Reflections on “Jurassic World”

jWTen. That’s the number of times I watched the original Jurassic Park in theatres. I was, as a kid, obsessed with dinosaurs. Okay, let’s be honest, I am still super nerdy about them. That’s why I couldn’t wait to see the new Jurassic World, starring one of my favorite actors-of-the-moment: Chris Pratt. It was a fun film, a sort of typical summer blockbuster. As a whole, however, the film suffers from the same problems that the theme park within the movie does: the demand for bigger overpowering thoughtfulness in development.

22 years after the original Jurassic Park shut its doors, due to well-documented horrors, the new park is finally open. Jurassic World is bigger, better, and, presumably, more family friendly. At the time that viewers are welcomed into the new world, the park has been open for some time and the shock and awe of the formerly extinct dinosaurs has worn off. Now, operation’s manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is forced to constantly up the shock. New attractions are always in demand, every two-years in fact, and the desire is for something bigger, better, scarier, and more compelling. “People want bigger,” she tells investors, and the park has just the thing: a genetically modified dino. Bigger than the T-Rex! Meet Indominus Rex. “Think it will scare the kids,” asks Claire. “This will give the parents nightmares,” Masrani responds as the two stare out at the intimidating hybrid creature.

The problem, of course, with bigger and better for the sake of shock and awe is that it comes with little thoughtfulness about its development. The failure of the original Jurassic Park was its utter lack of humility. Both Drs. Ian Malcom and Ellie Sattler made this point plain to CEO John Hammond. Despite their best efforts, those running Jurassic World are making the same mistakes. “We had the best structural engineers in the world,” Claire tells Masrani as they inspect the Indominus Rex paddock. “So did Hammond,” he responds. Even animal-trainer, Owen (Chris Pratt) is confident that creating a dinosaur in a lab, breeding it in captivity, and isolating it from the park is not a good idea. He proves right. When the dinosaur escapes it’s a replay of familiar mayhem. There are even scenes that seem like they are pulled directly from the original film, just with new characters. The demand for bigger and better was not matched with thoughtfulness on the part of geneticists, the corporate board, and the park managers. Even Dr. Wu (BD Wong), chief geneticist from the original park, is making all kinds of new careless mistakes in this film. The park suffers from this thoughtless surrender to bigger-is-better, and so does the film as a whole.

Jurassic World is most definitely, bigger, scarier, and more intense than the original three films within the franchise. The dinosaurs are all bigger, and the cinematic action is more intense. The raptor motorcycle gang, the horrific pteranodon attack, and the awe-inspiring mosasaurus are just some of the amazing CGI of the film.But for all this blockbuster luster the film suffers from a cogent and coherent plot. Full of holes, convoluted story lines (involving a military plan to weaponize raptors), and significantly under-developed characters Jurassic World doesn’t even come close to the original film. The park’s own struggle, to keep interest in a world where the existence of dinosaurs has become old news, is the struggle of new director Colin Trevorrow. How do you make a movie about Jurassic Park after the wide-eyed wonder of the original, ground-breaking film has long-since passed. Evidently, you go bigger.

In some sense there has been a big pay-off for the team that worked on Jurassic World. The film holds the record for biggest opening weekend in cinema history. It raked in 208.8 million in the U.S. alone! Yet as a quality film it fares only better than the last of the three movies (Jurassic Park III). The movie, simply put, has no heart. I get that studios and filmmakers want to make an impact on a market flooded with big epics. They need to compete to make their investments worthwhile. Cinema suffers, however, when bigger is the primary goal in film-making. In Jurassic World we get two meaningless deaths of key characters, and a highly unsatisfactory and convenient conclusion to THE epic battle sequence of the movie. Moviegoers deserve better from the franchise that gave us the greatest blockbuster of the 90s. Story matters! Bigger is not always better, not for Jurassic Park, and not for film.

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