“Jurassic World”: Old School Beats New School

0Dear readers, today’s post is a long one, so take a seat. Everyone is losing their collective shit over “Jurassic World” and I’m over here thinking “…eh?” Major congrats to the film for becoming a crazy, box-office hit that smashed a bunch of records, and I was generally entertained by the film as whole. It’s the definition of a summer smash.

But would I see it again, even if someone paid for my ticket? Not really. Will I rent it on Netflix? No. Did I have issues with it? A few. Let’s jump into it.

I’ve heard some complaints that people should view this fourth film in a franchise as they did with the “Indiana Jones’” fourth film. Some are taking it seriously, others are not. In my opinion, “Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” kept the traditional Indiana Jones feel for about 85 – 90% of the movie. It was funny, with a lot of practical stunt-work, some love for the history buffs and globe-trotting (the aliens are questionable, but so was the Ark so who am I to judge these fantastical story elements?). It kept everything that made the original films so iconic.

“Jurassic World” was more 30 – 40% of an acknowledgement to the famous dinosaur franchise rather than an honest continuation of the series. Even when it shoved in all those references to the first film, it still felt a little lost. If you had renamed it “Rex: The Next Evolution” and removed the references to Jurassic Park, I probably would’ve liked it more. But slapping on the “Jurassic” family name built up all these expectations that just weren’t met.

Also, for the purposes of this post, I’m referring to the Indominus Rex as I-Rex.

AND SPOILERS AHEAD.

Issues with “Jurassic World”

Dumbass Kids

Let’s face it, kids will do a lot of dumb things in movies. But there’s typically a purpose, and it’s how they learn to adapt to the setting and story. In the original “Jurassic Park,” Lex and Tim were forgivable for being not-smart, because they were the first children to interact with dinos. Just as the audience wouldn’t know what to do when a T-Rex attacks, neither did they. Hell, even Dr. Grant wasn’t in the car to tell them what to do when T-Rex was eyeing ‘em. Therefore, their actions and reactions were exactly what scared kids would do in that situation.

In “Jurassic World,” Zach and Gray are just plain dumb as hell. If this was honestly a sequel to the original film, you would expect that kids are now much more educated about what to do when dinosaurs attack. Therefore, these two should have known better than to wander off after all that happened with the first movie. If they live in a reality where Jurassic World exists, it’s hard to believe that they would blatantly ignore the past of their own volition.

Now, if it had been a situation outside of their control that caused them to get lost, such as the gyrosphere malfunctioning, their actions would’ve been more believable. Instead, it’s chalked up to a sob story about Zach wanting to make his brother feel better, because he’s been too busy ogling the girls like a creepy child molester. Come on.

Practical Effects vs. CGI

In all the hullabaloo about the latest and greatest CGI, my favorite scene was the dying Apatosaurus and the realistic puppet they interacted with. You could tell that the actors were acting with the animatronic puppet, not acting at a fake CGI puppet. The audience has to remind themselves that it’s a puppet, while CGI shots are often obvious from the first frame.

If blending the two mediums together was the goal in this movie, it was a vain effort. I read that they claimed to use motion-capture for a lot of the scenes with the velociraptors, but I’m still not sure how I feel about motion-capture. “But Maj, they had CGI in all the other ‘Jurassic Park’ films too!” That may be, but not to this degree. Take the first “Jurassic Park” for example: it had a total of 14 minutes of CGI shots out of the entire film. Just 14! The risky thing with CGI is that it must still obey the laws of physics: we want to feel the punch and the roar! A lot of action/thriller films are brilliant and understand this perfectly; “Jurassic World”? Not so much. I will even stand and say that the character deaths in “The Lost World” felt more physical and terrifying than the CGI deaths in Jurassic World.

The sense of constant danger is also gone, replaced with panoramic shots, bright lighting, and the comfort of technology, like the outside-looking-in-view of a control booth. “But Maj, there was a control room in the first movie too!” Yes, but there were only three or four people in it, the lighting was dark and foreboding, with a false sense of security, and isolated. “Jurassic World” was horror, but it wasn’t smart horror.

