“Jurassic World is a solid summer blockbuster–turn off your brain and just enjoy it.” That’s what I was told prior to my 3D dino disaster experience.
But Jurassic World isn’t a commercial disaster; it unquestionably delivers and is a bona fide box office success. Jurassic World opened to $511.8 million worldwide — the highest global bow of all time at the box office opening weekend, and this movie titan will likely reign supreme for the weeks to come. But Jurassic World is exactly what it’s criticizing; people aren’t just ‘wow-ed” by dinosaurs anymore nor do animatronics uphold the scare-factor that 1993’s Jurassic Park created. The dinosaurs have to be bigger, badder and scarier, because no one’s scared of “clever girl” velociraptor anymore.
It’s been 22 years since Jurassic Park opened in 1993, and times have certainly changed for the summer blockbuster. My expectations weren’t high going into Jurassic World, but, nevertheless, I was enthusiastic about the resurrection of one of my childhood favorites. What I got instead of a saving grace sequel (The Lost World and Jurassic Park III are both forgettable) was a half-baked, over-saturated blockbuster of manufactured entertainment. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to expect from summer blockbusters in the 21st century? All flash and little substance? The bigger the boom the higher the dollar intake? I refuse to believe that a reboot doesn’t have the potential for both commercial success and cinematic greatness, but not even Star Lord could save this one.
In the past summer blockbusters have included Jaws (the original summer blockbuster), Terminator 2: Judgment Day, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Dark Knight. And I’m supposed to lower my standards for a franchise reboot, because it’s a summer blockbuster? When did we start dumbing down our standards?
Jurassic World is a direct sequel to Jurassic Park allowing the dark Walt Disney John Hammond to have his park come to life on Isla Nublar. But while the first movie’s challenge was to get kids interested in dinosaurs again (“it just looks like a 6-foot turkey”), the new challenge of the park is to keep kids interested. That means the exhibits and animals need to be larger, louder and more violent. While park-goers demand to be entertained, the movie makes the mistake of being exactly what it’s calling out.
“In Jurassic World, a character explains to Chris Pratt the theme park’s rationale for creating a gargantuan new dinosaur: “Corporate felt genetic modification would up the ‘wow’ factor.” To which Pratt, incredulous, spits back: “They’re dinosaurs. ‘Wow’ enough.”
In two lines, Jurassic World perfectly encapsulates everything that’s gone awry with the summer blockbuster, even if the movie fails to heed its own advice. With every blockbuster that arrives in theaters, the wow factor grows ever higher — even as our emotional investment in its heroes gets lower and lower.
This dynamic is clearly at play in our current crop of action blockbusters. Earlier this year, the Avengers literally saved the world from global extinction. Last week, an almost sentient earthquake attempted to wipe most of California off the map in San Andreas. In 1993’s Jurassic Park, dinosaurs went after a small group of scientists and their grandkids; in Jurassic World, they’re hunting thousands of theme park visitors instead.
These stories are heftier, but they lack that essential human element.
In an age when blockbusters routinely cost hundreds of millions to produce, spectacle is the quickest shortcut to standing out from the pack. But in the race to be the biggest, the uniqueness of each movie has been lost.” via Travis Andrews at The Week
Jurassic World introduces a new species genetically modified by the park scientists, the Indominus rex. The Indominus rex is genetically modified with the DNA of several predatory dinosaurs as well as modern animals such as cuttlefish and tree frogs. Simon Masrani, the park’s owner, orders for velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to inspect the Indominus’ enclosure before the exhibit opens. Things go wrong, chaos ensues, people die, etc.
Unfortunately 22 years have not made scientists any wiser; in fact, it doesn’t seem like they’ve learned from their mistakes at all. “She clawed out her tracking chip”, “She’s killing for sport”, “They’re communicating”, “She’s a highly intelligent animal”. It appears that all the lessons learned from Jurassic Park fall deaf rendering the plot to become repetitive and predictable.
Spielberg’s directorial stand-in is Colin Trevorrow who’s made only one prior feature, the quirky Safety Not Guaranteed (Spielberg only signed on as a producer). But it feels like this is one titanic project that Trevorrow doesn’t have the power or experience to steer toward classic status.
“It’s not a real dinosaur,” the movie director told Entertainment Weekly. “The Indominus was meant to embody our worst tendencies. We’re surrounded by wonder and yet we want more. And we want it bigger, faster, louder, better. And in the world of the movie the animal is designed based on a series of corporate focus groups. You know, Frankenstein and Darth Vader and even Captain Hook, there are parts to them that aren’t entirely organic. Indominus sort of makes the dinosaurs feel like real animals. It’s an abomination that must be exterminated.”
When audiences first saw the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg wanted the viewer to see it from inside the cars so the audience would feel like they’re experiencing the T-Rex right there with the characters and feeling their fear. Jurassic World doesn’t possess this rare excitement, and it doesn’t make me feel like I’m experiencing my childhood relived. Most of it feels too overly-saturated with CGI or constant déjà vu with scenes that I feel like I’ve seen before. But that has a lot to do with the script, editing and direction.
FilmFad’s Jurassic Park equation of “bring people to see dinosaurs + dinosaurs are underestimated = dinosaurs kill people worked great in the original, but as we saw from two other sequels it is not enough to sustain the film or the franchise.” The movie relies too heavily on the original for both content and nostalgia, but doesn’t produce anything truly new that has the potential to impress or make me invested in the future of the franchise. Everything feels like a spoof of the original movie; there were numerous scenes that appeared to be exact copies from the original film. I appreciate the attempt to help me to reconnect with my childhood, but even the reuse of John Williams’ original score feels like a knock-off of the original. As much as I want to buy what they’re selling, I can’t.
“The reason the first movie was so groundbreaking was because the dinosaurs looked so real, but nowadays its not hard to make CGI dinosaurs, so while some of the dinosaurs might look impressive, they still look very CGI. I think the problem is that Universal (and many moviegoers) can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea that Jurassic Park was a good FILM before being a monster/dinosaur CGI extravaganza. The first Jurassic Park film is one of Spielberg’s best movies, and it’s worth noting that dinosaurs have a total of 15 minutes of screen time in the 127 minute total runtime. The whole point of the first three Jurassic Park movies (and the two books) were basically “man is a gigantic fuckup that can’t do anything right. Hammond makes dinosaurs, makes this huge park to contain them, and in the end forgets that nature is stronger and smarter and hungrier than us, and as a result humans RUN THE FUCK AWAY… we run from what we created and the end message is that nature will find a way.” via FilmFad
Perhaps my disappointment stems from having high expectations or maybe seeing a reboot like Mad Max: Fury Road set the bar too high for a summer blockbuster? Maybe if the script developed more in-depth characters that I cared about, I would have been more invested in the film. The lack of intimacy makes me wish writers had focused closer on the finer details despite the film undergoing multiple script re-writes. Maybe I wanted more science-fiction horror than a predominantly predictable action flick? I’m not sure what I expected to get.
Jurassic World is a blast both literally and figuratively. It delivers all the commonplace summer blockbuster ingredients to make one hell of a recipe, but call me crazy to not buy into this manufactured entertainment.
Never forget one of the scenes that evoked the ultimate childhood nightmare. Take note, Jurassic World: