June 12, 2015

The audience is the real villain in Jurassic World

Rick McGinnisRebel Blogger

When Jurassic Park opened in theatres twenty-two years ago, it imagined a world where dinosaurs walked among us and then unleashed a special effects revolution to make it possible. There was a total of less than four minutes of computer-generated dinosaurs in the film – the majority of the film’s action was old-fashioned models, animatronics and guys in rubber T. Rex suits – but they sent a message to filmmakers that anything was possible from now on.

Jurassic World’s storyline begins with the premise that, having effected a technological miracle that brought dinosaurs back to life to gambol in an island-sized theme park, the viewing public has gotten bored with this mere miracle and wants more “wow” for their admission money, which forces the park’s owners to genetically engineer a bigger, meaner dinosaur. And as we all know, fooling Mother Nature has dire consequences in movies.

This premise has the interesting implication of making the audience - not the arrogant scientist or the malevolent jarhead ex-military private contractor - the real villain of the story, whose board-short-and-t-shirt-wearing, souvenir-buying and not-enough-sunscreen demands to be entertained bring on the inevitable carnage.

Which boils down to the filmmakers imagining the crowds at Universal Studios in Orlando being stalked and cut down by bloodthirsty predators, then asking us to pay to watch. If you look at it this way, it’s a film franchise based on a serious masochism in its target audience. The concept is one that the late Michael Crichton, author of the original novel that inspired Jurassic Park, might have explored with some relish.

Much as the theme park in Jurassic World is based on the ruins of the original one in Jurassic Park, the storyline of the new film echoes that of the original one, right down to the pair of kids in peril when things go very wrong. What’s different this time around is that special effects have blossomed, and we get very much more than four minutes of digital dinosaur mayhem.

Which probably explains why the characters in this revived franchise seem even more perfunctory than in 2001’s much-criticized Jurassic Park III, which was a hit but –a box office sin rarely forgiven by the studios - made less than its two predecessors. Character motivation inevitably derives from the need to put actors in situations with maximum peril in spite of logic or prudence, so you’ll end up sitting in your seat muttering to yourself “Don’t go in there,” “Stay in the car,” and “Don’t get in that helicopter.”

So yeah – the audience is basically being punished for wanting more visual bang for their buck. The more you think about it, these films are more meta than a whole festival of Spike Jonze movies.

At this point I’m forced to mention that there are a pair of romantic leads at the heart of Jurassic World, around which one presumes further sequels will be built. Chris Pratt as Owen, the former Navy SEAL-turned-Velociraptor trainer, does his usual Jack-Black-as-matinee-idol thing, while Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire is the ice queen park operations manager and object of his affections who learns to overcome her distaste for the macho Owen after a couple dozen people have been eaten.

It goes without saying that the digital dinosaurs are a marvel to watch, including the Mosasaur that the park has cast as their Shamu the Killer Whale, while the most unbelievable thing we’re asked to accept is that Howard’s character has done everything right up until the credits roll while wearing heels.


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commented 2015-06-17 20:57:04 -0400
You are too kind Rick – this one laid a big stinky egg – I left 3/4 of the way through because it was so predictable, the themes/stereo types so hackneyed – and the critters were about as scary as a cartoon because the writers had no concept of animal nature outside what they got from Disney --now don’t get me started on that disaster of miscasting Danny Collins
commented 2015-06-15 17:54:07 -0400
This is why I no longer go to movies. I’m sick and tired of the propaganda garbage at the movies, and on TV and radio. The advertising is also very low class, and insulting to our intelligence.
commented 2015-06-13 06:51:32 -0400
Rick McGinnis, I just saw Jurassic World this evening with my husband, and we basically discussed almost every point you raised in your review either in whispers during the film or immediately after on the way home. I specifically commented that those were some heels!
“Perfunctory” is the perfect description for the characters, which were flat and for the most part uninteresting. Chris Pratt’s character was at least funny, but there was virtually no background. The lost kids story is so cliché by now that they aren’t even credible, let alone sympathetic. The so-called “romance” between Dallas and Pratt’s characters is incomprehensible, despite both being fairly good actors. There is a vague and undeveloped reference to some sort of conspiracy involving InGen and the military, and Hammond’s dying wish to “spare no expense” to achieve his Dino-Disney dream, but no real character development at all. The only depth in Jurassic World I saw was the optical illusion afforded by the 3-D glasses I was wearing.
As I sat there in the theatre, I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable, guilty, and somewhat like I was being punished just for watching, especially during the herbivore petting zoo scene with toddlers riding astride saddled triceratops. Humanity is made out to be the villain, while a pack of socialized velociraptors and a T-Rex — who unbelievably work together — are cast as heroes. It’s either them, or the gigantic, aquatic mosasaur that — spoiler alert — leaps out of the water right at the end to eat the poor, innocent, genetically modified indominus rex. Maybe it’s all three. In any case, the message was clearly nature good, humanity bad.