Friday, June 12, 2015

Syan Vs Movies: Jurassic World

22 years after the release of Jurassic Park, we get the fourth installment in the series, Jurassic World.  Now, I will fully admit that I was never the biggest fan of the original, even as a kid I thought it was too silly and that Tim was annoying.  It had dinosaurs, though, and felt like they were just huge animals. Sure, the Tyrannosaurus Rex was a hungry killer, but he was hunting for food.  The Raptors used their pack to surprise and corner people (Clever girl!) and their intelligence to slowly adapt to their surroundings, like when they learned how to open doors.  Jurassic World chose to forgo any semblance of making a movie about the terrifying power of nature and instead made a monster movie using basic horror themes and then tries to become a kaiju tokusatsu at the end. 

It looks pretty bad, but she gets it SO much worse than you expect.
Like ridiculously over-the-top

We open the movie with a shot of an egg having a claw burst out and a sinister reptilian eye peeking out, showing that this movie’s focus is on horror movie tropes, rather than human character development.  It then shifts to Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), two brothers who are both as infuriating as Tim was in the original. Gray is precocious motormouth who wildly runs about, while Zach is an angsty teen who just wants to stare at girls and rebel against authority.  A rushed and unresolved plot of their parents’ potential divorce is introduced before they are shipped off to Jurassic World for a vacation with their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who runs the day-to-day business of the theme park and is regimented and firm in following a planned agenda.  Last we meet the two opposite ends of the military training spectrum, Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) who has a need to mention he wants to use dinosaurs in military operations every time he opens his mouth, and Owen (Chris Pratt) our hero who trains velociraptors.

Owen is the only likable character in the film, though its efforts to make Claire more sympathetic and relatable are noted.  Pratt’s performance carries the majority of the comedy, with the remainder taken up by a bit role played by Jake Johnson, and the only one which tries to keep with previous series theme of treating the dinosaurs as a force of nature. 

The teeth. Rinse and repeat.

The monster, I don’t say dinosaur for it, Indominus Rex introduces herself into every frame by slowly moving its snout into the shot and snarling. Every. Single. Time. It gets to the point where, since it is explained to be of a significant intelligence, you almost laugh at the screen and think she is doing this on purpose because it’s somehow scarier.  When this kind of shot is overused, it takes away any of the tension it is trying to elicit from the audience.  We know that Indominus Rex is genetically modified to be the biggest, craziest attraction possible for Jurassic World, but it comes off as one of Godzilla’s weak parade of enemies from the 1970s when they throw ridiculous superpowers like camouflage, heat-seeking vision, regrowing its teeth, and so on.

One of my biggest issues with the film was actually with the management and plans for the theme park itself.  For being run by a woman who is described as obsessed with itinerary, they have no security or back-up plans.  Each dangerous carnivore is held behind a single perimeter. One barricade! That thought is absolutely ludicrous to me.  A monster like the Indominus Rex, which has gotten the caretakers to say the height of its enclosure needed to be raised, should not be held by a single fencing. Prehistoric flying creatures such as the pterodactyls should not be held behind a single glass aviary.  Multiple fences reading “high voltage” are blown through with no reaction, with no explanation that the power grid has malfunctioned as in the original.  There are no redundancies in the planning for emergencies.  Could this have been an oversight caused by the designers yet again suffering from hubris?  Perhaps, but that should have been addressed.  Instead, it comes off as being a set stage for the ensuing disaster and a movie should never feel like a stage, it should engross the viewer and make them a part of that world during their visit to the theater. 

That's not ominous at all...

I came to the sad realization that Jurassic World was made with the same quality and structure as my last review, San Andreas.  Both are pretty much just mindless destruction. Both have a failed love get rekindled due to the male protagonist’s ability to save the day. Both have a group of children survive ridiculous attacks just long enough for the hero to save them.  Both even have a billionaire die in an incredibly dumb way.   The difference is that San Andreas was never aiming to be a restart of a beloved franchise. Jurassic World sought to live up to the world of the original, and end up as Godzilla fan-fiction set in a theme park.

Raptor Force: GO!

Jurassic World has beautiful visuals and great designs, but lacks any serious character development, so when people die, you don’t feel much emotion.  It was fun, and I didn't hate it, but I may just not be able to enjoy a mindless dude-bro stream of death and destruction without any thought to plot or characterization any more.  If you’re just looking to see dinosaurs kill people, you’re in for a treat, but don’t ask for much else.

Short version: Jurassic World lacks passion, misuses its theme and music direction, but delivers a lot of action and a serviceable fight inspired by the likes of the Godzilla series. If you want to kill time with some buddies, it’s fun and incredible to look at, so it's worth a matinee, but you are best off just waiting for it to hit Netflix.

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Look into other Syan Vs Movies reviews:  San AndreasTale of Princess KaguyaMad Max: Fury Road, and Ex Machina

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