JURASSIC WORLD

Jurassic World

JURASSIC WORLD  * *

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson and Vincent D’Onofrio. Screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow. Directed by Colin Trevorrow.

After all that has occurred in the previous pictures, why the hell would anybody in their right mind ever willingly set foot on this godforsaken island?

It’s a question that’s dogged the Jurassic Park franchise for three sequels now without a satisfactory answer, leading one to conclude that perhaps the original 1993 feature should have been left as a standalone venture. The only explanation, of course, is that these movies are money-printing profit machines demanded by the shareholders at Universal Pictures.

Jurassic World seems to understand its pecking order on the corporate food chain better than most films of this kind, and thus attempts to work a sardonic self-awareness regarding its baldly mercenary nature into the text. Some might call it “meta” but to me it just feels sour. Turns out self-loathing is not an attractive quality in a blockbuster entertainment.

“Nobody cares about dinosaurs anymore,” sighs Bryce Dallas Howard’s harried theme park exec.  Inexplicably, twenty years or so after the carnage of the first film, Jurassic World somehow opened for business and became a popular tourist trap complete with a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.

We’re told it entertains over 20,000 fat, fanny-packed suburbanites every day, but people are getting bored and the numbers have plateaued. Crowds can barely be bothered to look up from their phones long enough to glance at these extinct species miraculously brought to life in the twenty-first century.  It’s time to come up with something bigger, scarier and with more teeth.

The film’s snarky self-reflexive streak continues into a sequence during which a puny-looking great white shark is dangled as bait and swallowed up by a massive Mosasaurus in a Sea World-styled tank attraction. Even Jaws barely qualifies as lunchmeat these days.

So the good folks at InGen, led by B.D. Wong’s mad genetic Dr. Frankenstein (the only character returning from the first film) cooked up their own newfangled ferocious dinosaur in a lab. Now we have the Indominous Rex, or to call her by her full name:  “Verizon Wireless Presents The Indominous Rex.” It’s the biggest, scariest meanest monster ever created. What could possibly go wrong?

Lots. So we need Chris Pratt’s raptor-whisperer to help save the day. Really, this guy is so macho he trains Velociraptors and cows them into submission simply by raising his hand. Speaking in a weird Patrick Swayze drawl, the suddenly buff Pratt flexes his ample muscles and tamps down every bit of the goofball charisma that made us fall in love with him in the first place. He’s a cigar-store Indian, except cut.

He’s also right all the time, and a distasteful amount of Jurassic World is Pratt chiding Bryce Dallas Howard and putting her in her place because she’s a woman who dares to have opinions and chose to have a career instead of children. Tasked with taking care of her two young nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) who exist here only to make idiotic decisions and put themselves in constant jeopardy, Howard is mocked, ridiculed and undercut at every turn – running sheepishly away from her creations in improbably high-heels.

The movie’s sexual politics have a long way to go if they want to catch up to the era in which these dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

Jurassic World doesn’t so much win you over as it pummels you into submission, piling one big set-piece after another with no breathing room, enabled by nonsensical character decisions. (Nothing that happens here makes any fucking sense.) Director Colin Trevorrow got the gig thanks to his lame Sundance smash Safety Not Guaranteed, but you can feel the big fingers of exec producer Steven Spielberg on his shoulder during every (not bad) set-piece.

It’s a great-looking film, with colors that pop and gliding crane shots during which composer Michael Giacchino re-purposes John Williams’ original score to at first ecstatic and then ever-diminishing returns. But it’s oddly hostile to the audience, always intertextually insisting that the numbing procession of mayhem is just “what people want.” The picture has a crappy attitude about being a popcorn blockbuster – as if the fourth Jurassic Park movie could be anything but.

When it was over I just felt tired and was in a lousy mood. There’s a high level of craft going on here but also a cynical shrug. The movie delivers the goods, then acts all shitty and sore about it. Jurassic World is surly, chauvinist and unpleasant. But the dinosaur-fights look cool, which according to this movie should be more than enough for us bovine, moronic faces in the crowd.

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