Thursday, 11 June 2015

Jurassic World (2015/US)

Julien Faddoul

* (1 star)

d – Colin Trevorrow
w – Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly   (Based on the Characters Created by Michael Crichton)
ph – John Schwartzman
pd – Ed Verreaux
m – Michael Giacchino
ed – Kevin Stitt
cos – April Ferry, Daniel Orlandi

p – Patrick Crowley, Frank Marshall

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Brian Tee, Katie McGrath, Andy Buckley, Eric Edelstein

Were dinosaurs ever really that interesting? Few subjects of science are as fascinating to the public as dinosaurs. The study of dinosaurs stretches our imaginations, gives us new perspectives on time and space, and invites us to discover worlds very different from our modern Earth. So why is that they are such stodgy adversaries in movies?

Before I continue I should specify that I have never been convinced of the importance of the original Jurassic Park (1993), an inflated monster movie that, with the current tier of cultural regulators being those who were the target teenage audience for that film at the time of its release, has become grossly overrated. Other than the film’s leading-edge special effects – an inevitability of cinematic technology and one that really should not be credited to any single movie – and the occasional Spielbergian touch for effective wonder and scares, the film, on a plot, character and performance level, is fairly embarrassing. Of course, every time I bring this up with people in my age group I am harangued for my unfounded foolishness. Yeah, whatever.

One of the major problems with the 1993 film, as well as others, is that dinosaurs themselves haven’t ever been portrayed as anything other than killing machines; stock antagonists that give every excuse for characters to scream, run and hide because, well, they’re dinosaurs! And when that isn’t happening, we are subjected to the always colorful oratory on how a Velociraptor or a T-Rex would exactly do away with a life so that, you know, the audience gets it. At least dragons can breathe fire.

What makes Jurassic World, the 3rd sequel to Mr Spielberg’s film and the first in 14 years, particularly embarrassing is that the special effects haven’t really improved that much since 1993 and neither have the depth of character. So we are left to see how the filmmakers pass the venerable test of matching artistry with technique. Sadly, Jurassic World ends up collapsing into the hole of blockbuster movie tedium.

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who likes to make wisecracks with a serious face that some might find adorable, is a Navy velociraptor-trainer residing somewhat detachedly on Isla Nubar off the coast of Costa Rica. This is also the home to Jurassic World, an actual, operational version of the dinosaur theme park that the characters in the first films always found ways to screw-up.

Some of the entertainment they have there include interactive pavilions (with corporate sponsors), an aviary, monorails that zip you from a fancy hotel to a water tank, a petting area, and that place where you get to ride in gyro-sphere vehicles. The park/world is owned by visionary Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) who, of course, believes tampering with the process of evolution is a fruitful and profitable idea. The park's Operations Manager, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), is a no-nonsense administrator who has been ordered by Masrani to commission the creation of The Indominus Rex, a hybrid dinosaur that will no doubt do well to expand the park’s notoriety. She also has to deal with her two nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), whom she immediately dumps on her assistant (Katie McGrath).

Its painfully clear from the animal’s introduction that director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow intended The Indominus Rex to be symbolic of consumer and corporate overload. It is an animal designed from a series of focus groups. In fact, Jurassic World has a peculiarly sardonic tone in its first half, with Mr Trevorrow cleverly depicting the workings of the park and the reaction/behavior of the consumers to be an unmistakable parallel to the current film industry.

Of course, Indominus Rex becomes too difficult to handle and wreaks havoc on the park where once again civilians are eaten alive and once again hordes of characters run and scream and hide, presumably because of the all the, you know, dinosaurs. The film has the stink of retread emanating throughout. You have seen this movie three times already and yada, yada. The complaints never seem to change. The film has some effective moments of action, Mr Pratt, Ms Howard and Mr Khan aren’t bad (the cast as a whole is actually superior to any previous Jurassic film), but every beat is foreseeable and the fact that Mr Trevorrow makes a number of shot and situation references to the first film doesn’t help matters.

One is better off watching last year’s Godzilla (2014) at home – who incidentally is a giant Kaijū, not a dinosaur. Okay? Big difference – which handled similar material with more clarity and force. Dinosaurs are fascinating creatures that can institute an endless amount of captivating mythology. It would have been nice if Jurassic World were made with a sense of awe that comes from dealing with dinosaurs, rather than the sense of obligation that comes from dealing with a box-office sequel. Though I’m sure we can all agree that the greatest dinosaur in the history of cinema is the one from Meet the Robinsons (2007).

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