“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power you’re using here: it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done, and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now your selling it, you want to sell it! […] Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
- Dr. Ian Malcolm
Let us cut to the chase; this will be an in depth analysis of Jurassic World, which means it will be a very lengthy read, and I will be spoiling the entire film. For those who have not seen it yet, I suggest you stay away unless you do not mind spoilers.
To put it simply: I am a Jurassic Park fanatic. I hold the film in such high regard that I have memorized full dialogue exchanges; I can hum almost every track on the soundtrack listing, I can recall the number of flares in the jeeps, and I have watched the behind-the-scenes featurettes more times than I can remember. I have read the book three or four times, and while I enjoyed it, I think the film is superior in a lot of ways. While most critics dismiss The Lost World as a substandard sequel, I am one of the few people who stand behind it, but acknowledge its faults (i.e. the gymnastics scene). When Jurassic Park III was released, I was 11, and I saw it 13 times in theaters, despite how bad it was. I didn’t care; to see a Jurassic Park movie on the big screen was captivating enough for me to disregard the film’s imperfections. However, since I was 8 years old, I always wished for one thing: that they remake Jurassic Park but in a fully operational park. Think about it; the dinosaurs are cut loose and the lives of several thousand people are now at risk, and it’s up to a rag tag team of park employees to find a way to save them. There would be larger stakes, more action, we’ll see more of the intended park, and the film could rival that of the original. You could imagine how overjoyed I was when they released the trailer for Jurassic World. My childhood dream had become a reality… or did it?
As I walked out of the theater, I felt the cold breath of disillusionment twist down my spine. I thoroughly detested the film. It was not until my second viewing where I understood why, having observed beneath its surface level features. Just because the film incorporates a few fan shots, some nifty action sequences, brief homages, and the Jurassic Park theme does not make it a good film. A lot of the scenes did not work, and so I sought to explore why. Seeing as how it made $500+ million, I am clearly in the minority with my opinion, and this review is exactly that… my opinion. I cannot enjoy a film that exists only to achieve profit through pandering when it could be so much more, and I do not understand how people can hate Michael Bay or Brett Ratner, but find Jurassic World worthy of their appreciation. It seems like most critics and filmgoers are letting nostalgia dictate their attitudes and reservations towards the film because I guarantee if this was released as Mayhem on Dinosaur Island, unrelated to the Jurassic Park franchise, the reviews would be scathing. For me, the film is on par with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: cheap looking, tensionless, sterile and dull. What could have been an unparalleled experience was corporately beleaguered into a tiny blip on the radar. And for those who might suggest, “Well, at least it’s not as bad as Jurassic Park III,” I say this, “at least Jurassic Park III had the aviary sequence, and a good 40% of if its effects were practical.” So, let us just jump right into this.
The story starts off with two boys, Zach and Gray (played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), who are being sent away to visit their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the operations chief of Jurassic World, for a few days. Jurassic World, as one can already gather from the ads, is a fully operational theme park that holds genetically engineered dinosaurs in captivity for public viewing and interaction. Anyway, the kids’ parents are getting a divorce, and we assume their Aunt Claire is responsible for distracting them while they settle things through. However, because Aunt Claire is busy overseeing the finals stages of their new attraction, the Indominus Rex, she has her secretary keep an eye on the brothers instead. Eventually they decide to ditch her so they can explore the park by themselves. As you would expect, everything goes wrong. Indominus outsmarts her captors and escapes, which threatens the livelihood of everyone in the park, including Zach and Gray. When Indominus proves to be a formidable if not superior adversary, Vic (Vincent D’Onofrio), the InGen security ops chief, convinces raptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to use his raptors as a method of hunting down Indominus as part of some half-baked moneymaking scheme to weaponize dinosaurs for the military. Madness ensues, people get eaten, buildings are destroyed, and everyone has to struggle to survive. The story, more or less, is a rehash of Jurassic Park.
Let me start off by stating that I did not hate all the characters. I liked Simpkins, Pratt, Khan and Greer’s roles, but the writers did not give them enough depth to be as 3-dimensional as they could have been. In fact, ask yourself, who is the main character in this film? Is it the brothers? No, they can’t be because half way into the movie they become side characters. Is it Claire? Maybe, but she barely has an arc. Could it be Owen? Not really because he does not show up until a quarter of the way into the film. Who is the main character?
Zach and Gray Mitchell
Zach Mitchell is Claire’s older nephew and Gray’s older brother, who, as shown in the first scene of the movie, has a girlfriend. She tells him to text her every day and says “I love you,” while he shrugs her off and says “bye.” However, before they even get to the park, Zach starts ogling teenage girls and young women for absolutely no reason. He does not flirt with them per say; he simply stares at them. “He is a teenage boy who has hormones,” you might say. Fine, but why is so much time devoted to this? What does this have to do with the movie? Are they trying to suggest that he has commitment issues because his parents are divorcing? Why does that need to be in the film? Why is this character trait introduced if it is ultimately meaningless? Since these moments have no pay off in the end, they end up feeling horribly awkward and out of place, thus burdening the opportunity to establish the relationship he has with Gray.
There seems to be some tension and unfriendliness between Zach and Gray, probably because they are brothers, and brothers often fight, or maybe it’s because… who knows. Zach sees Gray as a pest who impedes on his creepy attempts at soliciting himself to the female populace in Jurassic World. But when Gray reveals their parents are getting a divorce, Zach snaps back at him, first denying the claim, and then later confessing that he does not care because in two years he will be moving away. Thus it is assumed he is a junior in high school. Throughout the course of evading the Indominus, Zach ‘bonds’ with Gray but it does not feel genuine because it is so half-hearted and resolved so quickly that there was ultimately no point in setting it up. It seems like the writers said, “lets get this over with because we have other subplots to resolve.” The characters are ultimately written wrong. In Jurassic Park, Grant bonds with Tim and Lex through the whole ordeal, which eventually culminates into the tender moment at the end where he is comforting them in the helicopter. It is a beautiful scene of affection. In Jurassic World, this bonding subplot climaxes when Zach diverts Gray with a story about how he saved him from a ghost in their previous house. What the heck? Zach, while he can be angry with his parents for divorcing, should not be crass with his brother, and if he is we should at least know why. See, Gray should not have been the one who reveals the divorce; it should have been Zach. He could have been mad at Gray for something he did in the past, and then uses the divorce as the salt in the wound, which only pushes the brothers further apart. Then, when the Idominus attacks them and he sees his brother scared out of his mind, he realizes that Gray is very special to him, and that he must rekindle that relationship before he loses the only family he has left. I think it would have been so much more touching, and it would have made his attempts at bonding more emotionally engaging. Maybe in a later scene, when they finally escape the Indominus, they have a bonding moment similar to the treetop scene in the first film. Gray already seems like the black sheep, and maybe Zach finally learns to appreciate him for what he is. Nevertheless, if you really stop and think about it, this divorce subplot has no business being in the movie. It’s unnecessary, and it does not affect the overall plot except as an excuse to create secondary conflict. In the end, the parents are still divorcing. What a happy ending.
Claire, as aforementioned, is the chief of operations, but inexplicably deals with client relations, marketing, genetic modification and serves as the personal secretary for Masrani. I think she’s more like the park director but… who cares. Her relationship with her sister Karen (Judy Greer), Zach and Gray’s mother, is distant and stilted, but we’re never really told why. I suppose it is implied because she puts work before family, but it is vague. Her whole “arc,” if it can be called that, is similar to Grant’s: she learns the responsibilities of having kids, and how to carefully balance work and family. I guess she also wants kids because she says, “if I have kids,” to which Karen corrects her by saying, “when you have kids.” There’s also one brief scene where she gets misty-eyed watching a mother hug her daughter on a security camera, but aside from these two instances, this subplot is never revisited. Her arc does not work because she never really learns from her mistake, which was leaving the kids alone with her secretary. When she finally reunites with them, she sticks them in the back of a truck with no seat belts and tells them to hold hands. Sure, it works for comedy, but not for character development. Even at the end, during the Indominus/T-Rex fight, she consistently endangers the kids’ lives instead of rushing them to the refugee camp, which is apparently the safest place in the park next to the control room. To be fair, she does tread the park with Owen to search for them, but that is it.
Aunt Claire lacks overall depth and motivation. We never get that one scene where she unleashes her emotions about her stilted relationship with Karen and how she failed at protecting her children. This missing scene could have been a thematic bridge between Jurassic World and Jurassic Park. Consider this: Half way into the movie, Zach and Gray stumble upon the old visitors center, which is a great scene that leads nowhere. It should have been Claire and Owen who find it, and that is when Claire, upon seeing the ruins of the old failed park, confesses how she believed in Hammond’s dream, and how she believed she could improve where he flubbed. It could have been a touching scene where themes are exchanged, character motivation is revealed, and serve as a beautiful homage to the Hammond/Sattler scene in the first film. As it stands, the scene exists only to pander and to get Zach and Gray into a Jeep. At the end, when the brothers hug their parents, Claire leaves her family to kiss Owen as they walk off into the sunrise. Arc complete. There were numerous opportunities to develop her, but they sacrificed them for comedy (ex: the waterfall scene).
He is by far my favorite character in the film, despite Pratt’s flat, phoned-in performance. He is firm, straight to the point, no nonsense, and reminds me of both the cinematic and literal incarnations of Robert Muldoon, the original Jurassic Park game warden. But, like everything in the movie, something bothered me: there is a scene where he holds the head of a dying Apatosaur after the Indominus attacks it much like the Triceratops scene from the first film. It is meant to be a poignant scene, but it does not work because aside from being a raptor whisperer, Owen never really seemed that infatuated, invested or affectionate towards any of the other dinosaurs. Even with the raptors he seems less venerated and more indifferent. Perhaps if there was a scene where he is handling a baby Stegosaurus or talking about how beautiful Apatosaurs are, it might have made the scene more stirring. Or perhaps the solution is as simple as adding one or two more scenes where he is training the raptors; at least then we can further his relationship with them. We could see him imprinting himself on a new dinosaur for all I care. The way the Apatosaur scene is presented feels emotionally manipulative and forced to make up for the lack of actual emotion and story. Also, there is a subplot where Claire and Owen start falling for one another after a previous fling. Aside from one stupid scene where he and Claire take time out during a deadly Pterosaur attack to kiss for 30 seconds, this subplot is relatively benign. Hey, idiot, you could be saving lives and shooting the Pterosaurs who are killing people by the bucket load instead of making out with your former girlfriend! You know, you’re a good marksman, which is a pretty advantageous skill to have right now! There are literally dozens of Pterosaurs attacking people right behind you; maybe you should so something about that. At least when Grant and Sattler reunited, they did not stop to kiss for 30 seconds because they knew danger still existed. They hugged and kept moving.
Vic Hoskins and InGen
Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villainous head of InGen security operations. From the trailers, Vic seemed like a generic bad guy, but since I was quite familiar with D’Onofrio’s past performances (The Cell, Men in Black, Full Metal Jacket and Chained), I was hopeful for a truly sinister human antagonist. Well, I was too hopeful it seems. He was reduced to a bumbling joke that gloats about his moneymaking scheme like an ambulance-chasing lawyer who keeps trying to convince his boss that he has found the big case that will put him back on the map. He should have been the human counterpart to the Indominus Rex: fierce, relentless and predatory. His stupid plan of weaponizing dinosaurs was, to the contrary, entertaining because of how ludicrous it was, and it seemed like a playful jab at the original concept for the fourth installment. Vic should have been imposing, physically and mentally. When he walks into the operations room, we should feel tense and apprehensive, not amused or indifferent. Maybe they were going for a Nedry-type character, but Nedry, while bumbling and comical, single handedly caused the deaths of three people including his own. Yes, Vic killed most of his team after he deployed them to neutralize the Indominus, but they were incidental deaths not direct.
Even the very presence of InGen seems farcical. When we are first introduced to InGen’s special ops, it’s punctuated by a score that sounds like it was ripped from a Tom & Jerry cartoon. What ever happened to the menacing InGen from Lost World? You might say: but Peter Ludlow from Lost World was a meek coward, whereas Vic is at least competent in his grasp of InGen operations. True, but Ludlow was a wormy businessman, sort of like Burke from Aliens. InGen, with or without Ludlow, felt authoritarian. Vic would have been perfect as the Roland Tembo of Jurassic World, but more corrupt and dishonorable. Or maybe he could be a combination of Roland Tembo and Dieter Stark, voracious and sadistic. The fact that he has so much confidence in his absurd plan makes him all the more unpredictable and dangerous. Maybe we see him mistreating the raptors instead of chewing gum and smiling on the sidelines. Then, when the raptor kills him, it would feel rewarding. When he got eaten in the film, a truly awkward display of savagery, I genuinely felt sorry for him because Vic, while unlikeable, was not really a bad guy. He seemed like somebody who was trying to do his job by thinking out of the box. He was an ordinary schlub who stole people’s sodas, and wanted to feel important and respected for his outlandish ideas.
Dr. Henry Wu
I was truly excited to see that Henry Wu was returning. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to understand more about his character, maybe his relationship with John Hammond, and why he decided to restart Jurassic Park. In the book, he plays a central character, and I was hopeful that the writers would expand on that. Nope, I was wrong again. Aside from spouting expository dialogue and warning Masrani about the dangers of cross-genetics, something he probably should have done before making the Indominus, he was yet another dull, generic, useless character. Funny considering how Trevorrow explained that he does not want to include characters from the first films if they are unimportant to the story.
At first, I thought Wu was the bad guy: he dressed in a black turtleneck, he sat in a stainless steel room and poured tea like a James Bond villain, he treated the deaths of InGen employees as a minor inconvenience, he had menacing music playing over his actions, and at the end he fled the park by helicopter like a coward as part of some pre-arranged deal with Vic. Why was Wu written like this? What was his arrangement with Vic? To salvage dinosaur DNA to sell to the military? Why would he do that? Does he need money? So, in the first film, are we to believe that he would inevitably backstab Hammond’s legacy for a giant military check? Why? I felt like the writers betrayed the character, sort of like what Rob Zombie did with Dr. Loomis in the Halloween remake: they turned him into another run-of-the-mill money-grubbing sellout. Shameful. Oh wait, I guess he had to salvage dinosaur DNA to provide a reason for the obligatory sequel that will inevitably spawn a new franchise to cash in on.
Lowery & Vivian, and Masrani
Lowery (Jake Johnson) and Vivian (Lauren Lapkus) are both lead technicians who work in the park’s control room. While Vivian is mostly a blank slate, Lowery serves as the film’s comic relief. When we are first introduced to him, he is sort of charming and funny, and comes of as a hipster type, but when the Indominus situation escalades, his funny quips seem less and less appropriate. His quirk is that he displays plastic dinosaur toys on his desk, so when Vic knocks them down in rage after the Indominus slaughters his men; we get a funny moment where Lowery is more distraught over the toys than the wellbeing of the soldiers. When Claire says, “man up,” and orders him to unlock the tyrannosaur paddock in the film’s climax, he breaks the tension by stating, “Why did you have to go and make it personal?” I’m not nitpicking, these funny moments genuinely distract from the film’s tension. Then, after several dozen people die and as the park is slowly evacuating, Lowery makes a move on Vivian, who I guess he had a crush on… even though that is never really explored beforehand. She tells him that she has a boyfriend, and the moment quickly turns awkward. People are dying; a giant monster is threatening to kill everyone on the island, InGen is powerless to stop it, and these two characters share a scene that is constructed purely for comedic purposes. Why does this need to be in here? Jurassic Park barely has any comic relief, except for Malcolm’s sarcasm and Grant’s electrocution stunt, which seems less like inapt humor and more like his clumsy effort at cheering the kids up. While Lost World’s humor derives mainly from Malcolm’s personality, he at least knows when to be funny and when to be serious. Besides, it is part of his character. The point is, humor is okay to lessen the tension, but it has to be fitting. Jurassic World did need a comic relief character, and if it did, it should have been Owen or Masrani.
Lastly, we have Masrani, the billionaire entrepreneur whom Hammond entrusted his theme park to. His character is one-note but free-spirited. There is not much to say about him because he was kind of a throwaway character, but I enjoyed him for the most part. They could have excluded him entirely from the film and it would not have made a bit of difference. I find it funny, however, that he tells Claire that he is not concerned about the financial revenue or cost of the park but more about satisfied visitors and the dinosaurs’ welfare, but a few scenes later he complains about how he sank millions into creating the Indominus Rex. Then, when his helicopter fails after the Pterosaur attack, his face is completely expressionless while he descends to his fiery death. Perhaps emoting some sense of fear would have made the scene more engaging. I do not know; I think if we saw Masrani as a more spirited individual, it might have made for a more interesting character, even if he is throwaway. He could have been like Hector from Lake Placid: energetic and lively, but professional when he needs to be. Unfortunately, his death become a footnote among many.
So let us talk about the world of Jurassic World. As I have already stated, I was thoroughly eager to see Jurassic World as a fully operational park. The thought of a DisneyWorld with dinosaurs was tantalizing, and the possibilities seemed endless. While we are treated to a sweeping CGI shot of the entire park, which looks more like a video game cut scene, the overall spectacle is diminished when you realize that most of what you are seeing will never be seen again. This renders the moment lackluster. Besides, all the attractions feel like they were in a one or two-mile vicinity. Do not get me wrong, we do follow Zach and Gray as they mock the Triceratops petting zoo, ride the monorail, see the Mosasaurus show, and journey around in the gyrosphere, but that is it.
If you recall from the advertisements, some of Jurassic World’s attractions are as follows: the Gallimimus tour and the river ride, which seems to be ripped directly from the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios and Crichton’s book. If you went on the Jurassic World website, you will find even more attractions. Unfortunately, we never experience them, which is a shame because they look fun. Instead, the gallimimus and river rides serve as transitional scenes from one action set piece to the other. The gallimimus tour was shown to establish the monorail, and the river ride was shown only to pan away and establish an InGen convoy. Perhaps time was a factor, and I understand that, but it would have added to the spectacle. Here are some of the attractions that were on the website, but never featured in the film that I would love to have seen: the Hilton at Jurassic World, the golf course, the entirety of the aviary and the T-Rex Kingdom, the aquatic park and the gondola lift. I think it would be fun if the brothers had to traverse the park while they were escaping the liberated Indominus. Imagine a Pterosaur attack on the gondola lift, or a Gallimimus chase through the golf course, or a full action sequence in the aviary. But my concern goes deeper than this.
When you establish a world as vast, creative and thrilling as Jurassic World, part of the film’s appeal would be to see the disaster that takes place in it. It is part of the movie-going experience. If you make a movie about terrorists invading DisneyWorld and holding everyone hostage, you want to see the Epcot ball explode, or gunfight at Magic Kingdom, or a chase sequence through the safari tour. In Die Hard, we want to see the building blow up. Sure, Jurassic Park omitted the aviary and river scenes too, but I feel that decision was made because it seemed impractical for the budget and special effects. With computers, anything is possible. To put it simply, I wanted to see Jurassic World fall apart as the dinosaurs run amok. There could have been a creepy scene on the hotel beaches where patrons look up to see the Pterosaurs swooping down at them. Perhaps there could be a scene where the Indominus plows through the Jurassic World Hilton, or where the monorail derails. In the film, the Indominus breaks through the aviary walls, growls at the Pterosaurs, and then leaves as Masrani’s helicopter explodes behind him. That is it. The only sequence that comes close to this is an 8-minute scene where Pterosaurs attack park patrons running down Main Street, which is a great scene, but unfortunately there are not more like it. Gratuity should have been employed. I will take gratuitous action before lackluster action any day of the week.
Let’s move on to something more important: the stakes. Usually, a sequel tries to heighten the stakes. In Die Hard 2, the terrorists threaten the lives of several hundred people who are trapped circling the airport, in Empire Strikes Back we are introduced to the Emperor, and in Back to the Future Part 2, the future of Marty’s entire family is at risk. What are the stakes in Jurassic World? Aside from Claire’s nephews whom are in danger because of her decisions, the Indominus apparently is threatening the lives of everyone in the park… or is she? Sure, the Pteranodons and the Dimorphodons attack the guests, but that is it. Once that debacle is contained, everyone is clumped together inside the hotel in a seemingly stable condition, and never once are any of their lives in danger again. Instead, the film decides to place the danger solely on Claire, her nephews and Owen, which is a big missed opportunity to really ramp the stakes up. What if something like this happened: the Indominus breaks into the hotel, which causes everyone to make a mad dash for the boats. This can mirror the T-Rex scene in Lost World where she chases the InGen expedition into the waterfall. When the patrons realize the boats are not returning for another 45 minutes, chaos ensues, people begin scattering across the park, all the while the Indominus is picking them off one by one. This would make the stakes more emotionally engaging. Wait, why was this not in the film?
The Indominus Rex
So, why was the Indominus Rex created? Well, in the film, Claire explains that it is because people, more specifically the younger generation, are tired of seeing dinosaurs. To see a living breathing dinosaur is no longer thrilling for people, or in her words: “they look at a dinosaur as they would an elephant in a zoo.” Owen even makes a jab at this, stating, “they’re dinosaurs. Wow enough.” So Wu and his team create the Indominus as a way to increase appeal and attention, generate revenue, entice future investors, and to generally up the ante. As they explicitly rationalize, revealing a new attraction increases park popularity, which paves the way for celebrity guests, news coverage and worldwide consideration. In fact, the filmmakers even stated that the concept originated from a desensitized generation of young people who are more enamored with their phones than real dinosaurs. It is a generation that consistently wants more despite already having more. Fair enough. The only problem is: we do not see any of this. Every single attraction in Jurassic World appears to be either sold out or congested with captivated guests. When we see the T-Rex feeding exhibit, everyone has their faces pressed against the glass; the crowd is so dense Gray cannot even get a good view of the show. During the Mosasaurus demonstration, everyone is cheering and pulling out their phones to record it, and when it splashes down on everyone, the crowd goes wild. Main Street is flooded with starry-eyed visitors, little kids are having fun feeding the baby Stegosauruses and Gallimimuses, the line at the gyrosphere is a mile long, and the boat that ferried everyone to the park is tightly packed with eager visitors. So tell me, where are all the disinterested guests? It would be better if we saw the reason for why they created the Indominus: the feeding shows are less populated, kids are tapping away at their phones instead of feeding the dinosaurs, Main Street is nearly barren, people on the monorail are playing phone games, or maybe we see a line graph that shows an overall decrease in yearly revenue. That would make the need for the Indominus all the more imperative. But they cannot show that because the whole point of Jurassic World is seeing a successful park. Thus, we have a contradiction. Ultimately, Jurassic World would have been financially stable and culturally relevant with or without the Indominus. The reason for creating a hybrid should have been purely for profit since Trevorrow stated that the dinosaur is symbolic of consumer and corporate excess. A new dinosaur means more money from marketing and toy sales, and maybe Wu was forced into creating a it for Masrani or InGen. This could have lent a more cynical theme. Hundreds of people are dead so that the corporate fat-cats could make more money, which is a bleak theme that many films concern themselves with.
Let’s briefly talk about the Indominus Rex. She is a slick, new hybrid dinosaur for a generation that lusts after excess. Her big, bad, bloated personality is reflective of the very demographic she is meant to appeal towards, and her DNA is a mixed bag of assorted predators. She is highly intelligent, vicious, a perfect hunter, and she kills for sport. She makes a formidable adversary who, and I will argue this, is greatly misunderstood. As Owen states, she was bred in captivity, her view of people is skewered, she has no family, and the only positive relationship she has is with the feeding claw. I found her to be a scared and confused animal that is trying to find her place in the world while also cementing her dominance over the other animals. My only gripe is that I wished they used her camouflage technique more often, but the more I think about it, her abilities seem to have been written in purely to advance the plot. When the writers dug themselves into a hole, they just smiled and said, “well now she can camouflage” or “now she can talk to raptors.” She is whatever the plot needs her to be at that moment. But wait, if she is not sociable with other animals, why was she able to interact with the raptors? Ah, forget it.
Echo, Charlie, Delta & Blue
With the exception of the poorly rendered CGI, the raptors in Jurassic World were amazing. Watching Owen command them to stand still or to look in different directions was a treat. It was sort of like watching a dog bob its head for a toy ball. Something about seeing the villains of the last three films act as house pets is both rewarding and subversive. It was a radical idea that worked because let us face it; the raptors in Jurassic Park and Lost World are villains we love to hate. When we see them, we cheer. When they attack people, we clap. In Jurassic World, we finally see them the way John Hammond envisioned them, as trained theme park attractions. I completely bought the relationship they held with Owen, who is the alpha, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them fight on our side, however brief a time it was. Yes, there is a point where Indominus convinces the raptors to turn on their human captors, which is a great scene that evokes the raptor attack in Lost World. But, in a truly inspiring display of schlock and awe, Owen somehow sways the lead raptor Blue to attack the Indominus, which develops into the best scene of the whole movie.
Indominus vs. Velociraptor vs. Tyrannosaur vs. Mosasaur
This fight almost redeemed the whole movie for me because of how schlocky, gratuitous and barbaric it was. Trevorrow revealed that the Tyrannosaur that runs in to help save the day is, in the continuity of the franchise, the same Tyrannosaur that saved the day in the first film. I only wonder why this was never mentioned in the film. Claire grabs a flare, just as Grand did, to lure her out of the paddock. She creeps forward as the red light ignites her vigilant eyes. I got chills. Then, she plows right through a skeletal replica of the Spinosaurus, perhaps a clever jab at the third film, and roars its dominance over the Indominus. To see her as a grizzled, aging, battle-worn predator who still has a little fight in her was truly uplifting. At this point, the Indominus is believed to have killed all the raptors, and she somehow manages to cripple the Tyrannosaur to her feet, but before she could deliver the final blow, Blue runs in to save the day! The two predators then unleash all their aggression and ferocity, culminating into one of the best creature fights in recent memory. In fact, this fight sequence is far more emotionally engaging and riveting than any action sequence before it. In the end, as it should be, the Tyrannosaur reestablishes her supremacy on land, the Mosasaurus becomes the unsung hero of the film, and Blue gives Owen a tender nod of reverence before scampering away. Aptly so, she is the fan favorite. While not worth the 2-hour wait, the climax certainly is a climax.
Let us talk about the production, which accounts for 50% of the film’s shortcomings.
