Sunday 21 June 2015

Review: Jurassic World

Year: 2015
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, B. D. Wong, Irrfan Khan

Synopsis is here

"You know, you're right. This truly was the best vacation ever. Now let us never speak of it again." – Marge Simpson - The Simpsons - Itchy and Scratchy Land episode.

It was funny to watch twitter bat their opinions back and forth while Jurassic World took the weekend/summer/year financially. Was the film Good or bad? Brilliant or Dumb? An extravagant thrill ride, or a muddled pile of murky gender politics and decades old nostalgia. I lean towards the negative choice to all of those preferences, and yet most of the entertainment I gained from Jurassic World was in wondering just how dubious it would become. By the time we reach a climax slavered in deus ex Machina plot devices. I felt a decision had been reached. Jurassic World had jumped the Mosasaurus, but audiences seem to be ok to see just how high the film would fly.

Observing the audience I watched it with, as well as the reactions from friends in my social feeds who don’t view everything in the same critical prism, it was clear that many didn’t care that the jokes missed more than they hit. Nor did they care that the film’s gender politics were less progressive than Jurassic Park (22 years old). When the Dino’s stomped and chomped, people felt there was something there. Even I got caught up in the thrill of it all. For a moment.

Jurassic World is stupid. Many have argued that it’s “meant” to be stupid. But I disagree. Implausibility and stupidity are not the same thing, although they can coincide. Jurassic World is implausible because it’s a movie about a dinosaur theme park. Fine. Yet unlike the franchises’ first entry, the piecemeal screenplay and mishandled gives us a lot of idiotic incident. On the surface, it’s “great” because Chris Pratt is handsome, the CGI is pretty and we remember the score. But while one doesn’t go to Jurassic World for debate of Cark Sagan proportions, I do dislike watching a film which takes me out of the world because mindlessness is considered the same as self-importance.

One thing I gleamed from rewatching the original Jurassic Park, is how characters faced trouble through the actions of others. Not only this, but how, said actions never felt dimly written. Dennis Nerdy’s selfishness causes major issues with the park first time round, but it never feels like a half assed script point. Two decades on, the writers can’t even be bothered to invest in decent cause and effect within the universe. In a place so vast and clearly dangerous, young kids can wander around in gyrospheres on their own.  I spent most of the film’s second half, brow furrowed, trying to figure out which imbecile considered the “plan” to take out the main threat to be a sound one. The sketchily drawn characters make hilarious dialogue exchanges the belay the hacking and slashing of the film’s patchwork screenplay.

“Do you still have those matches?” A character asks.

A memorable moment as the matches were never introduced in the first place. This is actually new information masquerading as something we the audience should have previously been told. In the grand scheme of things this is a small moment. However, it is the type of lapse that the film enjoys displaying.

Such weak control of the elements actually becomes amusing after a while. Sub-plots are picked up and dropped so quickly and heavily, that the films already shaky premise begins to quiver even more. Director Colin Trevorrow constantly reaches for Spielberg-like reverence, but seems to lack the understanding of how the man operates. Throwbacks to the previous films ring hollow and lack the detail that Spielberg would place to give the spectacle the layer of texture. Much like Super 8, we’re watching diluted imitation. It almost tastes the same, but it’s missing the ingredients.

Jurassic World does have a truckload of product placement to make in-jokes about, before realising who the real canny operators are, and falling into line like the owners of a franchise piece feel it should. This is something that the film labours with constantly. Much has been stated about the films infamous high heels, worn by a plucky, but hampered Bryce Dallas Howard. But I don’t think people would have been so bothered with this element if Trevorrow didn’t spend so much time emphasising them. It certainly doesn’t help that Trevorrow’s does this while killing another female character in an oddly extravagant and mean spirited way.  Then again, for a film that makes jokes about people wanting bigger thrills, it misses the chance to actually illustrate the vast scale of this theme park at such a critical point of crisis. What the film chooses to focus on and at what point often borders on the absurd.

For a film so dumb, it was still smart enough to take my money, I guess. Chris Pratt continues his meteoric rise to stardom. Managing to be watchable here, even when he’s not even close to second gear. Trevorrow also shows that as a director, he does handle set-piece spectacle better than many would have expected. Although the thrills and spills shown here, made me miss the earnestness of his debut; Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s a good thing that Jack Johnson is cast to help smooth things over somewhat. The cast as a whole, clearly show that they’re having a good time salting the scenery and having a good chew. Although let’s not make the likes of Irrfan Khan have a character that flip flops erratically next time yeah?

Not that such things bother the rest of the audience whose love of creature features/nostalgia (delete as appropriate) had Jurassic World become one of the highest grossing films of not only the year, but of all time. Something that leaves me conflicted. Happy to see more butts on seats at the local multiplex, but pained to see so many flock to something more boneheaded than a Pachycephalosaurus. For me, while it’s nice to see Raptors and T-Rex make another outing, wide eyed nostalgia can only take me so far. The moment Jurassic World finished. Marge’s quote was the first thing that came to my mind. I had to alter it slightly though: "You know, you're right. This film has truly made a lot of box office bank. Now let me never speak of it again."