I’m tired of Jurassic Park, there I said it.
Wow, that was actually easier than I thought it was going to be. Guess I can just move on to other things. Wait, you want an explanation? Alright but you asked for it.
I have been questioned (interrogated or flat out angrily confronted) all week about why I left Jurassic World out of my Top 5 for the summer movies. I had the unfortunate opportunity to see the film 3 times. After each viewing, my overall impression of the film continued to go down. By the time I finished it a 3rd time, I was thoroughly unimpressed. A movie shouldn’t make me do that. That’s why re-watch ability was high on my list of summer movie criteria. Everyone doesn’t agree with my assessment or the way I grade. That’s evident in the ranking we made together as writers in the summer movie podcast; Jurassic World made it in at number 5. The 3 criteria I used were re-watch ability, smart plot, and fun factor. So using those as my guide, I’ll explain why I disliked Jurassic World and why I would be perfectly fine never having another (even though I know they just green lighted the next one)
World pretty much wins this one hands down. With maybe an exception to Ant-Man, there was no film this year that was as much fun as World. Whether it was seeing a new, fully-operating park come to life before our eyes, Owen’s handle or lack of handle with the raptors, or the almost-terrifying Indominus Rex, it was a great adventure throughout. Some argue that the raptor training is ridiculous to which I counter, there was so many silly things with the rest of the movie, that I actually bought into that part. World does a great job showing us that Owen doesn’t really control the raptors, more like he’s just directing the chaos towards something else. This is very evident in two scenes: the first training moment when he barely escapes getting eaten or when he gives them a scent to hunt down Indominus. Of course, we later find out that Owen had made even a stronger impression on the raptors than he realized. With this new portion of the Jurassic mythos, I was all-in.
Smart Plot / Re-Watch ability
These two criteria for me can get mixed together quite often simply because if I don’t like the plot, it will take me out of the experience. Then it will be nigh impossible for me to enjoy it the next time around. Let’s start with the two shining moments of this film before I get into the parts I despised most. First up, Owen (Chris Pratt) was amazing; I really wanted to see more of him. He’s the most relatable character in the film and he is being forced to defend and save people from the poor and lazy writing of Colin Trevorrow. Somehow, the intelligence that should have been sprinkled amongst all of the characters gets doused on Owen. It felt like the Professor from the Powerpuff Girls dropping Chemical X onto his parts of the script. He was so good, it made the flaws of the other characters very pronounced.
Second, I loved the raptors. Every scene that dealt with Owen and the raptors had me engaged and at the edge of my seat. Ever since I first saw them on screen with Jurassic Park, I was a confused mix of terrified and mesmerized. When I heard there would be a team of raptors with a human alpha running the pack, I was worried. After we endured a Benny Hill style raptors sequence in Lost World and weird raptor fossil communication in Jurassic Park 3, I definitely didn’t think this would work. But the razor’s edge they used to demonstrate Owen’s fragile relationship with the raptors worked very well. Granted, it may be a bit silly, but it’s not a stretch given the universe and what they’ve introduced before. Alright, so that’s what I liked about the film, now on to the bad.
It’s not even 10 minutes into the film before we hear the classic John Williams theme strike up, but it didn’t feel earned. When the music cues start to roll in with the original, we are eager with anticipation before the they arrive on the island because of the tension established in the first scene. That’s the scene were a park worker gets eaten by a raptor. From them on, your eyes are glued to the screen waiting for what’s next. Additionally, we get the trademark Spielberg delaying the creature reveal as long as possible which builds our desire to eventually see them.
There were actually some ways that World could have done that early on that would have made us more terrified of Indominus. Remember where we learn that it ate it’s sibling? How about actually showing us rather than telling us. Also, do you remember the scene where we get a close up of the eggs? How about replacing that scene with the one I described above and we would have built up more suspense earlier. Again, you can even use the Spielberg slow reveal and let us hear the sound, but not see the dinosaur, but have Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong) explain what just happened.
Why did I highlight that moment before anything else? Because after that point, the movie doesn’t attempt to build suspense until we finally see Indominus in the paddock. There’s a solid 15 minutes or more wasted by bringing in some kids we don’t care about yet, trying and failing to establish Claire as a convincing park director, and the obligatory inspirational shots of the park. By the time the rex breaks out, it’s far too late and chance for suspense is lost. And speaking of the rex breaking out….
Explain to me how Claire, who we are led to believe is one of the most detail obsessed people ever, doesn’t make a phone call to figure out where Indominus was? Even if you say that she was scared for her life and not thinking clearly, then why did she leave the paddock? It’s the only safe space you currently have; it was actually more dangerous to leave that spot than to stay and make a phone call. The destruction and carnage that occurs isn’t through total negligence of the park staff, it’s through one person making two bonehead decisions back to back that make no sense. HISHE makes a great joke off of this and they are completely right. It’s funny in their video, but watching it play out on screen, not so much.
Finally, let’s get to the other “star” of this film, Indominus. What could have been a great creature to give us a feeling of dread throughout the movie gets reduced to a very convenient, walking plot device. Every time they needed to scare or wow us, the rex conveniently grew a new power. If we had been shown these things earlier, it wouldn’t have felt like such a stretch every time a new ability came along. Instead, it feels like the screenplay kept writing itself into corners and the only way to get out was to bestow new powers to the rex. The ways the story tries to make you feel afraid of Indominus don’t make any sense. It tore it’s tracker out because it remembered it? It has raptor DNA and turns Owen’s crew against him, but how does it know how to talk raptor? It’s cool in the moment, but if you pull back and think on it, your head will begin to throb. Sure, I realize we are talking about fictional recreations of dinosaurs to which Dr. Wu even says that nothing in the park has ever been natural. Sadly, that throw away line is not enough to gloss over the poor writing or follow through with the main attraction of this movie.
Those are the most glaring issues; there are more were those came from. As I’ve stated before, Claire and the kids were pretty weak. In comparison to Dr. Sadler, Lex and Tim in the original, the new crew underperformed greatly. Jake Johnson was wasted in this film, but his parts were extremely short. He was one of the few voices arguing the park was headed in the wrong direction. All of the other characters don’t have enough screen time to warrant even diving into, except maybe Vincent D’Onofrio as Hoskins, the InGen corporate tool. His ideas for dinos in the field and in combat have likely setup what the sequel to this film will look like.
And that’s why I don’t want another movie. They will only continue to try and build off the nostalgia of the first film, but how much further can you go with this franchise? You can’t continuously rebuild the park and throw people back into the fray because it just doesn’t make sense. If you reboot, most kids who grew up in the 90’s will revolt for you even attempting to remake that classic piece of cinema. There are few ways to advance the story without bordering on complete lunacy and I’d rather not see it go that far. Otherwise, we’ll keep getting this:
And honestly, no one wants to see that. Just go grab your Jurassic Park blu ray and watch that, you’ll have a much better time.