Computer Generated Imagery
This is the new bane of filmmaking existence. Every film is so reliant on computers that even films that do not require CGI somehow incorporate CGI. This technology has effectively ruined the action, fantasy, sci-fi and horror genres, and Jurassic World is no exception. I remember when the trailer dropped, and everyone immediately attacked the film for its poorly rendered computer graphics, but I remained hopeful, even speaking out against the naysayers because I felt the trailer did not need to have perfect graphics. Well, I guess I was wrong again. Right from the first frame of the movie I knew the CGI would be terrible. We see a poorly constructed computer generated egg that breaks open, revealing the baby Indominus. Why couldn’t they just make it practical? If you are going to spend money on an animatronic dinosaur head, why not spend the money on a real egg. The first film did. It is not a complicated scene to shoot. Then we cut to a close up of a crow hopping in the snow; it is a funny subversion, but the computerization is so bad, I felt like I was watching Safari Simulator for Android. The CGI is part of the reason why the reveal shot of the entire park falls flat… because it looks so phony. During the gyrosphere outing, I just knew Simpkins and Robinson were sitting behind a giant green screen. It is pretty hard to react to something that is not there, and when you compare it to the scene in the first movie where the T-Rex attacks Tim and Lex, you can see the genuine fear in their faces, and the craftsmanship behind the production. When you reduce an entire scene, except for the actors, to CGI, you dissolve all the tension and emotional investment. That is probably why Pratt's performance was so stale. He was not looking or interacting with anything for most of the movie. It is part of the reason why the Star Wars prequels failed. Films like 300, Sin City and Sky Captain work because the CGI is used as a medium to institute a visual style, but as is the case with Jurassic World, most of the CGI was unwarranted. When we first see the raptors in their enclosure, it looked like they were hovering above the ground. When they are locked up with their heads in that goofy looking contraption, it was all CGI. Why did the heads need to be CGI? Couldn’t they at least make puppets for that? Maybe it was a combination of CGI and animatronics, who knows, but if it was practical, I blame the faux look on the coloring.
Orange and Teal
When people state they want a cinematic look to their movie, they might not know it, but what they are after is the color correction. Lately, most films are following in the footsteps of Michael Bay; adding an orange-teal color grading, which makes skin tones appear more orange and peachy, and backdrops more blue and teal. While it works for some films, it generally is a nuisance that distracts from the film’s look and tone. Almost every single film has this color grade or some variation of it. The most extreme case being A Good Day to Die Hard where the entire highway chase looks like it was shot using a blue filter. Prior to the millennium, most films used natural color grades, and the orange-teal look was reserved for blockbusters. Extreme color grades were mostly used as a stylistic choice to exaggerate a setting or a tone. Ex: sepia was used in The Godfather and O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? to create a vintage appearance, or in the case of the latter, to overstress the Depression era in the United States. In Jurassic Park, there was no blockbuster color grade; all the colors were natural, and thus grounded the film in reality. The film’s primary color palette was green and brown during the day, and blue and brown at night.
Jurassic World, however, is entirely orange and teal, which does not seem like it would be a big deal, but the grading impedes on the believability of the film. In Jurassic Park, most of the dinosaurs’ skin was green and brown. In World, all the dinosaurs, with the exception of the Pterosaurs, are inexplicably blue and gray. Yes, Indominus is supposed to be that color, but the other dinosaurs look sea sick. The quandary in using the orange/teal grading is the dissolving of reality; when you give a film a blockbuster look, you are subconsciously suggesting a cinematic world where the rules of reality no longer function, thus the tension is dissolved. Color is a subtle filmmaking technique that can either work with or against a film, and unfortunately with Jurassic World, and many other films, it hampers the believability and realism of its world. I challenge you to color correct the first and second film with the orange/teal grade, and tell me if you notice a difference in tone. I guarantee if World had been graded with natural colors, it would have looked nicer, cleaner, and perhaps the CGI would have looked better. Perhaps the dinosaurs would not look like they have the flu.
For more visual evidence and credit for the above picture, please click here.
Giacchino’s Missed Mark
The score was by far the biggest disappoint for me. Firstly, Jurassic Park has two primary themes: 1) the “spectacle” theme, which is heard when we are first introduced to the Brontosaurus, an inspirational harmony of strings and horns. 2) The “adventure” theme, the famous one, which can be heard when the helicopter first glides into the island. It is truly a rousing orchestration that calls for cinematic adventure. The Lost World has three themes: the aforementioned themes and the introduction of an exclusive jungle-inspired theme, which can be heard when Malcolm first journeys to Isla Sorna. Jurassic Park III breaks the tradition when it chooses to use a bland, rhythm-less action score, while rarely using the first two themes. When I heard Giacchino would be scoring Jurassic World, I was thrilled because he is the closest modern equivalent to John Williams. His scores for Star Trek, Super 8, The Incredibles and even Cloverfield were all incredible compositions that reminded me of classic Hollywood. I wanted to hear his new composition in addition to the two main themes… but my hopes were too high… again. The overall score was just as insipid and uneventful as Jurassic Park III.
