‘Jurassic World’ feel both technically inept and absurdly over-the-top. Bigger and faster doesn’t always mean better. The irony is that part of the plot in ‘Jurassic World’ is how genetically engineering new dinosaurs is a bad idea yet the filmmakers fail to heed their own advice by trying to wow us repeatedly with the ridiculous Indominus Rex. The only science fiction present in ‘Jurassic World’ is pulled entirely from existing tired sci-fi cliches reminding me over and over again how little director Colin Trevorrow understands what made the first film work.
The most glaring problem with ‘Jurassic World’ is the absolute hatred I felt for the majority of the cast. From the moment the brothers Gray and Zach were introduced I was rooting for them to get eaten. In a transparent attempt to recreate the appeal of brother-sister duo of Tim and Lex from the first movie, we have two generic kids, the mean-spirited older brother who seems too stupid to know how to breathe and the nerdy enthusiastic little brother who cries every time the filmmakers think the audience needs an excuse to care about the story. I can’t describe the depression I felt when I realized that I was going to be stuck with these kids for the entire movie. Unlike the characters from the first film where they form what genuinely feels like a family, one that we’re terrified we’ll see come to harm at the finale when they stand surrounded by velociraptors, ‘Jurassic World’ completely fails to replicate this dynamic. In the movie’s final scene that almost felt like a shot-for-shot remake of the first film’s finale, Colin Trevorrow almost seems to be going out of his way to prove that he can’t hang in the same company with Steven Spielberg. That said, I felt like I was the only person in the theater not having a great time. When pterodactyls get loose and descend upon the unsuspecting guests of the park, I heard audible gasps of anticipation coming from the crowd around me. So perhaps I should should shut up about ‘Jurassic World’, keep my grievances to myself and direct my energies in a positive direction like celebrating the awe-inspiring experience of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, an experience that can still be had in the theater. I could go on indefinitely talking about incredibly weak subplots starring the character played by Vincent D’Onofrio or the uninspired mayhem featured throughout the movie but anyone that is excited to see this movie is going to be undeterred by whatever they read or hear. If you enjoyed ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’ and ‘Jurassic Park III’ and can think of no greater pleasure than hearing characters yell, ‘Look out!’, ‘Get down!’, ‘Light ’em up!’, etc. for 2 hours, then don’t wait another moment and go see yet another movie that utterly fails to tell a story worthy of the power and excitement of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park’.
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