Must Go Faster
Avengers 3: Blast From the Past
a kindly review of Jurassic World
by David Clemmer
I’ll explain that tertiary title in a bit. It’s a little spoilery.
I say, ‘a little spoilery’ because by 2015 most moviegoers know what to expect from a Jurassic Park movie (even if they don’t watch the standard of over-expository trailers). You know that there are going to be five things: dinosaurs behaving as expected by eating goats and being animals, the management of whatever mission the characters on behaving as expected by having secret agendas and being animals, dino-fights, chase sequences, and John Williams behaving as expected and being an animal.
I’m not sure what happened at the end of that paragraph either. It’s okay. Just buckle your seatbelt, sit back, and take in the sights. (Oh god, you’re thinking, he’s doing a thing.)
(Please stop. No.)
…to Jurassic World.
(You had to, didn’t you.)
Jurassic World is, thank Hammond, not a reboot. Some people are calling it a ‘soft reboot,’ whatever the fuck that is, but I think ‘soft reboot’ is the language of someone who has been in a bunker for eight years during the Reboot Occupation, and is finally surfacing into the light and society of a better post-occupation era. Not to get all semantic on verbiage here (except that’s totally what I’m doing), but this movie is as much of a sequel as The Lost World and That Other One were. Apparently in parallel with real time, Isla Nublar has become John Hammond’s dream at last: a fully functioning, open-to-the-public theme park and wildlife reserve. Technology and a desire not to repeat history have propelled this place to success.
This is not only the next logical step if you want to continue the franchise, but it’s pre-installed suspense and terror, and therefore a great idea. When I saw the shots in the trailer of droves of tourists walking through a concourse of gift shops [read: a haven for product placement] and watching a SeaWorldesque presentation of a Mosasaurus leaping out of the water and eating a shark, I time-traveled back to being seven years old and lying in bed at night, watching my open door for sign of velociraptors coming to eat me alive. I was terrified and excited. And these concepts are set up well in the film: you have thousands of people enjoying the exhibits, a pair of young people to follow through the attractions, and a behind-the-scenes view of how everything is kept up. The filmmakers show you exactly what safety you’re about to lose, so when you lose it later in the film, it’s very effective.
Dear Every Shitty Action Filmmaker,
This is what we like to call storytelling. Take note.
Overall, effective is what this movie has going for it. It sets you up, wows you, terrifies you, and, by the end, brings everything to a neat little close. Even The Lost World managed this, and The Lost World extolled the virtues fighting velociraptors with gymnastics.
It hurt to remember it, so I have to share my pain with you.
Where Jurassic World needed a few genetic modifications of its own was in the screenwriting department. It feels like there comes a point in every screenwriter’s life (sometimes that point is the beginning) when they forget how humans talk. There were several hackneyed and unnatural moments of dialogue throughout this movie, which at first made me question just how much I need realistic dialogue in a movie about dino-fights, but then I remembered that Jurassic Park‘s script felt plenty natural while retaining an engaging and entertaining rhythm.
Another facet that needed some tightening was the energy of an ensemble cast. Almost every character in this movie had moments of human connection—which is good as opposed to the complete absence of human connection—but there came a point where it became too much.
Nick Miller Jake Johnson’s character had to be that messy guy who hasn’t done much with his life (even though he’s an engineer at a state-of-the-art park full of dinosaurs). Cheryl Tunt Carol Tunt Kitty Sanchez Judy Greer’s character had to have trust issues with Jessica Chastain Bryce Dallas Howard’s character (and get all weird and pressurey about her having kids someday even when Claire clearly didn’t want kids and that wasn’t even part of the story). The children had to be having woes about their parents maybe getting divorced and the older kid had to be all precontemplative about cheating on his girlfriend, maybe? What was that?
Yet our two main characters, Starlord and Gwen Stacy ’07, get glanced over as ‘ex-military guy who talks to raptors and is hero because hero’ and ‘career-driven woman who’s not that involved in her family’s life and is hero because hero.’ The character development was slipshod and scattered, and though the movie was successful in making me root for them, my alternatives were the silly-named Indominus Rex and mustache-twirling Vincent D’Onofrio.
And sorry if it seems like jumping on a bandwagon here, but BDH’s character is a step backwards for feminism. Sure, when she steps up and saves Owen and sprints through the jungle in military-grade high heels, you could interpret that as strength. But the story portrays her as wrong on two points: it’s wrong to be career-driven, and it’s wrong to not want kids. Not to mention she doesn’t step up and start kicking ass until Big Man McLargehuge flexes his D and tells her to. I know we all can’t have Furiosa in our movies, but come on, Jurassic Park.
Other than being effective and having some potholes and plot holes to dodge, and the part where Ladyface needs to do as she’s told and have babies with Truckload O’Testosterone, the story is simply entertaining and fun. Fun really should be preserved like a mosquito in amber (Oh look, he did another thing, you’re thinking) in an action movie about dinosaurs, and that was a box the filmmakers checked off. Sure you might scratch your head saying, ‘Why would they design the park that way? Why would they make that decision?’ But that’s the thesis of everything Jurassic: these are extraordinarily bad ideas pushed through reasoning by obscene amounts of money by ambitious people, and the protagonists are left to deal with the consequences.
One more gripe: the memorable pieces of John Williams’ score were used really awkwardly. The majestic main theme was used to show the park, which just felt misplaced. The secondary theme was used to show a helicopter landing. And that’s it. I didn’t think a movie’s theme music could be shoehorned, but there you go: it was.
Now, here it gets a little spoilery, so skip down to the ratings if you need to.
The finale features something that is, by and large, awesome. You know, the modern denotation of awesome where you’re like, What if the T-800 teamed up with Neo to fight The Expendables on the slopes of Mt. Doom? (Pardon me while I open up Celtx and begin writing a screenplay.) The Indominus Rex, throughout the movie, is an unstoppable killing machine and uses all of its genetic roots to tear shit up. What finally outstrips her is [HERE’S THE SPOILERY BIT] the good ol’ fashioned T. Rex, the velociraptor, and Mosasuarus teaming up on the motherfucker. I heard the Avengers theme in my head when this happened.
I feel feelings about this. Feeling #1 is, Whoaaaaaaaaaaaa that’s fucking off the chain, dude! Feeling #2 is, So this is what we’ve come to in this age of movies: instead of overcoming a mighty thing by becoming mightier on one’s own, everything gets turned into a superteam. That can make sense and works really well in stories where different groups of characters overcome their differences and team up to take down the villain—as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy and, of course, The Avengers. But my suspension of disbelief started packing its bags when T. Rex and Blue the Raptor slapped five, nodded to each other, and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ (They actually did this. (No they didn’t. (But I wish they did. (No I don’t.))))
But it is pretty exciting when it happens, whether it makes sense or not. Shut up and watch dino-fights.
17/24 shoehorned nostalgia moments
3/4 velociraptors that were actually kind of adorable, no that doesn’t make me weird, my friend Alycia totally agrees with me
0.5/1 pair of really sturdy high-heels, seriously, she hiked and sprinted in those things, BDH has calves of steel