Firstly, we do hear the two primary themes, but they are used just as inappropriately as the Halloween theme was used in Zombie’s remake. Granted, when we see the CGI theme park for the first time, the "spectacle" theme plays, but the score does not make the moment bigger because we are already in the park beforehand. Then, we hear it again, only this time it is to show Zach and Gray sitting unmotivated on the monorail. Why use this beautiful symphony to show two kids squabbling at each other, which will only serve as a segue into an uncomfortable discussion about their parents' divorce? In fact, the scene starts with a generic pan from Zach’s dirty shoes to him flirting with the girls sitting behind him, and his little brother crying. And this is where the filmmakers felt the Jurassic Park theme should go? What were they thinking? The theme would have been more appropriate during the reveal of the visitor’s center, and/or the Hammond Creation Lab. Secondly, the "adventure" theme also plays during a lifeless sequence. As an audience, we are expected to get all tingly and nostalgic when we hear it, but when you slap it over a generic scene where a helicopter lands in front of a raptor enclosure; it weakens the score's cinematic authority. Nothing stimulating happens. It is simply a scene where three people are riding in a helicopter talking about marketing strategies and park maintenance.
But let us talk about a more pressing grievance, the exclusion of what makes a John William score so memorable and appealing, and something that Giacchino has done in the past: musical motifs. Let us look at the desert chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark (Please watch this clip). How does the music improve or compliment the action? If we were to strip the music away, would the action still be as affective? Probably not. The music is rousing, verbose and fast-paced. The tempo gets your heart pumping and your palms sweating. With every punch and car crash, the music swells or a drum is struck, and when Indy triumphs, we hear the familiar Raiders March that sends chills down our spine. The score transforms into a character, which is the genius of John Williams. (For more proof, I suggesting watching this video) This can be observed in the original Jurassic Park when Lex successfully gets the system back online [listed as 'T-Rex Rescue & Finale' on the soundtrack] , and in Lost World when Malcolm steals the baby T-Rex to lure the mother away from the city [listed as 'Visitor in San Diego' on the soundtrack]. Motifs are a great way of making the action seem more important meaningful. It is part of filmmaking. In Jurassic World, since there is not an exclusive theme, Giacchino should have used the pre-established themes to fill in the gaps. When Owen is riding his motorcycle beside the raptors, some variation of the Jurassic Park theme should have kicked in, making the scene all the more stimulating. Since that did not happen, the scene is boring. How can a scene like that be boring? I will tell you why; because there is no score to go with it. When the Indominus fights the Tyrannosaurus and Blue, perhaps a vocal rendition of the main theme could chime in. This would have elevated the sequence to 110%. My point being, Jurassic World should have had its own memorable theme, and employed the use of motifs in its score. Even Chappie had a more engaging score. Giacchino had a better theme for Tomorrowland than Jurassic World.
I do not want to be a cynic about films, but lately it is hard not to be. I went into Jurassic World with only one wish: for it to be entertaining, and I was let down. I did not expect much, nor did I expect it to exceed the first, but what I ultimately got was a cold dish. All the aforementioned issues hampered the scenes that were meant to be fun, the characters were stale, the graphics unpolished, and the overall vision of a fully operational Jurassic Park was uninspiring. When I came into the theater, I was dressed as a Jurassic Park ranger, eager for something refreshing and exciting, but I left with an eternal frown of disappointment. Considering the very premise of the film was a dream I wanted to see since I was 8, I felt the film betrayed the aspirations I dreamt it could have achieved. Even if you were to disregard my hopes, the film never sought greatness. When all is said and done, Jurassic World only exists as a bloated monster created in a lab to garner money and exploit a pre-established franchise. Ironic, wouldn’t you say? Contrary to what you might think, the film did not ruin the legacy of Jurassic Park for me because I choose to ignore it, and I am sure in the next couple of years (or maybe even months) everyone else will forget about it too. Honestly, in 22 years, are you going to look back on Jurassic World and say, “that is still one of the greatest action movies of new millennium,” or, “man, everything about that movie is still classic”? My answer is no. Jurassic Park will continue to outlive its predecessors including other action films that will come in the near future, and at the very least, Jurassic World did renew popularity in dinosaurs as well as the franchise as a whole. Somehow, a film that was made over two decades ago has much more believable CGI, better character dynamics and exhilarating action than its modern forerunner, but perhaps that is for the best because Jurassic Park will always be here. It is Americana. It is part of our culture just as we are a part of it. It will continue to move us, and it will continue to inspire future filmmakers alike. 50 years from now, it will still be as relevant as it is today. There will be no need to resurrect it from extinction. The filmmakers should have taken at least one lesson from John Hammond: to spare no expense. They never tried to make a good movie, and in that they succeeded.
"You never had control, that's the illusion! I was overwhelmed by the power of this place, but I made a mistake too, I didn't have enough respect for that power and it's out now."
- Dr. Ellie Sattler