Friday June 19, 2015

Movie Review: Jurassic World (2015)


The movie is an attack on itself but itself wins. It mocks what it is even as it gives us that thing, which we love mocking but even more having. We have our dinosaur and get eaten, too.

This is what Claire (Dallas Bryce Howard), an ice-queen corporate VP who doesn’t have time for her visiting nephews, says to a group of potential investors: “Let’s face it, no one’s impressed with a dinosaur anymore. Consumers want them bigger, louder, more teeth.”

(Psst: We’re the consumers.)

And this is what the investors say: “We want to be thrilled.”

(Psst: We’re “we.”)

And this is what the evil scientist, Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), who creates the Indominus Rex—the bigger, louder, more toothsome dinosaur—says: “If I don’t innovate, someone else will.”

Jurassic WorldThis is the set-up: corporate hacks, interested in profit margins and protecting the asset (i.e., Indominus Rex), shortsightedly create the circumstances that allow disaster to happen. They’re the villains in the piece. Yet in our world they’re right. We came out in droves to see “Jurassic World”: more than $500 million worldwide opening weekend. In the movie, Claire learns her lesson and becomes a better, sweatier person, but her original frigid self actually nailed it. Bigger, louder, more teeth? Yes, please.

It’s Jurassic’s world; we just watch in it.

Everything’s amazing but nobody’s happy
Oddly, I didn’t think it was a bad movie. It has the above meta-message for people like me to chew over even as people get chewed over. It also zips. I found it more bearable than the other 2015 blockbusters: “Furious 7,” “Avengers/Ultron” and “Mad Max,” a critic’s darling which is hardly a blockbuster, domestically or worldwide. In more than a month, it’s grossed half of what “Jurassic” did opening weekend.

They do an incredible job of cloning here, too. Not the dinos in Jurassic World, or even in the plot—swiped from all of the other “Jurassic” movies—but in the kids who play the brothers, Gray and Zach. The actors are named Ty Simpkins (“Iron Man 3”) and Nick Robinson (“Kings of Summer”), but they look like a young Patrick Fugit and a young James Franco. They also cloned a Viewmaster for Gray to use in his bedroom when he’s introduced. Because kids on computers are pains in the ass but kids with Viewmasters are nostalgically sweet. We also think for a moment we might be in the 1970s. We might think we’re about to watch a Steven Spielberg movie.

So Gray is the younger one who loves dinos, Zach is the bored teen who’s girl crazy, and Zach is supposed to look after Gray while they visit Aunt Claire for the weekend at Jurassic World, a kind of Sea World for dinos. Sadly, Aunt Claire is rarely around. She’s too busy with investors, and has sloughed off the boys onto a hot British assistant, Zara (Katie McGrath), who gets eaten when things go awry. Sorry, Zara. You should’ve been warm rather than hot.

There are laugh-out loud moments, some intentional, some not. Jurassic World should be amazing, right? It’s dinosaurs. How fucking cool is that? But we’re bored with it already. We get a scene where a goat is tied to a post and the T-Rex is summoned for the tourists, safe in their plastic tubes, all of them holding smartphones aloft to record the experience; and at that moment, as we hear the T-Rex tear into the goat, Zach gets a call, and answers it in his bored voice: “Hey, mom.” I burst out laughing. It’s basically Louis CK—everything’s amazing but nobody’s happy—and we’re the spoiled idiots, the noncontributing zeroes, that this amazingness is wasted on.

The unintentional laugh-out loud moments mostly relate to Owen (Chris Pratt), a kind of raptor whisperer, but it’s hardly Pratt’s fault. He’s the best thing in the movie, even as he seems trapped within the movie. It’s his job to train the raptors, so he’s supposed to have a special rapport with them, which, in the early going, amounts to holding them at bay for a few seconds to allow a doofus employee to escape being eaten; but once the shit hits the fan, it amounts to riding a motorcycle next to them, and turning them against the Indominus Rex, which, we find out in the third act, is part raptor. By the end, there’s an understanding between man and raptor. You can see it in their eyes. You can see it in the tilt of their head. It’s like “His master’s voice.” That made me laugh out loud, too, but for not-good reasons.

Watching, I began to wish for a more “Games of Thrones” universe, where we wouldn’t be able to tell who dies. Wouldn’t it be nice to suddenly lose Claire, or Owen, or—can you imagine?—Gray? My god, the outcry from parents. But they protect these assets even as the usual suspects buy it: dullwitted hardhat fatties and pompous soldiers of fortune. The Jurassic owner and innovator, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan, Hollywood’s go-to Indian for the global market), goes down in his stupid helicopter, while Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), the evil private military contractor who salivates at the idea of trained raptors in this man’s (or his man’s) army, thinks he can talk raptors down as Owen does. Ehhh! Sorry, Charlie. Chomp.

‘We’re safe now’
A trope Hollywood needs to give up on? The sigh of relief. The line “We’re safe now.” It no longer surprises. It’s a clear indication the characters aren’t safe. “Jurassic World” uses this trope over and over again.

But the corporate hacks were right, weren’t they? It all worked. We all came out. And as I watched Gray and Zach being reunited with their sobbing parents in the makeshift hospital at the end, with the terrified and wounded all around them, I had an idea the inevitable sequel: “Jurassic World: The Class-Action Lawsuit.”

Universal, call me. 

Jurassic World gift shop

Don't exit through the gift shop: the clones of Franco, Fugit and Harrson Ford amid the souvenirs. 

Posted at 07:13 AM on Friday June 19, 2015 in category Movie Reviews - 2015  
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