Also, all the “villain” dinosaurs in each Jurassic film had an animatronic counterpart; but as far as I can remember I-Rex did not. That was a bit disappointing. I want to be left with the question, “How the hell did they film that?” and the fact that I still ask myself that when watching the original “Jurassic Park” should say something.

The Final Boss Battle was Hilarious

Alright, the return of the T-Rex was badass. I was cheering with the audience when Claire approached the paddock with a flare and was ready to lay it out. But when Blue’s Clues the Raptor joined in, I lost it. I was laughing so hard, from the raptor’s slow-mo dramatic run-to-the rescue, to the final take-down of I-Rex thanks to a hungry Mesosaurus (was I the only one thinking of the Hungry, Hungry Hippo game when that thing popped up and chomped?). I struggled so hard not to make a scene in the theatre. What a way to go…and kind of a cop-out. At this point, I can’t quite pinpoint what my issues were with this final scene. Was it the ridiculousness of the premise? The disregard for the rules of the world that was built by the franchise (this is how dinosaurs interact, etc)? Was it the lack of respect for the laws of physics? I may need more time to process it.

Redeeming Qualities of Jurassic World

Owen and Claire

Now, this movie was not a complete disaster. I genuinely loved Christ Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s characters. They had good chemistry, witty banter, and their romantic subplot wasn’t shoved in your face. For most of the film, they worked together as a dynamic duo. Claire reminded me a little of Ellie Sattler from “Jurassic Park”; just because she’s a woman (and has heels on), doesn’t mean she can’t get the job done. Also, was it just me or was Chris Pratt channeling Han Solo/Indiana Jones so hard, you could practically see the whip and the Wookie?

Regardless, I would gladly see these two actors work together again in a film. They were good choices.

Jurassic World: The Theme Park

We’ve now made four films about why dinosaurs and theme parks would not go together. But by God, I would totally be down for a dinosaur theme park, even if it consists of animatronic ones. The rides and shows that were depicted in this film look amazing. What a great concept!

I live in San Diego, CA and we have the Safari Park zoo out in the outskirts of the city. It’s a huge plot of land for conservation, but used to house more than just animals. When it used to be called the Wild Animal Park, they had this dinosaur exhibit in the early 2000s. They peppered the hillside with life-like, animatronic dinosaurs, and it blew my mind as a kid. They brought it back once or twice, but I don’t think it’s on display anymore.

If someone could take that concept and create something similar to the Jurassic World we saw in the film, I think it would be a great success. It’s all the wonderment of dinosaurs with a Stan Winston touch, without all the running and screaming.

Humor Me

I was thankful for the humor in this film, because otherwise I would’ve been miserable. Claire and Owen’s banter elicited some chuckles, but Claire, Owen, Zach, and Gray together had some golden moments (such as when Claire promises to protect them, and the boys say “No, wait we meant going with Owen.”). The man (Lowry?) and the woman in the control booth were also sorely needed and much appreciated as comic relief.

TL; DR

So, in the end, “Jurassic World” succeeds as a summer hit: it has action, it has gore, it has a great setting, and it has some humor to keep it going. But is it the greatest addition to the franchise? No, it’s not. Does it at least live up to the “Jurassic” fame? Not really. Will you enjoy it? Depends on what you like! Do you want to see dinosaurs on screen again? This movie is for you. Are you looking for a deeper conflict between creator and creation, like the first “Jurassic Park” film? Then you may want to wait until the Netflix release to view this.

I do want to pose to you a question: is it the director’s responsibility to show the audience something they haven’t seen before? Should we blame the producers for not reaching in terms of new technology or new ways to make these special effects seem realistic? Nowadays, it seems like only disaster movies, James Cameron, and Marvel films are taking risks when it comes to new ways to visualize a film. Or sometimes there’s George Miller and a little film called “Mad Max: Fury Road” that shows how old-school practical effects can still pack one hell of a punch.

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