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New Release Review - JURASSIC WORLD

Third sequel to Spielberg's groundbreaking blockbuster.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D'Onofrio, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, BD Wong, Omar Sy



"Jake Johnson, clad in an original Jurassic Park t-shirt, riffs about how he preferred the old version of the park. It's as though the movie knows it's a pale shadow of the original, and it's correct in believing so."



For the original Jurassic Park, novelist Michael Crichton took the premise of his own Westworld and added dinosaurs to the mix. Jurassic World then is the Futureworld of the franchise; the park is open for business, and business is booming, with over 20,000 visitors coming through the gates every day. What could possibly go wrong?
Don't worry folks, everything is under control this time. Even the raptors are domesticated, thanks to ex-Navy tough guy Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who has managed to train the previously deadly beasts to obey his commands. That doesn't seem like the kind of skill you learn in the Navy, but you'll just have to buy into Grady as a Jurassic James Herriot. Unbeknownst to Grady, the park is also home to Indominous Rex, a super duper dino made from all the scariest parts of other dinosaurs. And it's intelligent too. And sneaky. So sneaky that it manages to break free from its confinement and, gosh darn it, here we go again!
A recurring image throughout the Jurassic Park series is that of a dinosaur being distracted by a dwarfed human wielding a flare. That's kind of how Hollywood treats audiences today, distracting us with dazzle to prevent us from thinking about how awful the movies we're being served up really are. Jurassic World is no different; high on dazzle, low on thrills. Unlike the first two Spielberg directed installments, there are no standout set pieces here. The movie doesn't really have any set pieces to be honest, just stuff. Lots of stuff. Sure, it keeps telling us we should be impressed, with the soundtrack swelling and the camera rising, but it never convinces. Early on, a character opens the window of their hotel room to look out across the theme park. The soundtrack and camera movement make this a huge deal but when the drapes are pulled all we're greeted with are a few buildings and a bunch of miniature CG people walking around down below. We came here for dinosaurs, not real estate; this is supposed to replace the herding herbivores of the original?
The plot is a mish-mash of the various screenplay drafts this project has gone through over the last decade or so, and though he's not credited, John Sayles' go home you're drunk concept of intelligent dinosaurs being bred by the military actually forms quite a chunk of the premise here. In a movie about a theme park of dinosaurs, we shouldn't find anything ridiculous, but this element is just too dumb to swallow. Jurassic World is a dumb movie, but that's not its problem, rather it's crippled by not accepting just how dumb it is. It's a Colin Trevorrow movie that thinks it's a Spielberg movie, but lacking the latter's skills in creating moments of tension, Trevorrow is never able to convey a sense of danger, and we never feel like his protagonists are in any trouble, even when they find themselves practically inside the mouth of a giant carnivore. This is partly the fault of the effects; the spatial relation between humans and dinosaurs are never convincing, and we're always all too aware that we're really watching actors in front of a green screen. Jurassic Park took CG to a new level, but it's the practical effects that made it gel. Something's seriously wrong when effects have gotten worse two decades later. It's also down to the family friendliness of the movie. There's a scene in which park visitors are attacked en masse by a flock of winged beasts, but not a drop of blood is spilled, no limbs are torn out of sockets. If we can't have the expert filmmaking of the original, can't we at least have some Piranha 3D style carnage?
The character of Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park's uptight operations manager, is a lazy retread of Sam Neill's character from the first film, going through the exact same arc of learning the joys of parenthood when she's saddled with the task of keeping her young nephews alive. Transferring this to a female character leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Silly little woman - why invest time in your career when you could be popping out sprogs?
Just as the last Transformers movie had a self referential gag about "Hollywood only making sequels now", Jurassic World has Jake Johnson, clad in an original Jurassic Park t-shirt, riffing about how he preferred the old version of the park. It's as though the movie knows it's a pale shadow of the original, and it's correct in believing so.



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